“This morning I shot my wife and child with a nail gun.” This line is from the film’s main protagonist and pretty much sets the tone for brothers Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner’s Australian zombie movie Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead. It is a dark film but with a deeply twisted sense of humor, which is nice to see in a genre that can sometimes take itself way too seriously, “I’m looking at you Walking Dead.”
We are currently living in an era overflowing with projects featuring either superheroes or zombies on both big and small screens (which does have me wondering why we haven’t seen Marvel’s Zombies made into a movie yet), but of the two genres the zombie film is the more predominant as such films are easier to make on the cheap. Director Kiah Roache-Turner and his brother Tristan bring us a low budget meal containing ingredients from Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, chunks of Thom Eberhardt’s Night of the Comet, and with a liberal splashing of George Miller’s Road Warrior, but with enough originality to make this film stand out.
The movie opens with a group of men dressed up like Road Warrior wannabees (see above pic) as they battle a horde of the undead while trying to retrieve a truck. A truck that will of course later be turned into a Mad Max armored vehicle. The movie then gives us a couple of flashbacks as to what led to all this zombie carnage. The editing of these scenes is probably the film’s weakest element as at times I couldn’t quite figure out how each scene figured into the timeline and when we were actually caught up to the present, but once we are caught up the earlier chunkiness is quickly forgotten. But it’s here these flashbacks that we are introduced to our three main characters; first we meet an Aborigine named Benny (Leon Burchill) who witnessed the meteor shower that we assume is the cause of this particular zombie apocalypse (special thanks to the filmmaker for having characters refer to the undead as zombies) and is horrified to wake up to find one brother dead and the other a bloodthirsty fiend. Then we jump to Barry (Jay Gallagher) a mechanic and the author of the line “This morning I shot my wife and child with a nail gun,” who is forced to kill his family when they become zombified.
Thirdly we have Barry’s sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey), who is some kind of photographer, and while she is shooting a Goth model she and her assistant are quite stunned when in the middle of the shoot the model suddenly goes full-on zombie. Which brings us to the mechanics of this particular zombie outbreak, an element often kept vague in most zombie films, but in this movie it is clearly an airborne virus (which we assume is connected to the meteor shower but that is never confirmed), and if you are out and about without wearing a gas mask you will be zombified. That is unless you are an A negative blood type which is not affected by the disease, and that is the case with Benny, Barry, Brooke, as well as a few friends they meet along the way.
If you have seen Thom Eberhardt’s Night of the Comet 1984 sci-fi horror film this may sound familiar. In that film a meteor shower turned most of the Earth’s population to dust, you were spared if you were somewhat sheltered but only for a while as eventually, you would turn into an insane zombie-like monster unless you had a certain blood type. There is also another character in Wyrmwood that is very reminiscent of a character in Night of the Comet and that would be the Mad Scientist (Berryn Schwerdt) who travels around in lab located in the trailer of a transport truck. He dances to pop music while experimenting on infected and non-infected people alike. I’d say he also has a dash of The Re-Animator in him as well. And he is magnificently deranged and one of the film’s highlights.
Brooke ends up in this doctor’s clutches when she is “rescued” by some gas-masked military types who save her from her zombie predicament but then gag her and chain her to the wall of this rolling laboratory of horrors. I will not dare spoil what happens to her while in their clutches but let’s just say it is one of the most original elements of this film or any film of this genre and is the most fun. The adventures of Benny and Barry pale in comparison to what Brooke goes through, and when they are finally re-united what follows is pure awesomeness.
Now over the years we have been treated to two main types of zombies; the slow shuffling zombies of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and the other being the rage-fueled sprinting zombies we’ve seen in 28 Days Later and the Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, but in Wyrmwood we get both, and with a delightfully batshit reason. Our heroes soon learn that the gas powering their vehicles has become inert, a bizarre side-effect of the meteor showering, but then by accident, they discover that zombies breathe a gas that is combustible and can power their truck. Barry is able to use his mechanic skills to convert their armored vehicle to be zombie-powered and off they go to rescue his sister, but they run into a problem at night. It seems that when the sun sets the normally slow shuffling zombies stop exhaling the gas and instead use it to becoming the fast running undead of the 28 Days Later type of zombie.
This is a low budget movie that put every penny on screen with some really well-done action scenes throughout. The make-up effects for the zombies are universally great throughout with the only caveat being that I’m not a fan of the CGI blood hits you get in many modern low budget movies. This film has been compared the early gore filled works of Peter Jackson, and while Wyrmwood has much of the same pitch black humor you see in Bad Taste and Brain Dead, there isn’t near the level of pure visceral gore of Jackson’s films.
An apparent sequel in the works and as we never find out just who the mad scientist and his military associates work for, or even what the point of the experiments was, there is certainly a wealth of stuff for further films. Once you see this film you are going to want to see more adventures with Brooke, she is that cool of a character.
Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014)
Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner have given us a zombie film that borrows from many other movies but brings enough original ideas of their own, some that are beautifully batshit crazy, to make this a film worth hunting down.