Although you don’t seem to get many theatrical releases these days, videogame adaptations have found a new home on the straight to DVD front, with Dead Rising Watchtower being the latest in the trend. Watchtower is set between the events of Dead Rising 2 and 3 so if you’ve at least played the second game, you’ll be clued up as to what’s going on. Following an outbreak in the city of East Mission, the government quarantines the area and quickly sets up a Zombrex station. For the uninitiated, Zombrex is a drug that was developed to counter the virus that turns people into zombies, but is required to be taken every 24 hours, otherwise it’s fresh insides for dinner. There’s a problem however, the Zombrex supplied by the government’s quarantine isn’t working.
Chase Carter (why is every guy called chase these days?), played by Desperate Housewives’ hunk Jessie Metcalfe, is a journalist for an online news outlet covering the outbreak on the inside of the quarantine zone, and with zombrex no longer an option, the zombies start increasing in number. Chase teams up with another survivor, who has previously been bitten and relies on Zombrex, as they try and get out of the quarantine zone. As this is Dead Rising, it’s not going to be that simple. As well as hordes of zombies to get through, there’s the slightly less stable members of society taking advantage of the situation.
It’s made sure that you know you’re watching a Dead Rising movie, there’s references to the games from the very start. From subtle things like a motocross cycle in the background to the less subtle such as several Servbot pictures and items dotted around to a gold Frank West statuette. Speaking of which, the ever charming Frank has a small part as a talking head on various news segments, played with utter glee by Rob Riggle, as Frank has obviously let his celebrity status, following the incident at Willamette, go to his head. Jessie Metcalfe does a great job as the cliched leading man (has his own agenda until he realises he’s being bit of a dick). There’s some decent camera work and in the action scenes it occasionally takes a leaf out of Neveldine/Taylor’s book with some frantic hand held camera scenes, usually mounted on to weapons or zombies.
Most game adaptations tend to range from terrible to average at best, but given that Dead Rising originally takes its inspiration from arguably the greatest zombie film ever made, Dawn of the Dead, there shouldn’t be a lot that could go wrong. Well, it doesn’t hold a candle to the godfather of zombie movies, but for a film based in the Dead Rising universe, and on a videogame for that matter, it does a great job. The uninitiated may be somewhat in the dark about some of the happenings and who the heck Frank West is, but if you’ve played the first two games, particularly the 2nd, with its reliance on Zombrex, you’ll know what’s coming. Move over Street Fighter, Dead Rising Watchtower is easily the best use of a Capcom game license to be committed to film. Tonally it’s a bit up and down. One minute it seems to be taking itself rather seriously, the next it’s sending itself up, but overall it’s an enjoyable zombie film, the enjoyment of which is probably helped if you’ve played the games, but those new to the series should have a good time. Hopefully it’s a turning point for videogame adaptations and should wash away any bad taste left by the bafflingly popular Resident Evil series.