On the sixteenth day of Halloween, the Land Down Under gave to me: Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (Kiah Roache-Turner, 2014)
If you put the X-Men, George Romero, and a road movie into a blender, the resultant genre-bending smoothie would probably look a little something like Wyrmwood. If it sounds like a weird combo, it totally is. On paper, this film probably looked like some 7-year-old’s zombie sci-fi fantasy world: all over the place and full of action ,katanas, and mind control.
While Wyrmwood’s tone and aesthetic is predictably jumpy, this movie is still one of the most fun watches I’ve ever had. It shouldn’t work as well as it does, but Wyrmwood is a delightfully off-kilter zombie movie that is unlike any other I have ever seen.
A delicious plot:
A mysterious illness descends upon Australia, turning normal humans into zombies with no apparent warning. Husband and father Barry (Jay Gallagher) watches his wife and daughter succumb to the disease, unable to do anything. Determined to save the only other member of his family, Barry sets out to find his sister, Brooke (Bianca Bradley) who lives up north in Bulla Bulla. Unbeknownst to him, Brooke has been kidnapped by a mad scientist (Berynn Schwerdt) employed by the military, who travels through Australia- experimenting on both the living and the dead. Luckily for Brooke, she is mysteriously resistant to the doctor’s tests. As Barry and his crew rush to save her, Brooke quickly realizes that she might be able to save herself.
How can Brooke, who is chained to a wall, save herself?
There’s no subtle way to put this: she can control zombies with her mind. That’s what her superpower is. It’s the weirdest fucking ability, but Brooke kicks ass. She’s the perfect post-apocalyptic heroine, and I love her very much.
I love this movie so much
Before I get all sappy over this movie, it’s important to note that nobody’s perfect, and Wyrmwood is no exception. The storytelling isn’t the most even: it goes from deadly serious to cheeky at the drop of a hat. It’s a bit disjointed in retrospect, particularly considering how outright out-there the movie gets as it progresses.
This movie is also really strange, if you didn’t pick up on that. It’s in no way “realistic,” and has a very …bold plot. Rationally speaking, this movie shouldn’t work: it could have very easily been an unintelligible mess.
But luckily for us, it isn’t. And to be honest, even if it was I think I’d still love this movie.
Wyrmwood works because it commits to its wackiness, and does so with panache. Everything about this movie is stylized,from the combat to the lighting to the costumes: think “outback industrial.” This movie has often been described as the Mad Max of zombie movies, and that’s a really apt description. And yes, it’s just as bonkers as it sounds.
Zombies: the next eco-fuel
But the “mad max” aspects of Wyrmwood isn’t the strangest part of this film. Let’s talk Wyrmwood‘s zombies:
These zombies are the standard shambling kind, with white-blue eyes and constantly bloody mouths. They snarl, they snap, they…
Yeah, you heard me right. These guys emit methane, because why not? It’s an utterly random concept: the zombie apocalypse has mysteriously caused all combustible liquids (ie, gas) to stop…combusting. As such, cars are useless. But guess what? Zombies breathe out that shit!
…But only during the day.
Why only during the day? Who the hell knows. I personally stopped asking questions after the “gas doesn’t work because of zombies” portion of this film. This movie is fucking wild and I am here for it.
As always, things to be aware of: attempted suicide, killing of a child, fingernails being torn out, medical horror.
Siblings who slay together stay together
One little aspect of Wyrmwood that I love is that the central relationship in the film is a sibling one. Lord knows there’s enough “saving the damsel-in-distress-lover” in horror. And Brooke and Barry aren’t the the“estranged siblings who need an apocalypse to reunite,” pair and instead are actually just really loving and supportive of each other. Brooke is clearly involved in Barry’s life, and he’s the first one she calls when shit goes down in Bulla Bulla, warning him to protect his family. They’re both ride or die for each other, and that’s pretty cool. It’s nothing particularly groundbreaking (this is how sibling relationships should ideally be) but it’s cool to see on screen.
Side note: Leon Burchill (Benny) needs to be in more movies. He’s funny as shit, and while his inevitable demise as the comic relief was frustrating, he is what gave Wyrmwood its cheeky streak.
this movie is either going to be trash or treasure to someone
If someone told me they didn’t like Wyrmwood, I honestly wouldn’t be shocked. It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s not hard to see why. There is an awful lot going on in this movie, and it might feel a bit scattered.
But if you’re into zombies and have an open mind, give Wyrmwood a shot- all you gotta do is just sit back and go along for the ride. This movie will make you Feel Things (C), giggle, gag, and leave feeling triumphant.
It’s 50/50, folks. But those are pretty good odds for a zombie movie.
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