Animating Halloween: Dead Space – Downfall Review

Rating: 8/10

Plot: A prequel to the popular horror game, Dead Space, Downfall centers around the story of the first and second attacks on Aegis VII, as well as what really happened on the planet cracker ship, the USG Ishimura. Security Chief Alissa Vincent and her crew are dispatched to rescue any and all survivors when the colony on Aegis VII suffers from a rash of suicides and sudden murders after uncovering a strange alien artifact. When the Ishimura tries to recover the artifact, whatever spread over Aegis VII starts to infect those within the Ishimura.

Breakdown: I absolutely love Dead Space (Well, the first two anyway. Three was a disappointment to me) It’s one of my favorite game franchises. However, since homework is poo, we’ll be mostly focusing on how this movie fares as a standalone.

Dead Space is a very, very, very bloody and gorey series. The death scenes are usually incredibly graphic and even the way you defeat the alien creatures, known as necromorphs, is pretty damn brutal.

Necromorphs are more or less immune to bullets. The only way they can really be destroyed is through lopping off their limbs and finishing them off by stomping on their bodies. You can also defeat them by setting them on fire and blowing them to bits, but the aforementioned method is the most common.

This movie does not fail in matching the bloodbath of the video game by a long shot. Many characters die in ridiculously gorey ways. One of which being so bad I actually cringed and looked away for a second, which is rare for me to do in a horror movie.

But we’re not here for the gore, we’re here for the scares. This movie is a bit more faltering in that area. There’s not a whole lot of ambiance to absorb and it’s mostly just hopping from one action scene to another. Downfall is really at its best from a horror standpoint when it’s focusing on the insanity to which the crew is falling victim.

One of the most harrowing things about this story is that it doesn’t really matter if you survive because the marker is slowly making everyone go insane anyway. Even if you manage to get through the necromorphs and hide away somewhere, you’ll probably die on accident or be driven to suicide. Being in a group isn’t any better either since the insane ones in the group will most likely just start killing the others.

Sadly, the psychological torment that befalls much of the crew only delivers a few creepy and unnerving moments.

The necromorphs are scary in themselves. Necromorphs are both alien creatures by themselves and reanimated corpses mutated with alien features. Most necromorphs, particularly the ones featured in this movie, are slashers, which are mostly humanoid creatures with giant blades protruding from the arms.

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However, we also have the annoying infectors, which are flying necromorphs,

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the depressing lurkers, which are tentacle’d necromorphs made from babies

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and swarmers that can kiss my ass.

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Each have their own special abilities for killing and infecting other people, and all of which are varying degrees of frightening.

Story-wise, this one is rather simple, most of the better stuff reserved for the actual video game. It’s a pretty cut and dry ‘we tread where we don’t belong and now we’re fucked’ stories.

A mysterious alien artifact, known as the marker, is found by miners on Aegis VII. The church of unitology, essentially a cult in the Dead Space universe (and, yes, likely based on scientology in some respects, though the creators deny this) dispatch a crew on the planet cracker, the USG Ishimura, to retrieve the artifact and bring it back to earth.

Unitologists believe the markers are sacred religious artifacts that are key in bringing eternal life and paradise to the human race. I won’t go into the true meaning and purpose behind the markers because they don’t explore it in the movie and it’s ultimately unimportant to this review. The point is, because of the marker, people on Aegis VII and eventually the Ishimura start going crazy and falling victim to the necromorphs, killing each other and killing themselves.

Alissa Vincent, Chief of Security on the Ishimura, is set out, albeit against the wishes of the captain, Mathius, who is secretly a unitologist, to rescue any survivors on board the Ishimura once the infection reaches the ship.

After that, it’s mostly a lot of action, necro killing, death scenes and ultimately pointless rescues because everyone dies.

I’m not going to apologize for no ‘spoiler alert’, and I’m not saying this because I’ve played the games – the movie itself tells you at the very start that everyone’s dead, including Alissa.

In regards to characters, that’s a major weak point of the story. There’s a rather sizable cast here, but mostly everyone is left with the same angry personality, spouting out the same lines you’d hear in any horror movie, such as those akin to ‘we don’t have time for this’ ‘hurry up’ ‘stop foolin’ around.’ etc. etc. It’s understandable that everyone’s on edge, but it’s not like they act any differently before everything starts going to hell.

Alissa’s crew have a few lines of banter that make you think they might be close, but that’s about it. I barely remember anything about Hanson. I don’t even remember the big guy’s name. Shen’s only memorable because of her weird-ass haircut and the fact that she is frustratingly inept in most of her scenes only to become a badass in her final scene.

The only characters who have any sort of real personality or backstory are Ramirez and Samuel Irons, an engineer and unitologist that they meet along the way. Ramirez seems like a slighlt lovable goofball and he gives us a drive-by of his backstory in one of those ‘I die in the next five minutes, so might as well tell my story’ scenes. Samuel Irons is interesting in how he seems to be very wise and skilled, but we don’t know anything else about him.

Even Alissa is, sadly, entirely uninteresting. She’s the most angry of the group and really does nothing but boss people around and swear. She gets no backstory and no layers to her personality. She’s fairly honorable and wants to do anything to save people, but that’s about it.

She also makes some stupid decisions – the biggest one being stopping Kyne from crashing the ship into the planet. He wanted to destroy the marker and stop the infection from reaching earth. Alissa wanted to save whatever survivors were on the Ishimura, even though such a feat would be incredibly unlikely at this point, so she beat the hell out of him and stopped the ship from crashing down….

…..Only to realize literally minutes later that everyone else was likely dead. She was screwed either way, and she had to sacrifice herself to get a warning message out about it. And what does the message say? She tells them to destroy the marker at all costs….Good job.

I guess it could be argued that she was acting irrationally due to the marker’s influence, but I doubt it. She only starts acting weird after she does this.

The most interesting story is happening on the bridge with Captain Mathius and Dr. Kyne, both of which being closet unitologists who are the only ones who know that the main point of this mission is to bring back the marker to earth, not to help those on Aegis VII.

For those Dead Space fans, there are some continuity errors created by this movie, but nothing that breaks the story or universe. One of the main things I believe most Dead Space fans would want to see in a Dead Space prequel is Nicole and, sadly, she just barely gets a cameo if the person in this movie is even her.

Alissa and Ramirez infiltrate a room where a bunch of medical personnel are holding themselves up because a group of slashers are banging on the door. One of the personnel is seen crying under a table and Alissa tries to get her to leave. She asks her if she has a boyfriend, she says yes. She asks if she wants to see him again, she says yes and they leave.

This interaction seemed very weird and out of place when I first saw it, mostly because it’s odd to suddenly establish a connection with a flash in the pan nameless character, and because it seemed like such an odd question to ask. Most people would ask ‘do you have any family?’ or maybe a husband or kids or something. I was sitting there wondering why she immediately jumped to ‘boyfriend’.

It wasn’t until I was doing some post-watch research on the Dead Space Wiki that I became aware that this was supposed to be Nicole, Isaac’s (the game’s main character) girlfriend…supposedly.

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It’s not confirmed that this is her. They just surmise this based on how she looks and the fact that Alissa specifically asked about her having a boyfriend.

The art and animation are done by Film Roman, who have done work on The Simpsons, King of the Hill and Family Guy, but, trust me, this style is much more reminiscent of their other work, X-men Evolution. I was constantly thinking about that show when looking at this art before I even knew who produced it.

The animation definitely has its hiccups and it’s not as fluid as X-Men Evolution, but it’s not too bad.

The CGI shots, which are pretty well-done and integrated, are done by EA, the producers of the game. The only shots I question are the first shot of the Infector and the shot of Alissa against a huge herd of necros.

The music is very fitting, but not very memorable. I did squee a little when Twinkle Twinkle Little Star played, though.

The voice acting is pretty good with some of the more notable actors being Jim Cummings as Mathius and Kevin Michael Richardson as Samuel Irons. Alissa’s voice kinda got on my nerves, but she was acting pretty well.

Bottomline: Whether you’re a Dead Space fan or if you’ve never played the games at all, this is a pretty good horror movie that also acts as a nice setup for the first game. It’s not super scary, but it’s certainly never boring and there are some really awesome scenes of both action and horror here. The biggest weaknesses are the lack of characterization in Alissa and her crew and some craggy animation.

Recommended Audience: Like the games, this movie is incredibly gorey. People get slowly sliced in half vertically, there’s organs and bones everywhere, even if it’s not incredibly detailed, there’s a lot of slicing people and nercos to bits, people get their heads blown off and there’s one scene where a character dies due to having a hypodermic needle getting crammed into their eye. There’s also a lot of swearing, particularly by Alissa, and while there’s no sex, there is one scene of lower-bit male nudity in the bathroom. 17+