The open world zombie survival action game franchise that is Dead Rising is awesome but sadly as we all know time and time again amazing games have been transferred into god awful films (a high percentage of them by Uwe Boll!) Luckily Dead Rising: Watchtower is the exception and not the rule.
The original Dead Rising game gave you control of photojournalist Frank West who becomes trapped in a shopping mall besieged by zombies and must rescue other survivors and fight for his life in the immense sand box environment littered with literally hundreds of items from baseball bats to TV sets to lawn mowers to gumball machines that can all be used to bash the crap out of the living dead.
In Dead Rising: Watchtower Frank West (played by the hilarious Rob Riggle) survived both his bouts against the living dead in Dead Rising 1 and 2 and now is the go to man on any and all zombie related stories including a clean-up in the quarantined area in Oregon which is taking place in a stadium.
Internet reported Chase Carter (Jesse Metcalfe) aspires to Franks fame and on the scene with his trusted one woman camera crew Jordan (Bates Motel’s Keegan Connor Tracy) he tries to get a story that will propel him into the eyes of the world media.
But Chase gets way more than he bargained for when the previously successful anti-viral drug called Zombrex supplied by the governments Federal Emergency Zombie Authority (FEZA for short) fails to work on one of the infected causing chaos and a disastrous new outbreak.
In the ensuing panic the reporting pair are split up and Chase finds himself trapped in the walled in city surrounded on all sides by flesh hungry abominations with only distraught mother Maggie (Virginia Madsen from Witches of East End) and infected Crystal (Meghan Ory) while Jordan is locked up in FEZA’s control center.
Determined to escape with the biggest scoop he has ever had Chase gets tooled up and forms a plan to take on the zombies and the crazed biker gangs roaming the streets and get out alive before the rising dead rise up and take over the whole country.
Much like the sequel ridden and fun filled Resident Evil and the surprisingly amazing Street Fighter: Assassin Fist, both adapted from Capcom classics Dead Rising: Watchtower combines plenty of gamer in-jokes and reverent references while still managing to craft a solid story with well-rounded and multi-dimensional characters from the 2D templates they were inspired from something so many game to film conversions of the past and present have failed to do.
Director Zach Lipovsky who’s Leprechaun: Origins was nowhere near the pot o’ shit it could have been does a great job blending brilliant large scale gory street battle set pieces with more subtle enclosed nail biting tension all with confidence and skill and the film rips along at a great pace leaving a bloody trail behind it.
The cast are all excellent handling the films tonal shifts from action horror to the more dramatic and distressing scenes expertly never diminishing either the entertainment and excitement of the lighter sections or the tragedy and intensity of the darker moments which do occur.
Okay so the zombies may not be ultra-creative and the biker gang element may be as old as the original Dawn of the Dead (which was an obvious inspiration for Dead Rising) however there are some neat new twists in Dead Rising: Watchtower that elevates it above other zombie movies including the constant cutting back to the TV newsroom where Frank West commentates on the situation and most entertainingly the creative weapons ripped straight from the game which slash and slay in equally insane ways.
Also the Zombrex idea again from the game adds a tension to the zombie transformation not often seen as Crystal nears the end of her supply as well as a great conspiracy theory plotline that brings into question the role of the military run by Dennis Haysbert’s General Lyons that could be viewed as a cutting piece of political commentary on our modern society.
Dead Rising: Watchtower proves games can make good films given the right cast and creatives and a well written imaginative story it’s just a pity we can’t trust Hollywood yet to keep that in mind.