EIFF 2015 – Dead Rising: Watchtower
Zach Lipovsky adapts the highly successful Dead Rising video game series into a film with Dead Rising: Watchtower.
We’ve all seen zombie movies before and have probably seen films adapted from video games before so this isn’t new territory at all. Zombies have been so heavily saturated over the past few years that it’s really difficult for an adaptation to stand out from the rest of the shambling crowd.
This film presents a more light hearted view of a zombie apocalypse in terms of tone. Many zombie projects follow the example set by The Walking Dead and present a depressing world so returning to something a bit more fun is in theory a refreshing change.
As the film opens the world is fully capable of dealing with a zombie outbreak having lived with it for a number of years. There is even hope for people who have been infected in the form of a daily dose of a drug called Zombrex that holds off the chang as long as people keep taking it.
Jesse Metcalfe plays a reporter called Chase who is embedded in one of the quarantine zones and reporting on what’s going on. As you might expect all hell breaks looks and he is stuck inside a walled off area with a lot of hungry zombies standing between him and survival. He and some other survivors work together to attempt escape.
It’s a pretty standard setup but within the zombie genre it’s difficult to expect any surprises in terms of narrative. This film does a fairly good job of remaining watchable throughout. Metcalfe is an engaging leading man who doesn’t come across as an overly knowledgeable badass. He’s out of his depth in this situation and is terrified at the prospect of being eaten by zombies.
To contrast this is Meghan Ory’s Crystal who is much more capable than he is. She seems to be a lot more comfortable in this situation. It’s a welcome flip to have the female lead be the more comfortable while the male is unskilled and overwhelmed by what he has to deal with.
The strongest character in terms of tragic story was Maggie (Virginia Madsen) who is in denial over having to kill her zombified daughter. She talks about her daughter as if she’s still alive and everyone humours her so that they can get through the situation alive. It’s surprisingly affecting given the rest of the film is so silly.
Without a doubt the most entertainment comes from Rob Riggle’s Frank West. West is a character from the video games who appears as a guest on the news showcasing his expertise with the situation. Some of his advice and anecdotes are absolutely hilarious. He is presented as a guy who doesn’t really care what he says or who he offends and his overt honesty is always amusing. Adding to the comedy value is that he even annoys the news reporter.
I had a good time with this film generally. Things from the video games like makeshift weapons made from anything that’s lying around. Since this is what the games are best known for it’s good to see this referenced and it definitely adds to the comedy value to see what random things are created with tape holding them together.
The running time is a little on the long side and could have lost half an hour easily. There’s a strange subplot involving a government conspiracy that slows the whole thing down considerably. It would have been preferable to have a more traditional zombie story without any of these unnecessary bells and whistles. If the story had been kept simple and entertained throughout this film would have been all the better for it.
Definitely worth a look if you want a more light hearted and silly zombie story with little in emotional heft. The characters are relatively inoffensive and the acting is pretty passable. It runs a little on the long side but other than that it’s en entertaining if forgettable experience.
An entertaining if flawed film that brings the zombie genre back to something a little more fun than some recent installments.
Jesse Metcalfe is an engaging leading man who refreshingly doesn’t radiate an unrealistic badass attitude that wouldn’t match with his character being a reporter. He’s out of his depth and terrified throughout which seems more real than I would expect.
The flipside of that is Meghan Ory’s character is the competent survival expert who is more than capable of fending off a zombie horde. She serves as the badass action hero in a refreshing reversal of standard action movie gender dynamics.
Virginia Madsen’s character lends the most emotional weight to the story as a woman who has deluded herself into forgetting that she had to kill her zombified daughter. It’s handled really well and forms the heart of the story in many ways.
Rob Riggle’s Frank West provides the most entertainment value with his uncensored opinions on how to handle the situation. Most of the biggest laughs come from him.
The film runs for about half an hour too long and there’s an out of place subplot involving a government conspiracy that just doesn’t work. It would have been much better if it was a simple zombie story that worked on being entertaining.
Check this out if you want to be entertained by a light hearted zombie film. It doesn’t do anything unique or clever and it is entirely forgettable but it’s entertaining while it lasts.