Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, 2021.
Directed by Kiah Roache-Turner.
Starring Luke McKenzie, Jake Ryan, Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey, Shantae Barnes-Cowan, Tristan McKinnon, and Tasia Zalar.
Lone soldier Rhys searches the Australian wasteland for zombie specimens to deliver to the maniacal Surgeon General in the hope of finding a cure, but things don’t go smoothly.
Making a sequel that continues where the previous movie left off can be a challenge for filmmakers – the haircuts never look quite the same, do they? – but making a direct sequel seven years after the previous movie is even more challenging. With Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, director/co-writer Kiah Roache-Turner continues his story of survivors of the zombie apocalypse searching the Australian wasteland hoping to find a cure almost seamlessly, albeit with a slight improvement.
Not that there was much wrong with 2014s Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead when it came to crowd-pleasing zombie action, the movie being a fun love letter to the splattery violence of early Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi, but the limitations of the budget meant that it was very rough around the edges, with cheap CGI being at the forefront. However, it had bucket loads of energy that made it rocket along at such a pace that the video game look and Dawn of the Dead/Resident Evil/Mad Max comparisons didn’t really matter as they all played second fiddle to the entertainment factor.
And Wyrmwood: Apocalypse pretty much follows suit but with the added bonus of having something to build off, so this sequel goes bigger and better in pretty much every department, with improved effects (still a lot of CGI but less like PS3 graphics), slicker camera work and tighter direction all round. And the plot? Well, the plot of the previous movie was hardly its strongest point and the same applies here, as we pick up with zombie attack survivor Barry (Jay Gallagher) and his hybrid human/zombie sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey), who have teamed up with fellow survivors Grace (Tasia Zalar) and her sister Maxi (Shantae Barnes-Cowan), the nieces of their friend Benny from the first movie. Grace, who is also a human/zombie hybrid, and Maxi take off after an incident with Brooke and, after time has passed and the two get separated, Grace is picked up by Rhys (Luke McKenzie), a soldier who wanders the wasteland collecting zombies and humans to deliver to the very odd Surgeon General, who is working with the military in a bunker trying to find a cure and also harnessing the zombie’s flammable breath as a replacement fuel. Rhys is also the twin brother of a soldier killed by Barry in the first movie, so you can figure out where that is going to go once everybody hooks up for the final act.
And that is pretty much it, as Rhys discovers the military command in the bunker may not be working for the common good and teams up with Barry, Brooke, Grace and Maxi – as well as the zombies Brooke has under her telepathic control – for a final act that literally does go for the jugular in a joyous display of carnage that is seen all too rarely in mainstream horror these days. Naturally, this much splatter does raise the movie from the ludicrous to the absurd and everything is done with tongue firmly in cheek – after all, where else would you see a zombie/cyborg hybrid with a metal claw for a hand and being controlled by a VR headset? Not in a two-plus-hour arthouse plodder that uses zombies as a metaphor for man’s inhumanity to man, that’s for sure. Then again, if you like your horror a little darker and more serious, with less gore and more suspense or jump scares, then the Wyrmwood movies are not for you.
Overall, if you liked Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead then there is no reason not to like Wyrmwood: Apocalypse as it basically does the same but with a slight layer of polish that was missing from the first movie. The leap in quality between the two movies isn’t quite the same as the differences between, say, The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 – which is an apt comparison as this movie also features a sentient zombie hand and the Surgeon General does get to do some Bruce Campbell-style slapstick moves – but if a third Wyrmwood movie is forthcoming, and the climax of this movie suggests it will be, then hopefully the progression will continue and we will be in for some Braindead-level splatter magic next time. Let’s hope they don’t leave it so long.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★