Australia, Australia, Australia, we love you. Whether it be films featuring crazy stunt folks like Deathcheaters, movies with lots of comical splatter and gore such as Body Melt, or post-apocalyptic road flicks involving homemade armored cars duking it out over a tank of juice such as Mad Max, the land down under never fails to give me the exact kind of over the top ridiculousness that I love to see. Even when it’s cheap (especially when it’s cheap), Australian filmmakers repeatedly put together spectacles in craziness that the masses deserve to see and yet rarely do, because Australia is a long way away, and we tend to get a lot of craziness directly from the Aussie actors who do come to Hollywood… Hey, Mel Gibson, yes, we are talking about you.
Now I present to you yet another example of Aussie cinematic awesomeness: Wyrmwood. This movie has it all: blood spray, screaming, head explosions, mad scientists grooving to funk, juiced-up armored pickup trucks, and body armor made from sports gear. It also has a plot that makes about as much scientific sense as any movie about post-apocalyptic Australians can. In short, don’t think; just grab a beer, sit back, and enjoy the ride.
One night down under, a meteor shower flies across the sky. Brooke, a body paint artist and photographer, suddenly sees her model and assistant turn into zombies, so she calls her mechanic brother Barry for help. Barry tries to get his wife and daughter to safety, but they too succumb to the zombie plague. Barry eventually comes across Benny, and the two team up with Frank and his pal to try and find Brooke. As fuel no longer combusts, they soon discover they can use stinky zombie fumes as a means to power an engine. Meanwhile, Brooke ends up kidnapped by a bizarre paramilitary organization with some kind of unknown research goal. Through their horrifying experimentation, she ends up with the power to control zombies. Barry and Brooke eventually reunite for a showdown which will involve boomerangs, fist fights, explosive zombie blood, and a mind-controlled and coordinated assault of the undead. Oh, and electric trucks, because that’s apparently how these paramilitary types get around. Guess they figured that out fast or had this gear locked away in the basement or something. Not sure, but it is rural Australia, so yeah, I’ll just accept it and move on.
Wyrmwood (or as it’s called in some markets, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead) is a nasty backwater low-budget movie from first time director Kiah Roache-Turner and producer Tristan Roache-Turner, two brothers that know exactly what kind of schlock they’re making. And with only $160K to put together a movie that needed some CG done in post-production, they squeezed every last drop out of that budget for a movie extravaganza. Lighting is often stylized, makeup heavily focused on blood, dirt, and contact lenses. This is a dirty film, absolutely caked in dried blood and sweat, and it gets everywhere. Of course, it’s helped that it has a set of solid actors for a main cast: Jay Gallagher’s Barry is driven, shutting down emotionally, and has a death wish. Bianca Bradey’s Brooke is terrified of the strange situation she finds herself in but tough and self-reliant, as well as street smart and cocky. Leon Burchill’s Benny is straight-forward, at times comical in his easy acceptance of situations, but easily able to tackle any obstacle thrown in his way without fuss. These three form the core of the film, and they’re all a rock solid base on which the Roache-Turners can build.
The rest of the cast vary in skill, but we have a lot of blue collar types who absolutely shine, from Barry’s family to the pot-smoking truck driver who finds Barry in an alley. And then we have the paramilitary group and our mad scientist, and this is where the film starts encountering problems. There seems to be some kind of understanding of what is going on by the paramilitary group, but how they ended up already geared up, ready to go, in league with a scientist madman, and running experiments out of the back of a truck just a day later is beyond me. And exactly what experiments the scientist is attempting to perform is also never explained. He just shows up, injects blood, scrambles brains, and listens to funk.
In fact, continuing down this rabbit hole presents exposes further plot issues, like how the paramilitary folks have gear to test blood samples and vehicles that don’t need fuel to operate already ready to go. It’s revealed at one point that they aren’t immune to the plague because they’re the wrong blood types, so just when did they figure out that this was a thing? I have so many questions regarding the bad guys!
I also have questions regarding the science. Part of the premise here is that fuel sources no longer combust, thus rendering traditional petrol products useless. Gas ain’t getting you anywhere. So does this mean that the chemical bonds of these items no longer react to heat? And if so, how does this impact their chemical nature? In particular, how does this impact ethanol? At one point the guys bust open a beer that fizzes to hell and back, and the next day Benny’s got a hangover from just that one. Did the meteor shower or the zombie apocalypse ruin beer? Is this world no longer worth living in?!? Is my Scotch still good?!? I have so many questions!
Wyrmwood proved successful enough that the Roache-Turners have since built upon it. The brothers documented their original production in an online series called The Wyrmdiaries. There was an attempt at creating a television series, Wyrmwood: Chronicles of the Dead, but this appears to have resulted in a “trailer” which is a 7-minute short film. And now we have Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, which is an official sequel that the brothers managed to finance through crowdfunding. I have my fingers crossed we’ll one day see a video game, because yes, I am that kind of geek. Either way, the Roache-Turners are now on my radar.