Wednesday, April 22, 2015

In short: Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014)

Some rather unglamorous parts of Australia – and possibly the rest of the world – are hit by mysterious meteors that turn most of the population into loud zombies of variable speed with a mean disposition. Some of the laws of physics are hit too, but that’s something the film’s protagonists will learn only later.

After having had to kill his wife and little daughter, Mechanic Barry (Jay Gallagher) makes his way through the zombie-plagued outback in an attempt to reach his sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey). Unbeknownst to him, Brooke is in more trouble than just the mere zombie apocalypse, for she has fallen into the hands of a crazy military scientist (Berynn Schwerdt) and his goons who are saving the world via weird experiments. Or something.

I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but I’ve gotten a bit tired of zombie apocalypses now. Mostly, I think, because all too many of the films – and don’t even get me started on the books - in the sub-genre we got these last few years have been beholden to genre standards and clichés to a tiresome degree where the best you can hope for as far as imagination goes are increasingly gory and silly ways to dispatch zombies.

Kiah Roache-Turner’s Wyrmwood turns out to be a rather pleasant surprise because it actually shows a lot of imagination, and mixes the genre mainstays with actual ideas of its own. And those ideas are far more than just the instant cult movie thing of zombies as fuel source (though that’s pretty fun too) but a lot of other details about how its zombies work, the surprising, clever and silly ways the rules of zombies are different here. The film presents its ideas with verve and energy, and even knows how and when to wink at its audience while still treating other parts of its zombie apocalypse with a straight face.

Which, pleasantly, at once makes the film’s jokes funnier and its more dramatic scenes more effective.

All this you get presented in a low budget movie style that permanently works around is limitations, making a virtue of its relatively small cast and number of locations without ever feeling too small instead of concentrated. There’s not just never a boring moment but for most of the film, you don’t necessarily know what exactly will happen next; even when Wyrmwood uses old sub-genre mainstays, it puts in enough variations and personality of its own they feel fresh again,

Obviously, I had a lot of fun with the film, and while there’s perhaps not much subtext and substance beyond being imaginative in it, when it comes to a playful and clever approach to making an action-based low budget zombie movie, this is pretty much the film I want.

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