Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, 2015.
Directed by Kiah Roache-Turner.
Starring Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey, Leon Burchill and Luke McKenzie.
During the outbreak of the zombie apocalypse a mechanic goes in search of his sister, who has been kidnapped by a group of psychotic soldiers who want to experiment on her.
It may seem like sacrilege to say it but the zombie genre is dying on its arse. Horror movies have always been notoriously cheap to produce and in this day of CGI effects replacing practical squibs and latex flesh it has never been easier to knock something together quickly and for very little physical effort, hence why the zombie movie has become so prevalent over the past few years. And with the increasing quantity comes the decreasing quality, meaning that studios putting out any old mean-spirited guff with the words “…of the Dead” in the title is supposed to make old school zombie freaks get excited for new films when they offer nothing new except… well, nothing actually.
And then every so often you get a movie like Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, a film that narratively offers nothing new and, on the surface at least, seems to be full of the usual computer enhanced, snarling runners that pass for the undead in the 21st century. But in less than a minute of the film starting you’ll be swept away on an energy burst of filmmaking lunacy that hasn’t really been amped up to this level since the early days of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson, and kept there for the next 94 minutes as the winning combination of a low-budget, enthusiasm and talent diverts your attention away from the fact that this is a modern, CGI bloodfest filled with snarling runners that pass for the undead in the 21st century.
Imagine, if you will, a Mad Max-type world where the apocalypse is happening and people are having to hit the road and travel around to survive as the zombie hordes begin to rise. Throw in a bit of medical experimentation with zombies, soldiers with gasmasks, gallons of blood and a fairly unique explanation for why things happen the way they do, and you have Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead. The central plot of mechanic Barry (Jay Gallagher) having to look for his sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey) after she is kidnapped by masked soldiers is a simple one and one that has been reworked and repeated several times over the last five decades, but director Kiah Roache-Turner and his screenwriter brother Tristan have peppered in enough new twists on an old formula to make it work. There are lots of nods to the Evil Dead franchise, Jackson’s Braindead and Bad Taste, as well as more modern splatter movies like Feast and Slither, and the fact that this is an Australian film adds to its appeal; as all genre fans know, putting anything through the Ozploitation filter immediately makes any old dreck at least worth watching once just for shits and giggles. And the CGI? Not as terrible as it first appears as the tone of the film is so out there and wacky that the video game look of a lot of the exploding heads and severed limbs seems to fit and not look too out-of-place.
What Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead lacks in finesse it more than makes up for in passion, and although it is very rough around the edges in places the budgetary limitations play second fiddle to the inventiveness that comes with such restrictions. It’s not the best zombie movie ever made but it is a fun one, and, much like Braindead and The Evil Dead, it has come along at a time when the genre has gone stale and needs an adrenaline kick. Will such creative energy inspire others to do something similar and make zombie movies that feel as fresh as this? Time will tell, but until it does Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead does enough to restore faith in the fact that all is not lost for zombies and also that a little bit of love for the genre can go a long way.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★