Ride or Die with “Wyrmwood”

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Wyrmwood PosterAustralia really brings the battle with “Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead.”  In a market currently saturated with zombie flicks, one has to be particular with what they choose to spend their time watching.  And “Wyrmwood” delivers not only the gore you crave, but the gut reactions you need to feel as well.  The 2014 Australian zombie film is coming to select theaters Feb 13th.  After turning heads at Fantastic Fest and The Hollywood Reporter, this freshly rotted film has been picking up speed and is set to become a movie in every corpse-lovers collection.

A zombie infection sweeps over the Earth, leaving what seems to be random survivors peppered across the planet.  After Barry, a car mechanic, gets a panicked phone call from his sister Brooke, he must go through his own personal hell.  The film stars Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey and Leon Burchill and was co-written by brothers Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner.  The final product was directed by Kiah Roache-Turner.

The movie begins quiet as a grave, but manages to immediately play for intensity because of it.  An energy that high in a situation such as this is not an easy feat.  The Roache-Turners seem to achieve it with ease, and not with a massive amount of menacing tension.  You begin the movie on the edge of your seat, waiting to hear more, but not because you are waiting to be scared.  It’s just genuine good story telling, right out of the gate.

I always love seeing horror movies in general from all over the world.  It’s the best was to keep your mind fresh when you love the genre.  I think it’s necessary to the development of the entire film industry, horror and sci-fi notwithstanding, to see how different cultures convey fear and suspense and how they celebrate scary movies with how they convey their culture.  I’m sure that not many people in other parts of the world have considered what someone with an Aboriginal background would make of a zombie apocalypse.  Or what kind of landscape one would have to deal with in Australia as opposed to Japan or Wyoming.  And what are the differences in storytelling from continent to continent?  All these factors create a different viewpoint on a similar theme, which in an over-populated market of zombie-laden projects is imperative.

Australians are known for many things.  For as much as they are considered a friendly and easy-going culture, they are also known for throwing down when a fight breaks out.  You don’t mess with an Aussie when they’re mad.  Needless to say there is lots of reason for anger in this movie, especially from main character Barry (Jay Gallagher.)  But for every rage-fueled battle you see him through, there is a light-hearted moment of idiocy from Benny (Leon Burchill,) or a zombie keeping beers cold.  Bianca Bradey is a definite stand-out as bad-ass Brooke, who is stronger than anyone realizes and proves that yes, chicks can put the fear of god in you when survival is on the line.

As interesting as this next piece of the puzzle was, it was not fleshed out, (pun intended,) properly.  In “Wyrmwood,” we encounter what seems to be riot cops or armed forces of some kind, who ultimately barely more than crazed hooligans out to cause mayhem now that there’s no one able to really stop them.  They seem to be herding up survivors and zombies alike and bringing them to a crazed mad scientist, (Berynn Schwerdt,) who then sucks up laughing gas, dances to disco music and them tortures and kills the living subjects.  Clearly, it is under the guise of finding a cure.  I mean, what better way to do that than attempting to infect those still alive before drilling into their brain?  And once Brooke shows immunity, he really has no interest in seeing what makes her able to withstand the virus where no one else did, he’s simply mildly intrigued while he waits to kill her on his timed-out execution schedule.

This character, as well as these scenes, were a definite high point for me in an already solid and enjoyable movie.  But for every truly creepifying moment with the character only listed as “The Doc” in the credits, there are just more and more questions that arise.  The biggest ones being these: If this is only a day after the apocalypse, how on earth did this group of men find each other, set up their lab, get the gear, and organize themselves seemingly overnight?  Most other questions can be explained away with a little bit of thought and conjecture, but that one is pretty much a flaw set in stone.  One can only hope that “Wyrmwood” continues on, as the ending left room for a sequel and perhaps even a franchise, and the whys of the situation are answered – why did they organize, what did the soldiers know about The Doc, why was The Doc doing what he was doing, etc.

Like I said, this movie left themselves a wide berth to continue the story and I sincerely hope there’s more “Wyrmwood” coming down the pipe.  This movie does a tremendous job of capturing the fear one would feel when dying and the desperation of those left behind.  This attention to character combined with the adrenaline-infused, “Crank”-inspired cinematography and slight humor makes this one of the most well-rounded zombie films we have seen in quite a long while.  New use of zombies and unique problems that the characters face make the ride worth it for the zombie fan who has seen it all, and with its blend of nearly every important facet of storytelling, it makes for a story anyone should enjoy.  As long as you can stand seeing exploding zombie heads, of course.

“Wyrmwood” opens in select theaters Friday, February 13th, just in time for Valentine’s Day.  Snuggle up with your honey and get your sweet, tender, romantic weekend started off right.  With people getting heads set on fire, zombie whisperers and lots, and lots, and lots of blood.

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