Dead Rising: Watchtower
Directed by Zach Lipovsky
Written by Tim Carter
Starring Jesse Metcalfe, Dennis Haysbert, Rob Riggle
Today I'm going to do something I've never actually done before. I'm going to open up a very unusual piece of work, and it's not available on DVD. But it's certainly not out of line for us, since you won't find it in theaters, and it's called "Dead Rising: Watchtower."
Available only on Crackle, Sony's online streaming solution, "Dead Rising: Watchtower" takes us out to a zombie outbreak already in progress. Those familiar with the Dead Rising universe know that this isn't so much of a problem thanks to Phenotrans' miracle solution known as Zombrex, which keeps the infection tamped down sufficiently to allow the living to remain so and not turn into flesh-eating ghouls. Into the midst of all this is dropped one Chase Carter, cocky Internet journalist who's out to get some fantastic footage from the midst of this newest outbreak. But Carter's going to discover that there's a lot more going on in this particular outbreak than usual.
This may sound like par for the course for a Dead Rising installment; after all, that's what happened with the last three games' worth. "Dead Rising" gave us a terrorist attempting to strike back at the United States, "Dead Rising 2" turned the zombie outbreaks into Phenotrans raw material gathering operations to make Zombrex, and "Dead Rising 3" gave us a potential cure in orphan Nick Ramos. So unexpected whatnot is, well, fairly expected.
I actually give them a note of credit for bringing in Rob Riggle to serve as Frank West here. In the second "Dead Rising"--at least, the offshoot known as "Dead Rising: Off the Record"--West was a bite victim himself that had gone on to a kind of smarmy celebrity status after Willamette, and this kind of builds on that. That's actually appropriate; I didn't spot Frank anywhere in the third one, and he was about the only one who didn't make the jump to Xbox One.
In fact, it's quite hard to fault "Dead Rising: Watchtower" in any way thanks to one key point: it's free. Absolutely no-strings-attached free, and like a set of great philosophers known as Da Yoopers once noted: "The greatest beer in this whole world is the one you buy for me." Of course, you will have to sit through a lot of ads; I counted fully ten ad breaks in this one. But that's no more than your typical outing on SyFy, really, and you actually pay for that one.
The movie itself, meanwhile, is actually not bad. Rob Riggle is expectedly hilarious as a Frank West gone so smarmy you'd want to punch him if you weren't laughing at this jerk--at least until the end when he pulls a heel-face turn so sharp you'd think you could get whiplash-- and Jesse Metcalf is clearly out of his element in a horror role, which is good given the role he's playing. There are plenty of nods to the series here, right down to the combo weapons and unexpected mechanical engineering--right off the bat we get a screwdriver used as an improvised padlock--and though it runs a bit long at approaching two hours, there are so many nifty sequences in here that it's hard not to enjoy it, particularly if you're a fan of the games. The timelines work fairly well; some might balk at pronouncments that "this is the third outbreak," particularly if you played "Dead Rising 3", but if this is set between two and three, then it makes particular sense. Even the ending is fun with its battle of the tiny gasoline engines, showing us what a post-apocalyptic future might look like if everyone watched "Saw" way too many times.
Calling "Dead Rising: Watchtower" "one for the fans" sells it just a bit short, but it's also perfectly apt. It's a great one if you already know what you're watching, but by itself, it just doesn't hold much water. "Dead Rising" fans should dig this, horror fans less so, and general movie buffs will come out of this one the worst off of the lot.