Dead Rising: Watchtower, or just Dead Rising as it is also known, is based on a videogame series. The Dead Rising videogames, funnily enough. As far as I am aware, those games are survival horrors with lots of zombies to kill. Unfortunately, I’ve never played one of them (despite it definitely being my kind of fun), but I did read up on the series before writing this view, allowing me to gauge one or two things that this movie may have managed to get right. I’m not going to play my cards close to my chest here. I hope the film pleases fans of the videogame because it doesn’t seem like it will please anyone else.
Jesse Metcalfe and Meghan Ory play two characters caught up in the middle of an outbreak of zombiefication. Being bitten by a zombie isn’t quite the death sentence it once was, thanks to a revolutionary new medicine, but things have gone wrong thanks to a bad batch of drugs. Or so it seems. Metcalfe is reporting on the story, Ory isn’t, both just want to survive. Meanwhile, Keegan Connor Tracy plays the loyal colleague trying to help Metcalfe both report and get to safety. She is fortunate enough to be outwith the quarantine zone. Carrie Genzel is a studio-based news anchor interviewing a famous survivor of a previous zombie outbreak (Rob Riggle), and these moments at least provide some amusement in a film that constantly forgets to keep viewers entertained. Virginia Madsen is a shellshocked mother unable to process the death of a child, Gary Jones is a scientist type reluctant to admit that any mistakes were made, and Dennis Haysbert is the standard military man tasked with the standard approach to such major problems (kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out, basically).
The script by Tim Carter is weak, but that’s not unusual for a movie developed from a videogame series. It’s just a shame that one or two interesting ideas aren’t given more time, or that the whole thing unfolds in a way that makes you feel as if rigor mortis is setting in (both in the film itself and in your own numb body parts). Director Zach Lipovsky must have thought that he didn’t have to make any effort with such an in-built fanbase waiting to lap up anything that puts elements of the videogame on the big screen. He was wrong. As much as I like seeing a zombie cameo from the Soska sisters, or even enjoying one or two of the weapons that I suspect were lifted directly from the game, there is nothing here to really capitalise on the brand, and nothing to sweeten the pot for even the most easily-pleased of zombie movie fans (like myself).
The cast all do well in portraying their characters, as underdeveloped as they all are, but it’s a strange day when the person I most look forward to seeing pop up in a zombie movie is Rob Riggle. I’m not sure whether fans will agree, as he plays the hero of the very first game in the series, but his mixture of arrogance and sound advice for dealing with the living dead is a highlight in a film that really doesn’t have anything else to make it worth your time.
Dead Rising: Watchtower is screening at EIFF 2015 on 26th and 27th June.
DIRECTOR: ZACH LIPOVSKY
WRITER: TIM CARTER
STARS: JESSE METCALFE, MEGHAN ORY, KEEGAN CONNOR TRACY, VIRGINIA MADSEN, ALEKS PAUNOVIC, DENNIS HAYSBERT, GARY JONES, CARRIE GENZEL, ROB RIGGLE
RUNTIME: 113 MINS APPROX