Australian movie “Wyrmwood”, a.k.a “Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead”, is a little horror film mainly consisting of familiar spare parts borrowed from other zombie movies. As you have probably guessed right from my first sentence, the movie has your average grim apocalyptic background where its few human characters must survive for themselves amid the walking dead, and it also serves us with typical bloody or disgusting moments you can expect from those pale zombie extras wearing lots of make-ups and emitting inhuman sounds. This is nothing new to you especially if you are a connoisseur of horror movies or a fan of TV series “The Walking Dead”, but it is equipped with local humor and style to distinguish itself from countless zombie movies, and that certainly leaves some impression on the whole.
After the opening scene showing a number of characters ready for taking care of their imminent zombie problem, we are told about how their normal world gets suddenly turned upside down. In case of Barry (Jay Gallagher), an ordinary mechanic with loving wife and little adorable daughter, he gets a frantic late night call from his sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey), who was doing a photography work with two friends at her warehouse around the time when a meteor shower occurred in the sky. For some unknown reason which may be associated with that meteor shower, people begin to be turned into zombies, and Brooke finds herself being cornered by her zombie friends while stuck in her warehouse.
Alarmed by what her sister tells him, Barry soon finds that the same horrible thing is also happening in his neighbourhood. He quickly drives out of his house with his family, but it turns out that it is not safe for them at all even if they avoid zombies. It seems this zombie plague can also be spread through air, and Barry, who happens to be immune to it (as told later in the story, the plague somehow does not affect the population of blood type A-), comes to face a very difficult circumstance when his wife and daughter eventually become zombie on the very next day.
Devastated after doing what he must do for them, Barry comes across other few survivors who luckily survived the night like him. One of them is Benny (Leon Burchill), and this sweet but bumbling Aboriginal guy gradually becomes a sort of comic relief/sidekick to Barry during their perilous road journey to Brooke’s place. At one point, they learn that there is a strange fuel problem which inexplicably happens along with the zombie outbreak, but then they come to find an amusing solution for that, which is something you have to see yourself for appreciating how the director Kiah Roache-Turner, who wrote the screenplay with his brother/producer Tristan Roache-Turner, adds one refreshing touch a la “Mad Max” (1979) to the genre they enthusiastically play with.
Meanwhile, Brooke is not in a very good condition although she managed to survive her first encounter with zombies. She is taken by two masked soldiers to some hidden facility not long after that, and that is where she meets a sadistic doctor who has been cheerfully doing his pervert scientific experiment on zombies as well as normal human beings. Again, this mad scientist’s deranged savagery will not surprise many zombie movie fans, but this gruesome part is decorated with morbid humor like Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films or Peter Jackson’s infamous gory comedy film “Dead Alive” (1992), and I must point out that a loony biological experiment accompanied with a certain famous song by KC & the Sunshine Band is something you cannot see everyday.
While it is inevitable that these two plot threads will come together around the final act, the Roache-Turner brothers did a competent job of maintaining mood and tension on the screen. Establishing the grey, barren atmosphere well through their effective use of rural outback locations, they provide a couple of intense moments when their characters have to defend themselves against the living dead, and I also enjoyed several little humorous touches in the film which certainly lighten up the mood a bit.
In case of the zombies in the film, well, they do look as hideous as required while going back and forth between only two modes which can be applied to any zombie movies in the past and future. Sometimes they just slouch like their old seniors in George A. Romero’s zombie movies, and then they become quite fast and rabid like the ones in Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later…” (2002), and that is all I can describe about them.
As I think more about zombies, they are not particularly scary or interesting horror creatures to me, but I must admit that, despite my increasing tiredness with zombies, “Wyrmwood” is a good zombie movie even though I was constantly conscious of many other zombie movies including the aforementioned ones during my viewing. Its borrowed elements are mixed well together along with a number of new enjoyable ingredients, and, in spite of its fair share of limits and deficiencies, this low-budget movie is a commendable debut work to watch for skill and enthusiasm put behind the screen.
According to IMDB trivia, it took 4 years for the Roache-Turner brothers to complete their film because they had to work only during weekends, and, considering the positive responses to their labor of love, they surely get what they reached for through their debut work. As implied during its last scene, they are planning the sequel at present, and it will be interesting to see what they can do in the next step of their burgeoning career.