Considering how saturated the zombie genre is, its difficult to craft an exceptional or even noteworthy entry. Dead Rising: Watchtower, the screen adaptation of the popular Capcom game franchise, has even more pressure since its namesake is a hugely successful part of modern zombie culture, loved by fans worldwide.
Maybe that’s why the film really fails to make any headway. The game was a chance for people to live out the fantasy of George A Romero’s seminal work Dawn of the Dead, to live out an apocalypse in a fully stocked mega-mall, have hundreds of weapons at your disposal, and an endless cascade of Zombies to maim and kill.
Following on from the games, Watchtower begins with the apparent failure of the Zombrex antidote and resultant zombification of a large city, stuck inside the quarantine is Chase (Jesse Metcalfe), an upcoming Journalist and determined fame-hound. After meeting Crystal (Meghan Ory), and Maggie (Virginia Madsen) he decides to fight his way out whilst trying to uncover what has happened.
The film could have been an out-and-out mad experience like the games were and really embraced that world of nonsensical yet relatable materialism. Instead it stages sour moments that craft lame impressions of what could have been. When the survivors decide to build weapons, they ignore the obvious choices and make weapons that will prove easier and cheaper to film. The gore is disappointingly done, only achieving something fun every now and again whilst relegating easy winners to dodgy digital effects. There’s little creativity and that seems criminal considering Dead Rising is infamous for its madcap inventive charm. A “one-take” action sequence sees Metcalfe loosely dance his way around a school bus and zombie crowd, unconvincingly fending them off with the dullest objects. It’s a shame because some moments show real potential (clown-head car-grate gag) for excessive humorous violence.
Frank West, the charismatic douche from the first game, appears in stilted comic skits dispersed throughout the feature. Rob Riggle makes a great West, channelling Bruce Campbell in a role that should have been at the centre. Metcalfe is fine, but he’s given little to make him any kind of memorable character. On the other hand Virginia Madsen is great as Maggie, but she’s hopelessly out of place being the only person on screen with a character since Dennis Haysbert appears to playing a super passive aggressive army general. It would have been great to have more emphasis on those psychotic humans as opposed to simply a band of vaguely nuts looters.
Dead Rising Watchtower deserved more money and more ideas, this is a fair watch but one that won’t stick with you for very long. It’s difficult to make a successful film off the back of a successful game made off the back off a genre defining masterpiece.