Zombrex: Dead Rising Sun – Review

by Miguel Douglas


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Viewed as a side-story to the Dead Rising 2 video game, Zombrex: Dead Rising Sun takes place within a world where a destructive virus has infected a majority of the population. Areas of extreme infection are sectioned off from the remainder of the world, leaving the uninfected residents to battle the vicious hordes of the infected—otherwise known as zombies. The story follows two brothers by the name of George and Shin who happen to find themselves within one of the infected areas within Japan. As they plan their escape, they deal with both the dead and undead in a reluctant game for survival in a chaotic world.

While video game to live-action adaptations have often been met with mixed results, when the actual company in whose product is being adapted assumes the constructive helm, the results can be drastically surprising. The Japanese gaming company Capcom is the latest to enter the realm of cinema, extending the creative process to include even that of game producer Keiji Inafune (Onimusha, Mega Man) as the film’s director. It’s not common to see a video game producer take the lead within the area of directing a live-action film, so Zombrex: Dead Rising Sun is quite an interesting project to consider for many aspects. While the initial thought of Inafune being assigned director might be perplexing to some, the translation from video game to live-action as viewed here has been adequately done—even if its been executed with a rather miniscule budget.

While complementary in many regards, the film also serves as a product placement—in this case Dead Rising 2 (2010)—but also remains a solid excursion into the zombie genre. Those familiar with the Dead Rising video game series should be right at home with what Zombrex: Dead Rising Sun has to offer as a side story to Dead Rising 2. In fact, Zombrex: Dead Rising Sun seemingly shares commonality through the usage of the Dead Rising name alone and takes quite a departure from what one would expect given the game series. While we do have a cast of interesting and demented characters, the film seems more focused on bringing about the plight of its human cast and the interaction between them. It’s quite refreshing to see this because one can view the game series as mostly relying upon its wacky antics to fill the void of character development. While we do receive extremities in gore within the film, the exploration of George and Shin’s relationship seems to take precedence as the main focus within the film. This is quite surprising considering that the game series doesn’t really convey as much character depth as the film offers, so individuals expecting to just see zombie killing for the entirety of the film might be somewhat disappointed to see it focus more on the human element of its plot.

This is certainly not to say that the film lack gore—which would be hardly the truth. Zombrex: Dead Rising Sun is insanely gory in almost every aspect, from human to zombie, its all presented in a highly stylized fashion. We have extensive gunshot wounds, golf club bashings, gruesome cuttings, and even flamethrower usage, just to name a few. This is where the film truly shines as an ode to the Dead Rising game series with its elaborate range of weapons used to decimate and promote bodily destruction. While many of these sequences are incredibly outrageous—particularly towards its chaotic conclusion—the film also offers a look into human depravity when law ceases to exist. Similarly to the way the film focuses upon the human aspect, we also see various forms of human debauchery as well. This showcasing of human violence juxtaposed with the killing of zombies produces a telling example of the thin line that exists between man and beast—even it is just a superficial representation of such morality and nothing more. Considering this, it does provide the film with much more emotional weight than one would expect from a horror film—especially one made by a gaming company—and doesn’t elicit much in the way of shock value for lack of plot.

What ultimately hurts the film the most is its production values, which could present a problem for individuals more accustomed to the big budget horror affairs viewed in the past. While this presents somewhat of a grindhouse experience in terms of excessive gore, the production is rather inconsistent for a majority of the film. It’s really only during the latter half of the film where we see any significant use of special effects and while this matters in terms of providing a satisfying conclusion, more usage should have been inserted throughout its first half. This would have given the film more diversity considering that it is a horror film at heart and should attempt to elaborate upon such genre-specific criteria. But considering that this is Capcom’s first cinematic film, some constraint was probably necessary in order to fit within their designated budget–they’re definitely not a major film production company, they produce video games, which do entail considerably lower budgets in their creation. While this certainly doesn’t justify their attempt for being a low budget film, one certainly has to be aware of their situation as a gaming company first and foremost. It boils down to Inafune being respectful enough towards his own material given the budget, which he does fantastically well here and the transition is certainly viable.

While production values are obviously low, the film does attempt to bring forth many elements to establish itself as a stand-alone feature outside the foundation of the video game series. In this respect, fans of the video game series might be somewhat disappointed to discover that the film doesn’t share much from the series, but instead delivers a rather disturbing tale of human survival both from the dead and undead. While the film does narrow its focus down considerably from the massive scope that the game offers, with its abundant cast of characters, plot twists, and environmental and bodily destruction, the film should please a majority of fans of the game series as well as the zombie genre in general. It’s an interesting film due to the creative talent behind its creation, and in many respects, provides an evolutionary step in the way video games and cinema can parallel one another in both technical prowess and execution. The end result is a film that is equally humorous as it is disgustingly gory, a theme that the game series also strives for as well. I believe it’s this combination that broadens the appeal of the film to stand separate from many of the other video game-to-film adaptations that have been often missed the mark significantly, or in many cases, completely. It would be sufficient to say that Zombrex: Dead Rising Sun is a film that intelligently decides not to stray too much from its gaming roots in terms of atmosphere and execution, two elements that make the film a promising example of how future adaptations should be undertaken.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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  • ian

    agreed. although, i must say, watching it in the japanese original was better then the cringe-worthy minutes i watched of it in dubbed english. a brilliant low-budget film!