I would like to preface this review by saying that I haven’t played any of the Dead Rising games in any way outside of running around a little bit when I stole my brother’s Xbox controller, so for me this movie had to stand on its own merits.
I guess the warning signs were there. I mean, Jesse Metcalfe is the main actor. The guy that got middle aged women and confused teenage boys’ hearts racing in the early years of Desperate Housewives is now meant to fend off a zombie apocalypse. Now I can suspend belief like it’s no one’s business (it’s how I’ve managed to enjoy the Resident Evil movies for as long as I have), but this just didn’t do it for me. Not the actors, not the plot, not the zombies with the dazzling blue eyes, nothing.
Wikipedia tells me that this takes place between the second and third Dead Rising games. This doesn’t aid me in any way, but hopefully it provides some of my dear readers with a little context.
There have been reports of a zombie outbreak in Oregon. On the scene is Chase Carter, a Youtube vlogger with a more impressive-sounding title who’s there to document the ongoing evacuation of civilians. Unfortunately things go awry when it becomes apparent that those infected with the zombie virus but manage it with the use of Zombrex, which will stop them from turning provided they take it once every 24 hours, have become resistant to the medication and begin turning at a rapid rate.
In the chaos Chase is separated from his camerawoman Jordan, and instead must rely on badass Crystal and a few-sandwiches-short-of-a-loaf Maggie if he wants to make it out of the quarantine zone alive. Along the way weapons will be crafted, friendships forged, and tough questions asked. Questions like, ‘why does Crystal’s Zombrex seem to work just fine?’, ‘what does the army aim to achieve with this quarantine?’ or ‘why don’t more middle-class office workers become gang lords when the apocalypse happens?’
Bless them they tried.
Crackle clearly had some money lying around that they could throw at this movie because visually it isn’t a complete dud, it’s just not quite on point.
The main thing that tells you that a zombie is a zombie, for example, is that it has dazzling blue eyes, the like of which, under different circumstances, any teenage girl would positively swoon over. There’s the occasional missing arm or stock-standard missing cheek, but it’s nothing really special.
To put it another way: the zombies aren’t the Walking Dead variety that’ve been out in the sun too long, nor was there enough of a budget to go absolutely bat-shit crazy with everything like Resident Evil: Retribution did. The whole thing’s a cut above the average zombie b-movie, but not by very much.
Like being on a rollercoaster but without the adrenaline rush.
The problem with Dead Rising: Watchtower is that it firstly feels too long. It didn’t need to run for two hours, and cutting out about 30 minutes of unnecessary padding would’ve done wonders for its pacing. Throughout the movie’s run-time there are some initially very exciting moments which then drag on far too much to the point where they became painful.
We must also call the casting choices into question. Poor Meghan Ory was out there carrying this whole movie on her own, because the Good Lord knows that Jesse Metcalfe couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag.
Then we get to the weapons, and from what I gather crafting these is a big part of the game series. Now, having not played the games I might be unfamiliar with a gameplay mechanic that makes the playable character drop and lose his weapon after three minutes, in which case this movie makes perfect sense. If such a mechanic does not exist, then I want to know why Chase can make admittedly awesome weapons, kill at most three zombies with them, and then lose them and have to resort to running around and kicking the damn things a lot. This became a very frustrating part of the experience.
Lastly, plot development. A very common occurrence is for a movie to have too little plot for its total run-time. Not so with Dead Rising. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen a film with quite so many different plot points, backup plans and shifting ideas as this one had. And when you consider all the different things it was trying to cram in and the movie still managed to feel laboured, then you know it isn’t going to be a fun run.
It’s by no means the worst zombie movie out there, and it’ll probably do far more for fans of the games than it did for me. As a standalone movie, however, it’s all just a bit sub-par.
My Final Rating: 4 / 10
Buy Dead Rising: Watchtower on Amazon.com