UPDATED: Purchase Dead Rising: Watchtower from Amazon!
Still Waiting On That “Yo! Noid” Movie.
Based on Capcom’s popular series of “zombie survival” video games, Dead Rising: Watchtower is the franchise’s first attempt to expand its “world” into the realm of film. To help it on its way, the debut features its share of recognizable faces. A popular gaming franchise? Recognizable stars? How could this possibly go wrong?
Oh, did I forget to mention that the film was made for Crackle? Not limited theatrical release. Not Video On Demand. Not Direct To Video. Not Netflix. Crackle.
Not THAT Crackle
To duplicate the feel of the game’s frenetic gameplay, the film wisely opens right in the thick of things with our hero being chased through streets overrun with zombies. However, we are not starting here. Nope. We are going to start before the beginning.
In the world of Dead Rising: Watchtower, society has already experienced a few zombie outbreaks. These would be the basis for the games in the series. Those infected during those times are now forced to inject themselves on a daily basis with Zombrex, a temporary antidote to the zombie infection. Think of it like Valtrex, the difference being that no one knows that you have herpes. Oh, who am I kidding? We all know.
After an amusing “child’s drawing” animated advertisement for Zombrex, the movie immediately kicks in with, as I’ve said, our hero running in streets filled with zombies. Jesse Metcalf (Desperate Housewives, John Tucker Must Die) stars as Chase Carter, a reporter covering this particular outbreak. This occupational choice for the lead is more than a “nod” to the game series’ “star” character, Frank West, who will appear later in the film.
In another “nod” to Capcom (the series’ developer), Carter wears a Servbot shirt for most of the movie. Word.
Carter runs into a gated alleyway, using a screwdriver to force it shut behind him. In the alley, he finds a zombified cop eating the body of someone that just wasn’t fast enough. It’s too distracted with its meal to notice him. However, the carnivorous clown chopping up a corpse with an axe right behind him does. True to the game, Carter fights back with anything he can find, including trash cans, a fan blade, and even a toaster. He manages to shoot the cop with its own gun, but is then pinned to the ground by the clown.
I’m sorry…. does it seem like I’m giving away a lot of the movie. Should I have been posting some “Spoiler Alerts” for you? Oh, I’m sorry about that.
The opening credits roll……. Oh, yeah. This one is going to take a while. (Exhale)
So, the story actually starts earlier that day. Maybe it was the day before. It doesn’t really matter. A zombie outbreak has started up again in a city in Oregon. This is, generally, an area populated by infected survivors of previous epidemics and their families. The citizens are told to gather at the local stadium for evacuation. Those previously infected are made to wait in lines to be given their injections.
Carter and his partner/camerawoman, Jordan (Keegan Connor Tracy – Once Upon A Time, Bates Motel, Final Destination 2) are here to cover the situation, and more so the lack of government presence at the evacuation area. Chase isn’t committed to this story. As he puts it, no one cares about the infected “unless they are eating other people”. He’s really just looking for a way to exploit the situation for some hits on his upstart “news” website. He spots an attractive woman and tries to get her to agree to an interview. People will listen to a pretty face.
Crystal (Meghan Ory – Once Upon A Time, John Tucker Must Die, Decoys) agrees to the interview, but only to call Chase out as an unsympathetic fraud on camera. She leaves and Chase and Jordan start wrapping up, with Chase prepared to call this story a “bust”. That’s when the infected start “changing”, even if they’ve already received their supervised injections.
Jordan breaks for their car, and manages to drive away, essentially ditching Chase. Hell breaking loose around him, he sees a familiar face in the mayhem. Crystal. She is fighting off a small gang of zombies on her own…. and she looks like she’s done this before.
The movie now takes a break from the zombie carnage and moves over to a cable news network. The anchorwoman is interviewing “celebrity” zombie survivor Frank West about his own experiences. West is played by Rob Riggle (The Daily Show, Step Brothers), and that casting works well as West is now fairly “cocky” from his new-found fame. Riggle is fairly adept at pulling that off. While these scenes serve as the film’s comic relief, they start feeling a little out-of-place once the film starts taking on a more serious tone. More on that later.
It’s also worth pointing out that as this debuted on Crackle, there were commercial interruptions. As these interview scenes with West were timed to coincide with the return from a commercial break, it really accentuates the “made-for-TV” feel. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just worth noting.
In their attempts to flee, Chase and Crystal run across a woman kneeling in the street over the body of a young girl. Maggie (Virginia Madsen – Candyman, The Prophecy) is a mother that has just been forced to kill her own daughter after the girl started “changing” due to her own failed Zombrex injection. Naturally, her psyche is pretty well shattered from what she has just had to do, so they coerce her back into her mini-van and drive off.
They plow into a zombie road worker, which causes them to stop the van right in front of a pawn shop. What are the odds? This too references the games as the pawn shop is just full of items that players use to make bigger and better weapons. And that’s just what the characters do here, grabbing swords, shovels, and even chainsaws. Sadly, there is no “ultimate badass” weapon on display here. Crystal merges a shovel and sword, but there is no focus of any kind placed on this. And it breaks later on anyway, so big deal.
Meanwhile, Jordan has made it to the gate of the quarantine zone. There, she is detained by guards who fear that the contagion may be airborne. She is escorted to a separate tent and held in a containment area. The guards have now started shooting anyone else that approaches the city walls.
It is soon revealed that Crystal is also an infected survivor from an earlier incident. Chase finds her as she is injecting her own Zombrex before her own “change” kicks in. Unlike the other poor infected before her, this dose works because she picked it up independently beforehand. (I think there is mention that it was purchased from a street dealer, but I ‘m not 100% positive.) This development may be what is needed to prove that this new “virus” is not resistant to Zombrex. It may also prove that the Zombrex supply that was given to people earlier at the stadium was defective.
The military, under the command of General Lyons (Dennis Haysbert – 24, Major League), hold a press conference to announce that they will begin aerial firebombing of the city within 48 hours. Our protagonists are now forced to rush to not only find a way out, but also to find more unspoiled Zombrex for Crystal (and everyone else, but mostly her) AND to stop the bombing which would kill any uninfected still in the city walls. Sounds simple enough, right?
Crystal and Maggie grab their new weapons and take to the streets. Chase delays, but then follows them. His hesitation has caused more zombies to flood the street. This, in turn, leads to an extended “fight and flight” scene that really only exists to showcase some of the various weapons available in the game.
Carter rushes into a gated alleyway. He forces the gate closed behind him, bolting it with a screwdriver. In the alleyway with him is a zombified cop….. and a clown. That’s right, folks! We are back at the very beginning of the movie. And it only took a little over 50 minutes to get there. Yay.
Back at the perimeter, Jordan meets with Norton , the representative from FEZA (Federal Emergency Zombie Agency). She informs him of what Chase has discovered regarding the ineffective Zombrex supply, and that Crystal’s dose should prove that the strain is not immune to the vaccine. She wants to get more of FEZA’s Zombrex supply from inside the walls to Chase for Crystal to test and help prove their theory. She makes the mistake of saying this in front of Lyons, who is waiting for them in Norton’s tent. Lyons tells Norton to give her the info she needs, but Norton pretty much blows her off. She leaves and heads back to her car. When she gets to it, she finds a paper with the address of the warehouse storing the Zombrex supply shoved under her windshield wiper. She calls Chase and gives him the address. Maybe Norton isn’t such a bad guy after all? Maybe.
Now equipped with their makeshift weaponry, the trio head out in search of the Zombrex storage facility. And that’s just the first hour. A lot of stuff going on. A healthy dose of action. A nice, fairly comedic tone. Looks like we have ourselves a winner here!
NO, DAMMIT!!! NO!! THAT’S NOT HOW SHIT WORKS AROUND HERE!!!
Scooby and the gang arrive at this Zombrex storage facility. Not only is the warehouse being used as a base of operations of some Road Warrior-esque, post-apocalyptic motorcycle gang, but the trio also accidentally unleash a horde of zombies locked away in one of the storage facility’s rooms. That would all just be peachy keen if the movie didn’t spend the next 50 minutes doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!
There is your expected “red herring” shenanigans as to whether the military is “the big, bad wolf” behind this situation, or if this is really the doing of Norton and FEZA. There is the obligatory “budding romance” between Crystal and Chase. There’s Virginia Madsen not really doing much of anything, but doing a good job at it. And there is also the subplot of the biker gang leader wanting to blow a hole in the city wall, releasing the zombies out into the awaiting world.
And then there is more Frank West. While I personally found these segments to be the most entertaining part of the film, they also start feeling significantly out of place with the increasingly “serious” tone that the story starts taking. And while this may just be a reflection of my own increasing impatience with the pace of the film, it almost appears that Riggle himself is becoming more and more bored as the movie progresses. Then again, it could just be the sleep deprivation talking.
If it weren’t bad enough that the film runs an extremely padded 2 hours, there is surprisingly little human munching going on. That’s not to say that there isn’t any. There is, but it seems noticeably anemic compared to most zombie flicks. One plus that I will give it is that while there is indeed CGI in effect, it’s quite less than I would have expected.
Dead Rising: Watchtower is not a “bad” movie by any means. In fact, the first hour was quite compelling. Sure, it was predictable and clichéd, but how many zombie flicks aren’t? It doesn’t do anything you haven’t seen, but it at least does them capably.
Unfortunately, the film wastes the next 50 mins doing jack squat. A few characters die here and there, but that’s really it. Instead, they try to force the wrap-up into the last 15 minutes, which causes it to feel rushed and lose any potency. Even then, some major questions are blatantly left unanswered as the movie ends on a cliffhanger. I can only assume this is done to set-up a sequel.
Not that this has any relevance to the review, but by the film’s end, I found myself siding with the TRUE “bad guy”. If you watch this, I’d love to hear your opinion on that.
As far as video game based movies go, this is one of the better ones. As far as zombie movies go…… well, it’s still probably one of the better ones. Let’s face it, there are a lot of shitty zombie flicks. Most of them, actually. Just slap some stale oatmeal on your brother’s face and spray paint it green. BAM!!!! Low budget zombie. Just ask Hell of the Living Dead.
Shave off 20-30 minutes and I might be praising this one, but as it is….. 6/10