Oh Australia, you’ve done it again! Aussie zombie movie Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is a revelation emerging from the shambling horde of me-too cash-ins. Brothers Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner — remember those names, because these are a couple of guys to watch — directed, wrote, edited, and even handled production design and sound design in this spirited and immaculately paced splatterfest. Wyrmwood has all the energy of a first-time director in love with his job, but perfectly willing to homage his influences. It freely riffs on Sam Raimi’s playfully slithering camera, George Miller’s classic post-apocalyptic outback chic, and the sickly visceral red splat of Romero and Savini’s full color zombie movies. But Wyrmwood is also refreshingly original, with its own unique take on zombie ecology that feeds into the can-do frontier spirit of the Australian outback and a mad scientist sequence so outrageously nonsensical that it wouldn’t feel out of place in a Resident Evil game. In fact, part of the appeal of Wyrmwood is how it plays as a loving mash-up of movie zombie mythology and videogame zombie mythology. Return of the Living Dead meets Dead Rising.
Although it’s ultimately about a couple of very specific characters, you can’t have a zombie apocalypse without killing a bunch of protagonists. You’ll meet plenty of tough men who know how to weld, headshot, scheme their way out of impossible situations, and even reference their cocks as needed, along with a uniquely Australian take on what would normally be the comedic sidekick. There’s even a last-minute villain totally worthy of being the movie’s hero.
But the real standout in Wyrmwood is its heroine, played by Bianca Bradey, who spends much of the movie acting with her eyes. Her introductory scene is one of the most thrilling zombie sequences I’ve seen since 28 Weeks Later and one of the creepiest zombie sequences I’ve seen since I was a kid and I stumbled across Italian zombie movies. A shambling corpse is one thing. A snarling infected feral zombie is yet another thing. But the thing dangling from the rafters in Brooke’s studio is something else entirely. And Brooke’s eventual contribution to surviving the zombie apocalypse is yet another example of how Wyrmwood is no mere me-too cash-in. It’s an Australian fever dream that has earned a place alongside classic zombie movies.
Wyrmwood is currently available on video on demand. Support Qt3 by watching it on Amazon.com.