Anchor Bay // 2008 // 74 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // October 17th, 2008
"They need bodies. They need us to turn!"
Serving as the middle act in the Dead Space trilogy, Dead Space: Downfall is an animated feature-length movie that follows a comic book miniseries and acts as the precursor to the main event: Electronic Arts' Dead Space videogame.
Set on a remote mining planet, Aegis 7, Dead Space opens with the discovery of a large alien artifact. Of unknown origin, the artifact is quickly assumed responsible for the violent outbreaks erupting in the colony, with the deeply religious Unitariuns claiming it to be cursed. Talk of curses holds little sway with the crew of the Ishimura, however. Before long the captain has ordered the artifact be brought aboard the ship. Big mistake.
With the artifact onboard, the ship's crew soon begins to fall under its awesome power. Not only are they showing violent tendencies, they are mutating into vile creatures, creatures with an insatiable appetite for human flesh. As the situation quickly escalates, glimmers of the true nature of the Ishimura's mission surface. The ship's commanders, led by a captain whose mind is quickly crumbling, are under the sway of the Unitariun church, which has its own plans for the artifact, no matter how many lives are lost in the process. With the mutated remains of the crew stalking the hallways of the Ishimura, a small band of survivors must battle to survive, or, at the very least, prevent the artifact from getting to Earth.
I'd wager that, as more and more people see, and comment on, Dead Space: Downfall, a frequent remark will be how the film shares numerous similarities with Event Horizon. As much a question of tone as content, Dead Space, with its haunted-house-in-space vibe, is at least slightly indebted to Paul W.S. Anderson's movie. Throw in a healthy dose of Resident Evil, Aliens and The Thing, and you pretty much have Dead Space. Sadly the formula doesn't mix quite as well as you'd hope.
The main problem with Dead Space is the convoluted storyline. At a mere 74 minutes, Dead Space: Downfall lacks the time necessary to fully handle the numerous plot strands it introduces. Dealing with space exploration, religious zealots, alien artifacts, and bloodthirsty mutants, Dead Space frequently stumbles with its narrative.
Dead Space succeeds most when plot goes out of the window and the guns come out to play. Bursting with kinetic energy, the several action sequences contained within Dead Space: Downfall are a blast. From frantic gun battles to gore drenched close quarter combat involving limb-slicing laser chainsaws, the level of animated violence is first-rate and certainly not suitable for the youngsters. Highlights include a gigantic mutant slicing a naked fat dude up in the shower block and a crazed madman slicing a female marine right down the middle as he giggles maniacally.
The characters in Dead Space: Downfall are severely lacking in originality. The film's heroine, security officer Alyssa Vincent, is stacked liked a Playboy centerfold and prone to dropping f-bombs quicker than John McClane (Die Hard). Imagine Ripley (Alien) as drawn in Heavy Metal magazine and you're on the right track. The rest of her team have been lifted from the likes of Aliens and Predator, i.e., a ragbag group of macho poseurs whose chances of survival are all too evident to all but the most naïve.
Presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, Dead Space: Downfall makes for an impressive looking DVD. Sharp, with an intentionally muted color palette, it's hard to fault the video. The animation style itself is really no better than most post-Justice League animated shows, but serves its purpose well enough. The 5.1 soundtrack helps recreate the gun battles nicely. Sound effects and dialogue are distinct and clear, while the laser-chainsaw has the sweetest sound effect I've heard in quite some time.
The extras on the DVD are a sorry bunch. The deleted scene is of little interest, and really only offers a slightly different take on a sequence already in the movie. The isolated score, only rarely ever a worthwhile feature, is pointless here. The photo gallery has plenty of nice imagery, but how many times you'll want to view it is questionable.
Although Dead Space: Downfall is certainly enjoyable in parts, with a fast pace and plenty of blood-soaked set pieces, the story is bogged down with unnecessary clutter and it's questionable how much replay value the title actually holds. For those who have read the comics, and wish to enjoy the full Dead Space experience, this is essential. For everyone else, this is probably best left on the shelf. Guilty.
Review content copyright © 2008 Paul Pritchard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 74 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scene
* Game Trailer
* Photo Gallery
* Isolated Soundtrack