DVD Review: Dead Space: Downfall

Animated Shorts: Palmiotti on Dead Space

There’s an old rule in the world of horror and other thrillers. Keep the pace fast enough and the fans won’t see the plot holes are so large you can drive a Mack truck through them. The DVD Dead Space: Downfall proves just how to do it for maximum effect.

As gamers are quite aware, DS: Downfall is part of a series that also incorporates a comic book series and video game to tell its complete story line. The DVD serves as a prequel, telling the tale of what happened to the space ship Ishimura before gamers find what’s left of it. It’s told primarily through the eyes and actions of ship law enforcement officer Alyssa Vincent (Nika Futterman. who’s making a career of voicing tough broads. She’s Asajj on Star Wars: Clone Wars).

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, the direct-to-DVD release was produced by the Film Roman studio and directed by industry vet Chuck Patton (who won an Emmy for his work on Spawn). While knowing the EA video game this entire project is based on, you probably can get away with just watching the DVD, a thing one wishes other such projects like Final Fantasy and ./hack would learn to do.

The storyline itself borrows heavily from films like Event Horizon, The Thing and especially the Alien franchise. That is, there are extraterrestrials out there, and they don’t like us. No reason given. They’ll just chop anyone in their path into large, pulsing, raw chunks of meat or convert us into more of them. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. Naturally there’s also a mysterious alien artifact that’s tied into this whole slaughterhouse. There’s also a mix of either gross incompetence, corporate greed and/or religious fanaticism to make Vincent’s job all the harder. Suffice by midway through this one the Ishimura looks more like a Chicago carnage factory instead of your everyday heavy duty space hauler.

Not that this is a bad thing. The Patton borrows more than his share of character design from the best, especially the truly under-appreciated Peter Chung (Aeon Flux, Reign: The Conqueror). He also has a solid eye for action. Given the extremely tight time frame Palmiotti and Gray have to deal with (74 minutes), they deliver more than should have been expected of them as far as thinking up the hacking and slashing. You especially got to love their application of a laser-tipped buzz saw for tearing it up. Also, it’s a good thing this release is animated. If this was done live action, it would have made Hostel or Ichi The Killer look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms.

Are there things about the plot that defies all logic? You bet. The “Unitarian” religion that is a major plot point for this series is woefully under-explained. One gets the feeling that if you want the answers, you are forced to get the game, comic and other related marketing-driven paraphernalia. The character voiced by Bruce Boxleitner is an over-the-top putz, and unconvincingly acted to boot. Kelly Hu and animation vet Kevin Michael Richardson do yeoman’s work, in their respective roles. Nita’s Allyson steals the show though.

What really matters here is Patton keeps this story moving at mach speed, especially the goo and gore. This way, you have too much fun watching the severed limbs and other body parts bouncing off the wall or float off in space to really care. As long as you only stop the play in order to gaze rapturously at a particularly grotesque scene or monster, you’ll do fine. Dead Space: Downfall is overall better than you’re usual monster flick. Think about this one too much, and your brain will end up like one of this ‘toons victims, chattering incoherently and wanting to kill someone, anyone.

Dead Space: Downfall hits stores this Tuesday.

Check back tomorrow morning for an exclusive clip from Dead Space: Downfall, right here at Newsarama

Related:

Game Review: Dead Space

Ben Templesmith: Moving into Dead Space

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