Dead Space: Downfall (2008) review

Director: Chuck Patton

Starring: Voices of Nika Futterman, Keith Szarabajka, Jim Cummings

DOBBS – “There’s a lot of blood in this room, but no bodies.”
SHEN – “Sounds like one of your parties.”
DOBBS – “Or your sex life.”

If you haven’t played the Dead Space series of video games you’re missing out on a bunch of petrifying, immersive survival horrors that combine the isolation of outer space with the terror of big bastard mutant alien things. Since the games start with you onboard a ship that’s already been infected with said mutants and had its crew sliced to bits however, it seems there’s a lot of story to be told about how the situation got so messy. Enter Dead Space: Downfall.

A prequel to the original game, Dead Space: Downfall is an animated movie explaining how the SS Ishimura, a mining ship, ends up being infested by the monstrous Necromorphs. After a colony on the planet Aegis VII asks for advice on an alien artifact they’ve found, the Ishimura nips down to the planet and takes it on board. Not before a ship infected with a Necromorph manages to get inside the Ishimura though, infecting the Ishimura with the mutant menace.

"This is the last time I take the bins out on curry night"

The Necromorph virus spreads throughout the Ishimura, turning the ship’s workers into mutants. Predictably, shit goes down and various poor sods end up coming face-to-face with their own spleens. It’s left to a small group of surviving workers to destroy the mutants, save the Ishimura and figure out what the alien artifact is supposed to be.

Of course, this being a prequel to the Dead Space video game, which sees you arriving at the Ishimura and finding everyone dead with Necromorphs still running riot, it should be fairly obvious to most people watching Downfall that nobody’s going to make it out alive by the end of this one. It’s harder then to care much about the well-being of the film’s main characters when you know they’re going to end up pegging it before long. 

"Well, this is easily the least comfortable game of Twister I've ever played"

It also doesn’t help that each of these characters are entirely without any redeeming qualities. The dialogue is woeful, there’s not an ounce of personality in there and the writers, realising this, decided to have them say “fuck” every two seconds to make up for it, as if that makes it cool.

Visually, the film’s a mixed bag. The screens in this review may make it seem exceptional and, certainly, the art style is very clean and similar to what you may expect from some anime studios. When you see it in motion though it’s hard not to be underwhelmed at times because the animation ranges from fantastic to basic almost randomly. It’s functional enough, but there are plenty of times throughout where everything suddenly feels chunky and rigid. It’s also interspersed with rubbish CGI shots of the ship, which stick out like a sore thumb and are jarring deviations from the film’s artistic direction. That’s right, I can sound posh when I want to.

Everyone at the funeral gasped when the Wilson twins from down the road turned up in questionable attire

Still, there’s a lot of gory bits in the latter half of the movie and bloodhounds will smile at the various grisly demises of the crew members of the Ishimura, keeping you watching out of interest even as the rest of the film descends into a bunch of meatheads emptying endless rounds of ammo into hordes of mutants while saying “fuck” a lot.

Ultimately though Dead Space: Downfall is a bit of a waste of time. As a horror film it’s ineffective, as an animation it’s too basic and as a film designed to show the events leading up to the first Dead Space game, it’s disappointingly generic and does the Dead Space story a disservice. When the best part of a film is that at 74 minutes it’s mercifully short, that’s probably not a good sign. As the crew of the Ishimura would say, it can fuck the fuck off.

Dead Space: Downfall is available on DVD here and Blu-ray here. You can also get it in a two-pack with the other Dead Space animation, Dead Space: Aftermath (DVD version here, Blu-ray here). That Blu-ray two-pack is only a tenner just now so if you’re a big Dead Space fan and just want the films for your collection that’s your best bet.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to fork over money for it (which is understandable because it’s pish), it’s also available for streaming on both the UK and US Netflix libraries.

If you enjoyed this review and would like to read more, here’s a complete list of reviews on That Was A Bit Mental complete with brief descriptions. There aren’t many more reviews of video game movies yet, but judging by this that’s probably a good thing.

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