Actors: Meghan Ory, Jesse Metcalfe, Keegan Tracy, Virginia Madsen, Dennis Haysbert
Director: Zach Lipovsky
Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: Region 1
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: October 6, 2015
Run Time: 118 minutes
With the zombie sub-genre so fully saturated, both in blockbusters and these lower budget attempts, and the poor track record of movies based on video games, I was certain that Dead Rising: Watchtower was going to be a trying viewing experience. While it didn’t exact blow me away with any original ideas on the material, I was shocked to find that I never had the urge to fast-forward through the content, despite an uncharacteristically lengthy running time. Not only does the film have enough strength to survive the weaker aspects of the zombie narrative, this may be one of the more faithful video game adaptations.
The plot doesn’t provide much originality, but part of the reason behind this has to do with the established narrative taken from the video game world, apparently taking place between the second and third installments into the franchise. Previous zombie outbreaks have been contained and even those infected have the disease under control with the help of daily medication. Journalist Chase (Jesse Metcalfe) spends his time waiting for an outbreak to cover when he suddenly gets what he wishes for when the medication mysteriously stops working for the citizens. Trapped behind the walls of the quarantine, Chase must join forces with other survivors to discover the truth and escape before the government bombs the entire area.
Stranded in the quarantine zone with Chase is an infected woman (Meghan Dry) with a diminishing supply of medication to keep her from turning into a zombie, and a mother (Virginia Madsen) who is desperately seeking her daughter. As if the battle for survival were not difficult enough for these three, they are joined in the infected zone by a gang of looting outlaws. The more Chase investigates the cause of the outbreak, he discovers discrepancies which point to government conspiracies, none of which he can reveal from the confines of the quarantine zone, so that much more than their own lives are at stake with their survival.
Padding the narrative is a series of cutaways to news coverage of the outbreak, with interviews by a former survivor of a zombie outbreak, Frank West (Rob Riggle). It would be easy to fault these segments as unnecessary, though they serve a tonal purpose, adding levity and campy fun to the situation. This goes a long way to helping establish a mood which captures the essence of the video game, along with the style and approach to the zombies themselves.
Whether it is the style of clothing that they wear, the weapons they use, or the creative manner in which they dispatch the undead monsters, Dead Rising: Watchtower captures the feel of the video game franchise. Even the stiff performance from Metcalfe and forced melodrama from Madsen almost seem to embody the feeling of the animated video games. These may not always be the best choices in terms of filmmaking, but they seem to work for bringing a video game to life.
The DVD is surprisingly packed with extras, including a filmmaker commentary track and a blooper reel exclusively for Rob Riggle. The featurettes cover all of the important topics, such as the film’s weapons (most of which inspired by the video game weapons), Bozo the Zombie Clown, and a look at an impressive one-take tracking shot that truly captures the feeling of playing the video game.
Entertainment Value: 6.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 4/10
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