Monday, 11 May 2015



There are two reasons why this fantastically bloody zombie film is getting a release right now: firstly it's really good, and secondly because it's Australian and the new Mad Max movie is coming up the following week. There is definitely the hint of vintage Ozsploitation in here, with the backroads settings and the eccentric supporting characters (if someone like Bruce Spence had turned up you wouldn't be surprised), but there's also a very modern quota of full-on gore that is very happy shooting the living dead in the face and quite clearly has no interest in wimping out for a family-friendly rating. And the mix works pretty well.

Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead's zompocalypse starts with shooting stars (in Revelations, Wormwood is a falling star that turns a third of the Earth's waters bitter) that transform the majority of the population into undead flesh-eating ghouls. Having had to kill his wife and child after they turned, family man Barry (Jay Gallagher) heads off to find his sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey), teaming up with a couple of other survivors en route. But Brooke has been captured by a mad scientist (Berynn Schwerdt, playing not just "horror movie mad scientist" but hilariously bonkers as well) experimenting with zombie blood....

It's a lot of fun and moves at a good pace, wasting no time and cutting straight to the bloody action. More pleasingly, it doesn't just do the standard post-Romero zombie routine but adds a few new wrinkles to the formula, such as using the zombs' breath as an alternative fuel supply since the apocalypse has somehow rendered gasoline nonflammable, or the surprising results of the maniac's grisly experiments. Maybe it's a pity that it settles towards the end for one of those dumb male machismo showdowns as two blokes slug it out to apparently prove who's the more manly - frankly I'm more interested in the armies of the undead than an entirely unnecessary fight.

But there's no real question that Wyrmwood delivers on the splatter front, and that's really what I want from a zombie film. If I'm in the mood for subtlety and understatement I'll look elsewhere. In addition it's actually funny (more than many comedies) in that quirky Australian way, such as the first aid box having nothing in it except a couple of beers. Shot at weekends over a period of four years (which inevitably brings to mind Peter Jackson's Bad Taste), you'd expect it to be rough and ramshackle but in fact it's efficiently put together and certainly doesn't look like a spare-time effort. It's a terrific Friday night romp and I enjoyed it far more than any zombie movie I've seen in the last few years. There are apparently plans for a Wyrmwood 2, but sadly not until 2017.


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