So, in the first five minutes, Chase Carter (Jesse Metcalfe), walks out wearing a shirt with a big Servbot (the little yellow robots from Megaman that look like little LEGO people) on the front. Thereís your first Capcom and Dead Rising reference. Some more nods to the game come up with the use of improvised weapons like a toaster, a lawnmower blade, and a muffler. We have the main character dispatching a cop zombie with his own handgun, and then facing down a clown zombie as his final opponent. In true Dead Rising fashion, he puts the gun up to the clownís red rubber nose with a slight smile of satisfaction, and of course, the nose squeaks. Holy crap, they might just manage to do this.
The story of Dead Rising: Watchtower is set between the events of the second game and the third. An outbreak has occurred in East Mission, Oregon and the fictional Federal Emergency Zombie Authority (FEZA) swoops in with the anti-zombification drug, Zombrex, to help the remaining infected and non-infected survivors. Outbreaks are now sadly commonplace in the Dead Rising world. Chase, a reporter for HitPoint Digital News, is inside the FEZA camp and gets extremely frustrated with this lack of a real story. He soon gets his wish for a story, as the Zombrex stops working and a new outbreak of zombies occurs as the infected become full zombies.
I might say the FEZA joke is too soon, but itís not out of character with the spirit of the games. Yes, itís explicitly a reference to FEMA and the Hurricane Katrina disaster. If you had any doubts, the movie starts in the "Megadome" as well. And yes, itís been 10 years, so the joke is funny in the tasteless sort of way the game makes jokes. But as someone who has lived through that disaster first-hand, I figure it warrants a mention.
It really is amazing how much of Dead Rising manages to find its way into this movie, and it does it without the movie turning into a cheesy mess. Youíve got the psychopaths in the form of the biker gang that play a big part in the movie. Youíve got Chaseís myriad oddball companions: Maggie (Virginia Madsen), the mother who has temporarily blocked out the memory of her zombified daughter and Crystal (Meghan Ory from Once Upon a Time), a survivor with her own secrets who takes to making duct tape weapons like a pro. Frank West (Rob Riggle) shows up as a guest on the news, bringing in hilarious and surreal commentary (really, these news reports had me cracking up as they eventually devolved into Frank being increasingly inappropriate and frustrating the hell out of the news anchor). And there are so many weapons (sledgehammer plus cement saw anyone?) and so many game references itís mind-blowing.
If I had anything negative to say, itís that the movie is way too long. However, this may be because it was originally designed as a webseries that would be split into many episodes. The extra features also arenít quite as robust as Iíd like. For example, the Rob Riggle Blooper Reel is really just one outtake, and it doesn't stand out from the content that actually made it to the movie. That's strange, because elsewhere it is mentioned that they spent about 12 hours filming his news interview scenes, getting tons of funny content. The One-Take Shot feature is better, but not amazing; It does at least show you what the scene looked like from behind the camera and give you a few comments from the crew about the filming process. The weapons feature is good, but I would have enjoyed seeing more about the creation process. Bonzo the Zombie Clown's feature is good as well, giving a few insights into the origin of the character and its creation. Luckily, the audio commentary takes up a lot of the slack in this department. There are just so many fun filming secrets that get revealed in the commentary that it really is one of the better commentaries Iíve watched.
If youíre a fan of Dead Rising, you canít go wrong with Dead Rising: Watchtower. I am so impressed that anyone managed to make a movie based on this game series and make it so enjoyable at the same time. Itís directed and shot so well that it feels like a big Hollywood movie, while still being a love letter to fans. As Frank West would say, you should watch this movie. And remember kids, build weapons. Build lots of weapons.