05th Mar2015

Frightfest Glasgow 2015: ‘Wyrmwood’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey, Leon Burchill, Luke McKenzie, Yure Covich, Keith Agius, Catherine Terracini, Berynn Schwerdt, Meganne West, Cain Thompson, Beth Aubrey, Sheridan Harbridge, Damian Dyke, Keith Agius | Written by Kiah Roache-Turner, Tristan Roache-Turner | Directed by Kiah Roache-Turner

Wyrnwood-1

A biblically-foretold falling star (the Wyrmwood of the title) leads to an zombie apocalypse on Earth, turning all but those with A negative blood into the walking dead. When Aussie mechanic Barry’s wife and child fall victim to the zombie “virus” he seeks out the only other member of his family, his sister Brooke – who, after surviving a zombie attack, is abducted by a sinister team of gas-masked soldiers and experimented on by a mad military scientist. Teaming up with a handful of other survivors, Barry heads across the outback in a truck powered only by zombie blood, to track down his sister and kick plenty of zombie ass along the way!

In recent years there’s been a huge resurgence in Ozploitation cinema, and Wyrmwood is yet another perfect example of why genre fans should be celebrating that fact. It’s hard to believe that a few years ago Aussie genre cinema was, at least internationally, dead in the water. But thanks to the likes of Not Quite Hollywood – which reignited many peoples passion for Ozploitation – and the growth of digital cinema, it seems film makers in the region have taken the proverbial bull by the horns and over the past year we’ve seen a myriad of amazing Ozploitation efforts… Including this.

If there’s one thing you can say about the zombie genre, it’s that it has become both familiar and stale. However Wyrmwood bucks that trend, presenting a refreshing new take on familiar tropes that, like many an Ozploitation film before it, mixes over the top splatter with a glorious streak of black humour in a way that – it seems – only the Aussies know how. Hell, Wyrmwood even introduces new zombie lore which – unbelieveably – actually explains the reason for the discrepancy between the lumbering zombies seen in the likes of George Romero’s original …Of the Dead trilogy and those super-speedy zombies present in the Dawn of the Dead remake and film such as 28 Days Later!

Let me digress for a moment and say, should you have the slightest interest in seeing a film that raises the game for the zombie genre then stop reading this review and go rent Wyrmwood on iTunes NOW. Right now. This review will still be here when you finished. Yes, Wyrmwood is THAT good. Honestly, if I could give the film more than five stars I would. Without hesitation. [Enough sycophancy, back to the review].

To be fair, you can’t really talk about Wyrmwood without spoiling some of the film – especially given that a lot of its appeal is in the details. The new zombie lore the film creates, the eventual resolution of Brooke’s story, etc. It’s those parts of the film that had me as giddy as a kipper come the films closing credits. So with that being said…

It’s not often ANYONE sits down to a zombie movie these days expecting anything other than what we have seen before. Yes, 28 Days Later introduced us the fast-moving zombie but other than that addition to the zombie move-makers arsenal, the tropes of the genre have pretty much stayed the same since George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. So when an audience is presented by not only a new idea, but a new idea that links both the lumber and the fast-moving zombie it’s something that should be rejoiced. And the idea itself is so simple: The zombies of Wyrmwood produce an internal gas – excreted through their mouths – during the day which, like a combustible fuel, powers them to run fast when needed… It’s also a gas that our heroes harness to power a car!

As for the character of Brooke, well, “Zombie Queen” says it all really. The notion that someone injected with just the right amount of zombie blood can, eventually, control entire hordes of zombies through telepathy is something had has me excited for ANY possibility of a sequel. Seeing the all-powerful Brooke and her brother going head to head with the evil authority figures that are roaming the Aussie outback, who just love to capture and kill those that aren’t infected by the zombie menace, would – I think – make for a fantastic movie. Especially if it retained the same mix of fun and fear that Wyrmwood has.

A stunning debut feature from writer/director Kiah Roache-Turner, that wears its influences on its sleeve, including a fabulous nod to Mad Max (note the films subtitle “Road of the Dead”), with note perfect performances from everyone involved – including stars Jay Gallagher and Bianca Bradey as brother and sister Barry and Brooke respectively; and a hilarious Leon Burchill as Benny – Wyrmwood is, even at this early part of the year, a contender for one of the best films of 2015.

***** 5/5

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