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Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead – film review

January 29, 2015

WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD

The new wave of Ozploitation fun continues.

Reviewed on Tuesday 27th January 2015

wyrmwood road of the dead armour

Directed by Kiah Roache-Turner. Written by Kiah Roache-Turner & Tristan Roache-Turner. Starring: Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey, Leon Burchill, Keith Aguis and Berryn Schwerdt. Running time: 98 mins.

Similar in tone to humorous splatter-fests such as Dead Snow and Undead, this     debut feature by Sydney-based filmmaking brothers Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner is imbued with a gleeful exuberance which more than makes up for its meager indiegogo-financed budget. Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is a fast-paced zombie apocalypse actioner incorporating design elements from Mad Max 2 – resulting in a     fun film which wears its 70s and 80s Ozploitation roots proudly on its bloody sleeve.

Set amidst a zombie outbreak (brought about by an airborne virus which has arrived via a shower of meteorites) Wyrmwood follows a trio of unaffected and heavily-armed survivors on the east coast of Australia – as they set out to rescue a young woman from the clutches of a crazed scientist. While Kiah Roache-Turner displays a flare for directing comprehensible action and generating suspense, the real strengths of this film can be found in the screenplay – with the brothers bringing fresh new ideas to an otherwise rapidly stagnating zombie apocalypse genre. The idea of this cosmic event affecting gasoline – so it becomes effectively useless overnight; while at the same time causing zombies to biologically begin producing a gas which can be harnessed to power vehicles, is borderline ludicrous if you think about it too hard – and yet refreshingly inspired. Luckily the film is so fast-paced and treats this concept in such a good-humored way (while doggedly adhering to the internal logic it sets up) that we willingly go along for the ride – never once thinking about the inherent sillyness of this central conceit. Another idea utilized in the film which hasn’t really been seen in previous zombie movies (although a similar concept was originally planned for Re-Animator – but ultimately discarded) – is the idea that Brooke develops (as a result     of the experiments which she is subjected to) – an ability to telepathically control zombies.

The cast of mostly unknowns do well with their roles and there is a nice sense of camaraderie between the three guys in the truck. And it’s also nice to see an indigenous actor (Leon Burchill as Benny) have such a prominant part to play in an Aussie genre film. While relative newcomer Bianca Bradey (as kick-ass zombie whisperer Brooke) is clearly an exciting new talent on the rise. Zombies aside, the creepiest character in the entire film is undoubtedly the mad scientist (played by Berryn Schwerdt). Dressed in a bright yellow hazmat suit, he’s a truly bizarre individual with a penchant for shaking his booty to 70s disco (K.C. & The Sunshine Band’s ‘Get Down Tonight’) – while gleefully conducting his gruesome experiments and terrorizing the captive Brooke.

The twenty-strong makeup effects team headed by Gavin Kyle do a terrific job with the zombie makeups; giving each zombie a distinctive look. The CGI blood effects, however, are less convincing – but thankfully they are kept to a minimum. My only real quibble with the film is to do with the cinematography. The shallow depth of field used throughout too often draws undue attention to itself and becomes quite annoying at times. It’s unclear whether or not this is a deliberate stylistic choice, but hopefully (if it isn’t intentional) it’s something the brothers can be aware of in their next production.

Featuring plenty of larrikin Aussie humor, beautifully-edited action sequences and lashings of zombie mayhem, Wyrmwood is enormous undemanding splattery fun.

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead will be released in Australian cinemas and in the US     on February 13th.

3.5 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Palace-Nova Eastend Cinemas, Adelaide, January 27th 2015.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

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