Dead Rising: Watchtower

*

Reviewed by: Luke Shaw

Dead Rising
"This film's attempt to contextualise a zombie threat as something more deeply political is clumsy at best."

The cultural saturation with zombies is at the kind of critical mass now that has robbed them of pretty much all ability to scare, so the obvious use for them is as dressing for dumb, gore splattered festivals of improv decapitations and discombobulations. The Dead Rising series largely sidestepped zombies as the main threat. They were a distraction, with the games’ harsh time limits and inability to save everyone being the main antagonistic forces in the game. Dead Rising: Watchtower has plenty of nods and winks to the games. Props, costumes, Servobots, even Frank West (Rob Riggle) turn up to anchor this firmly within Capcom’s universe.

In East Mission, Oregon, there’s been an outbreak of Zees and the general populace are waiting for evacuation via FEZA, a Zombie focused version of FEMA. For audience members unfamiliar with the games, a little expository work explains that infected don’t necessarily turn if they take daily doses of a drug called Zombrex. Viral news reporters Chase (Jesse Metcalfe) and Jordan (Keegan Connor Tracy) are here to get hits, but for hits they need zeds, which are absent at first. Of course, being a zombie film, things go wrong and soon it's a race against time to unravel a conspiracy and escape East Mission before it’s firebombed.

Copy picture

Chase spends most of his time with Crystal (Meghan Ory), a survivor of a prior disaster who doesn’t mess around in her dedication to staying a survivor. They are then joined by Virginia Madsen, who had to kill her zombified daughter. These curt descriptions are all the pathos provided. They’re just cardboard standees to service the story. Events progress as you’d expect, with zombies everywhere and a gang of looters posing threats. The conspiracy over the failed zombrex and motivations of the FEZA and the military also provide a few plot threads to get your head around besides all the prerequisite gore, but this film's attempt to contextualise a zombie threat as something more deeply political is clumsy at best.

Its roots as a budget picture are apparent it its flat lighting, and although there are one or two interesting set pieces, they’re handled with a pretty languid approach to urgency, which effectively robs everything of tension. With the drama and action being so limp, it’s good that Watchtower at least has some comedy to fall back on. The segments between Frank West and the increasingly exasperated UBN anchor Susan (Carrie Genzel) are the most interesting part of this film, with Diggle getting to ham up and deliver some utterly absurd lines from everybody’s favourite zombie killing war journalist. These sections are the only highlight though, as the rest of the film is a mess of contradictory scenes and poorly thought out zombie encounters which are more likely to summon Z’s, and not the undead kind.

Reviewed on: 24 Jun 2015
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Video game spin-off sees a group of people try to survive a zombie attack.

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EIFF 2015

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