Director: Pat Williams
Cast: Jesse Metcalfe, Marie Avgeropoulos, Dennis Haysbert, Keegan Connor Tracy, Ian Tracey and Billy Zane
Plot: After the incident at Oregon, Chase (Metcalfe) is branded a conspiracy theorist, sending him on a vendetta to show the world the truth.
Dead Rising: Watchtower was a surprisingly solid watch, decent as far as indie zombie movies go. In all honesty, it was decent as far as any zombie movie goes. However, when a sequel was released hot off the heels of the first, I was surprised. Someone must have faith that it’s tongue-in-cheek, but serious-when-needed series, based off of a video game franchise, has mileage. As the plot opens up, smartly its own beast in terms of storyline, but referencing sections from the first (Chase mourns the partner left behind in the first movie, Dennis Haysbert is still on baddie duty), we are given the kind of movie that seems certain it will stay. Now that Resident Evil has bowed out, hopefully, of the movie game, perhaps Dead Rising is ambitiously hoping it can be the replacement service.
So, the big question is this: can this movie justify becoming a series? Barely. It scrapes approval with the skin of its teeth, balancing precariously between crappy forced sequel and solid zombie thriller. The general consensus here is that the idea is strong, but the execution is, if not awful, inconsistent. For every genuinely scary visual or smooth fight scene, there is an over-cooked dialogue scene or tacky chase sequence. The setting is surprisingly refreshing for the zombie genre. So many films and shows are focused on the far future of a zombie apocalypse, the ‘apocalypse’ bit being the interesting angle. How humanity is surviving years after an outbreak? Dead Rising is, not necessarily better, but pleasantly different. Humanity has suffered a zombie outbreak, but coped with the infection. Humanity struggles on, newspapers still running and the military strained but not overwhelmed. It is odd watching our heroes take on zombies in a shoot-out, then chat about it in their local bar, but when you’ve wrapped your head around the new rules, it makes for a decent change of pace. Besides, isn’t it nice that just once humanity didn’t fall to pieces when confronted with zombies? This movie is more than a zombie action, but a conspiracy thriller, as the military try to gain political dominance using society’s dependence on them to keep the zombie hordes at bay. But even with these human enemies taking up valuable screen-time, the zombies feel current. Dead Rising has hardly lost its “bite”, so to speak. In fact, the introduction of some upgraded zombies is chilling stuff. They are faster, stronger and, I’ll admit it, scarier than before, snarling onto screen with some nail-biting action sequences. Sadly the film slowly reduces them to red shirts by the movie’s end, but for a short period in the saggy middle of the film, Dead Rising became satisfyingly pulse-pounding. The writers also haven’t forgotten the key details of the Dead Rising gaming series. While story-wise, little is recognisable, the movie highlights that the heroes rely on whatever weapons they can get their hands on, rather than guns. Owning a handgun is a rare treat for this movie. Overheard lights and spare pipes are the most common weapon, more inventive fight sequences sprinkled throughout the sequel. The original did it better, especially with the one-shot action sequences, but Endgame finds time for at least one, solid punch-up in a surgery.
But it never quite lands. This is a film that struggles to engage, until its best moments. Outside of the bloodiest fight scenes, Dead Rising is annoyingly tame. The conspiracy theory starts unique, but in the end, begins to drag. The original movie had its slow points, but the zombie threat was always there. As the protagonists meet up in shady hiding places to discuss the military’s schemes, Dead Rising begins to flag. Resident Evil was shite, but kept things fast and loose, hoping no one noticed. For a long time, few did. Here, especially as this is clearly an Indie production, albeit a very good one, things need to be action-packed. The actors are likeable enough, but no one here has the talent to hold a dialogue scene for too long. Billy Zane does the creepy thing well enough, as the mysterious evil scientist saved for the finale, but the movie hands him a preachy monologue that just makes the movie feel heavier than it needs to be. I admire the producer’s drive to make this movie more than a dumb zombie film, but the exposition needs to feel more fluid. Overall, there is hope for franchise-building here, but improvements need to be made. I am going to mark this one down poorly, seemingly because I do believe that this film could have been better. Assuming a series is made, upon reflection, this will likely be the ropey one in the canon. But it would also be the one that began to knit together the groundwork for more movies. With Sharknados being pumped out every year, I wouldn’t mind a B Movie series I could actually feel proud to invest time in.
Zombie Kill of the Movie? One zombie being Dirty Dancing lifted into a helicopter blade. Fantastically hilarious.
Final Verdict: Ropey and poorly executed for certain scenes, but there is enough here to want a third movie to be made.