27th Jul2015

‘Dead Rising: Watchtower’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jesse Metcalfe, Rob Riggle, Meghan Ory, Keegan Connor Tracy, Virginia Madsen, Aleks Paunovic, Dennis Haysbert, Gary Jones, Carrie Genzel, Reese Alexander, Harley Morenstein, Julia Benson, Peter Benson, Darren Dolynski, Patrick Sabongui | Written by Tim Carter | Directed by Zach Lipovsky

Dead_Rising

Rob Riggle as Frank West? That was all that I needed to know to be sold on seeing Dead Rising: Watchtower. Never mind the fact its based on one of the best zombie games of the last console generation – though we all know Left4Dead was THE multiplayer zombie game – with a tongue in cheek story that played on the tropes of the genre, especially those found in the films of George A. Romero (after all, the first game was set in a mall!)

Dead Rising: Watchtower follows Chase Carter (Metcalfe), a reporter trying to make it big – but the pursuit of his career-defining story leads him into the heart of a zombie-infested warzone. East Mission, Oregon is locked down after police find the bodies of what appear to be victims of a zombie attack. When two ambitious reporters, Chase and his colleague Jordan get inside the quarantine zone to report on a large group of civilians trapped in an inner city dome stadium, they realise they’re waiting for a rescue that isn’t coming… and many of those abandoned inside are survivors of past outbreaks who carry the zombie virus in their blood. They only survive by taking the antidote once every 24 hours – a drug called Zombrex. When that drug mysteriously fails, another zombie outbreak explodes.

Shocker. For a movie based on a video game this isn’t half bad. In fact its probably one of the better video game adaptations to come out of the US in years. Its just a shame that its also nothing like the video game on which its based. The biggest problem? The tone of this film is waaaay too serious for a Dead Rising movie! Where’s the sense of sheer terror? Where the hell are the waves and waves of zombies?!? And most of all, where’s the humour? Outside of Rob Riggle running his mouth there’s nothing “funny” about this movie.

In fact, beyond the Zombrex drug; the appearance of Frank West – with a performance from Rob Riggle that is, sadly, nothing like the original characterisation; the survivors making their own weapons (the Sledge Saw combo even makes an appearance) and, of course, the zombies; Dead Rising: Watchtower is as far removed from the games as Diary of the Dead is from Romero’s original zombie trilogy.

What does elevate this web-movie (it was made for Sony’s Crackle website, much like the awesome Extraction) above others of its ilk is the cast; and for once its the women that have all the best roles! Once Upon a Time stars Meghan Ory and Keegan Connor Tracy are both superb, with Ory’s Zombrex-shooting survivor being particularly badass. But it’s down to the veteran of the bunch, Virginia Madsen to steal the movie – somehow, depsite the cringeworthy script and some clunky dialogue, Madsen manages to rise above it all and delivers a performance that out shines and out classes the rest of the films cast. It’s almost like she’s in a toally differnet movie! As for Rob Riggle, the suit and the sunglasses do NOT make the man. This is [sadly] Rob Riggle being Rob Riggle, not Frank West.

Surprisingly, all of that doesn’t make this a bad movie. Taking this as a continuation of the franchise – in a new medium – Dead Rising: Watchtower is aactually a pretty decent entry into franchise canon. It’s just a shame that it will feel so tonally wrong to those that have played the games – yes there are parts that hit the same over-riding feeling of terror that was present in the game and yes, there are times, scant few times may I add, when the zombie outbreak does feel as chaotic and uncontrollable as the Capcom title. But it’s still not quite the Dead Rising gamers, like myself, love.

**½ 2.5/5

Dead Rising: Watchtower is available now on iTunes and other VOD platforms from Content Media. Check out an exclusive clip from the film below:

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