Based on Capcom's successful "Dead Rising" videogame series, DEAD RISING: WATCHTOWER was released in 2015 and, despite uneven reviews (to be kind), was so successful that plans for a sequel were quickly announced.
One year on and here it is: director Pat Williams' DEAD RISING: ENDGAME.
We get a montage recap of what happened in the first film, which plays out beneath the opening titles. For newcomers, we learn that a manmade zombie outbreak lead to a small town being quarantined. Grizzled journalist Chase (Jesse Metcalfe) strived to report on the drama from the inside. Eventually attempting to flee the quarantined zone, away from its shady overseer General Lyons (Dennis Haysbert) and his failed vaccine Zombrex, Chase and friends made it to "the border" - but lost his partner, Jordan (Keegan Connor Tracy), to Lyons' men along the way.
ENDGAME picks up two years later. Chase is still reporting on the zombie epidemic, which has become more widespread. He still harbours designs on returning to the scene of the first film's action - East Mission City - in the hope that Jordan is still alive. His editor is against this notion, but it seems he has the support of two colleagues: Jill (Jessica Harmon) and Sandra (Marie Avgeropoulos).
In the meantime, their plight is somewhat side-tracked by the news that Lyons and his army are trading drugs in return for "test subjects" - people they want to use as guinea pigs for their latest strain of Zombrex, a biochemical virus called Afterlife. Not zombies, but living people...
Lyons soon learns of Chase's investigations into Afterlife and, after a wealthy business partner threatens to withdraw her funding, he vows to put an end to the journalist's snooping around. Suddenly the military have very clear instructions: to take out Chase and his female assistants with "extreme prejudice". Luckily for Chase, he has a contact on the inside...
That's the exposition over with. The remainder of ENDGAME is dedicated to well-choreographed combat scenes, blood spatters galore and action movie dialogue urged out by actors best-known for their work on the small screen. Oh, and Billy Zane - he turns up in a nutty cameo as an evil scientist.
The pace is unrelenting. The tone is more serious than I'd expected. Fans of the games will enjoy the familiar-looking zombie attacks and even the sight of one character playing "Dead Rising 3" at 21 minutes into the film. The first-person POV shots in darkened spaces are referenced a few times, while mostly the set-pieces consists of bloody headshots and gory undead make-up effects - which are really good, truth be told. Yes, there is a fair amount of CGI employed too, but it's used intelligently and looks decent for the most part.
The film is slick in look and in terms of editing; Romero-esque scenes of zombies ambling through otherwise barren streets are effective, while the aerial shots offer perhaps the best moments of cinematography. Performances are adequate - no Oscars come March for this lot, I'm afraid, but at least they're credible enough to keep matters from becoming totally risible.
Accept that this is hokum and you'll find plenty to enjoy. It never bores, is frequently gory (in that post-millennial zombie way) and the cast are affable. And, naturally, the doors are left open for another sequel...
DEAD RISING: ENDGAME is being brought to UK DVD and blu-ray, in separate releases, by Manga Entertainment. We were sent a copy of the DVD to review.
The film itself looks great, all warm hues, accurate flesh tones and clean, pin-sharp images. The original 2.35:1 ratio has been adhered to and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. With deep blacks and an absence of flaws such as ghosting, motion-blur or crushing, there really is nothing to quibble over. At 92 minutes and 17 minutes in length, the film is presented uncut.
Likewise, both English audio options being offered - a convincing 2.0 track and a well-balanced, more spacious 5.1 mix - are highly dependable, rousing propositions.
The disc opens to an eye-grabbing animated main menu page. From there, a static scene selection option affords access to the movie by way of 12 chapters.
Bonus material appears at first glance to be plentiful. We get plenty of featurettes, albeit they're all pretty short.
First out of the stalls is "From Game to Screen", a 2-minute fast-paced rush of cast and crew members telling us of all the "concept meetings" between them and Capcom, and how they strived to emulate certain scenes from the game. Both film and game are a "frenetic, non-stop fight for survival" according to Metcalfe in this slick, well-produced but insubstantial offering.
"Making the Weapons" is another breathless 76-second assault of briskly edited comments. This essentially celebrates the creativity of the props team, and reveals (for those who hadn't realised) that rubber copies of weapons were created for use during stunt sequences.
"Bringing Zombies to Life" is a montage of footage which shows us the make-up team at work. At 53 seconds in length, it probably took longer for me to comment on it than it did for me to watch it.
"Lights, Zombies, Action!" is a 78-second look at the pumped-up action that was designed for this film, including faster zombies, more violence and madder stunts.
"Who is Chase Carter?" sees Metcalfe struggling to flesh out his character, while cannily avoiding the temptation to lament over what happened to his career. Still, he only has to get through 71 seconds.
"Who is Jordan Blair?" follows. After listening to Tracy for a whole 48 seconds, this is a question you may well ask. We do, however, learn that the character "kicks ass".
"Who is Jill Ekland?" affords Harmon 59 seconds to probe her own character's psyche and motivations. Ho ho.
"Who is Sandra Lowe?" follows. Avgeropoulos gets her own 59 seconds to shed some light on her zombified character.
All of the above are peppered throughout with action-packed clips from the main feature. I'd have liked an interview with the film's most interesting character, Hayberst's Lyons. Sadly that wasn't to be.
At 102 seconds in length, the film's original trailer is ironically the second-longest extra feature on offer.
DEAD RISING: is a glossy, silly, breathlessly paced mix of soap opera performances and high octane, CGI-friendly set-pieces for THE WALKING DEAD generation. Get the popcorn in, grab some beers and invite a few mates round, and I daresay you'll have a lot fun. It looks great on Manga's DVD.
Also available on blu-ray.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Manga Entertainment|
|see main review|