Australia delivers the answer to the question, what do you get when you cross Mad Max and Dawn Of The Dead?
Wyrmwood is the latest in a growing list of Australian horror films gaining worldwide attention. Wyrmwood puts us in a common scenario, the world is going to hell and humans are mutating without reason into hyperactive flesh hungry zombies. We are given a handful of survivors and follow their fight against the bloodthirsty, time and an unknown enemy. The concept of a zombie apocalypse is nothing new, but it’s a well worked formula with a solid track record, there is guaranteed casualties, bloodshed and personal struggles, all of which Wyrmwood competently delivers.
Wyrmwood gives us three main characters, Barry, who after being forced to kill his wife and daughter is on the edge with little to live for, Brooke, Barry’s brother who is taken captive for experimentation at the hands of a comically evil scientist (telescopic glasses and Reservoir Dogs music evil) and finally we get Benny, wise cracking despite losing his friends while out camping. Barry and Benny task themselves to find Brooke and meet some true blue Australians and hordes of zombies on the way. Wyrmwood throws us some new plays on the zombie genre, having both fast and slow zombies and using them as both fuel and telekinetic puppets, all fresh ideas that inject some intrigue into what may otherwise be paint by numbers brutality.
Wyrmwood hits some quality notes, the humor is distinctly Australian and is refreshing against so many D-grade US zombie slashers full of silicone filled faces and unintentionally humorous dialogue. With an avalanche of expletives as punctuation, as many ‘you beauties’ 'mates’ and 'aye’s’ as humanly possible and banter only an Australian could deliver, this is a down under production from top to bottom. Cold beers in first aid boxes, ’Occa’isms and a fresh faced but resilient determination, the Roache-Turner’s have developed a strong formula for a movie that will appeal to local audiences as well as tapping into the Australian fetishisation worldwide.
There isn’t a great expectation that zombie flicks be filled with A list actors or acting but in this case it lets the film down. Jay Gallagher in the lead is more than competent, he is stoic, strong and fierce in equal measure. He is rough around the edges but handsome and likable in the tradition of dozens of Australian leading men in Hollywood (Crowe and Edgerton). Leon Burchill as Benny is hilarious if not a one note performance, but that’s what he is there to achieve. He delivers the comedy then returns to the background. Bianca Bradley let’s the team down however, she is a great role model for those in an apocalypse, she knows when to retreat and advance and physically is convincing compared to the silicone masses in the US. It is just painfully obvious that she is acting, she delivers lines like there were on a teleprompter and fails to emote or engage with them in the same way that the similarly physical and resolved Gallagher does. Barry as a character is more developed and gives Gallagher more to work with but every time Bradley was on the screen I was brought back to the reality I was watching a low budget blood and guts fest.
The action is effective and the effects are competent, allowing the shlocky nature of the film to be endearing instead of tiring. A good mix of practical and digital effects, Wyrmwood was a serious undertaking on a restricted budget but very rarely shows its indie edges. Blood mist exploding skulls are mixed with practical vehicles, costumes and weapons to great effect. This is the outback zombie apocalypse, this is what it will look like, mad scientists and all. It is a polished piece that should compete internationally and potentially usher in a new wave of Ozploitation cinema on a higher level.
Unashamed to be Australian, Wyrmwood will have horror and action fans smiling wide throughout as it ramps up the testosterone (and estrogen) for a wild ride through the outback.Cars, check. Guns, check. Zombies, double check. Looks like a good formula to me for Australian action. Hopefully the Roache-Turners are rewarded with a greater budget on their next endeavor, I can’t wait to see what they will produce.