Last year, we covered the first Dead Rising game, “Watchtower”, and despite me not being a particular fan of the games, I rather enjoyed it. Nice sense of humour, decent special effects, well-shot action, for a computer game movie produced for a website, very good indeed. It was either a success or they just shot two movies at the same time (possibly the latter), so now we get this.
Returning from part 1 are investigative reporter Chase Carter (Jesse Metcalfe), his sort-of-girlfriend Jordan (Keegan Connor Tracy) and General Lyons (Dennis Haysbert), who’s gone from the moral ambiguity of the first movie to full-on villainy in this one. It’s two years since the events of “Watchtower”, Jordan died in Army custody and Chase is still going into the quarantined area of East Mission City to find stories about how the army is treating the people there. Zombrex, the drug which stops infected people turning into zombies, is now administered via a chip with a year’s worth of concentrated doses, implanted into the body.
Given that it’s supposed to be a quarantine area, there’s very little evidence that humans still live there – it’s basically Army guys, investigative reporters and zombies. It’s a bit “well, we have this set but not enough money for extras”, I suppose. One day, Chase finds evidence that General Lyons is involved in human trafficking, and there’s a mysterious something called “Afterlife” which seems to have got a lot of people interested. Factor in the biotech company Phenotrans (who, we’re supposed to think, started the zombie outbreak in the first place) and you’ve got yourself a good mystery.
The writer of part 1, Tim Carter, returns, but he’s got a co-writer this time, Michael Ferris, who got his start on “Bloodfist 2” back in 1990, and also wrote “The Game” (Michael Douglas version), “Terminator 3” and “Terminator Salvation”. While it’s a leaner and probably slightly better movie, the oddball sense of humour part 1 had is all but lost, and that’s a bit sad. One definite plus in changing crew was Zach Lipovsky, director of part 1 (and also of the rotten “Leprechaun: Origins”) getting replaced by long-term Canadian TV director Pat Williams.
So, with conspiracy everywhere, Chase assembles a team to help him get the truth out. There’s hacker / new love interest Sandra (Marie Avgeropoulos), whistleblower George Hancock (Ian Tracey), Chase’s producer Jill (Jessica Harmon) and Garth (Patrick Sabongui), who’s a bit of a tech genius – we see him playing “Dead Rising 3” as his character’s introduction, which is only surprising in that it took them til half an hour into movie 2 before they did it. It turns out “Afterlife” is…well, no spoilers, but they need to get to a server “farm” located right in the middle of the quarantine zone to stop it.
The fight scenes are really well done. Chase swings his home-made weapons about like a pro (even though he’s, y’know, a TV reporter) and they use that hand-held camera to great effect. Perhaps they’re a bit over-choreographed? But this is small potatoes. There’s also a really nicely done escalation of the threat facing our heroes, as they discover Phenotrans has been working on new strains of the zombie virus, which turns the undead super-strong and fast. While it’s not terribly original, anyone watching a sequel to a movie based on a computer game wanting originality ought not to be allowed to watch B-movies ever again.
Casting is strong – despite Dennis Haysbert looking like he’s waiting for his cheque to clear, then he’s right off set and never looking back, everyone else is fine. There’s a nice Billy Zane cameo, who’s presumably annoyed James Spader stole his look for “The Blacklist”, and I imagine it was a fun set to work on, as almost all the actors are Canadian TV veterans who have worked together before (two actors from “The 100”, and four who were on “Continuum”, including Victor Webster, who apparently plays the star of the second computer game. No idea).
With the sort-of announcement of a “Dead Rising” TV series, I imagine this will be the last movie. It’s less of a shame than I’d have said after the end of part 1, because that installment’s humour and structure set it apart from a lot of the pack. This, while slicker, and a bit better acted, is sort of samey – when you’ve seen one conspiracy to do something scientific with the undead, you’ve seen em all. Although, I suppose, you don’t see tons of zombies get offed with a baseball bat with a knife shoved in the end, and nails driven into it. If you have access to Crackle, you should definitely put this on and you’ll have a fine time.
Rating: thumbs up