Written and directed by Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner the 2014 film Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (original title Wyrmwood) features a cast of relative unknowns facing zombies in the outback. Whether utilizing a George Miller “road warrior” backdrop or taking a leaf from the 1984 classic horror film Night of the Comet this low/no budget Aussie horror film packs a full dose of entertainment in every single frame.
It has been compared to Peter Jackson’s 1992 cult classic Braindead, aka Dead Alive but this is an oversimplification based, presumably, on the fact that it all the actors have Australian accents and it deals with the living dead. The hero is not as gormless as Jackson’s protagonist Lionel Cosgrove (played by Timothy Balme) and there is not one lawn mower to be found. It may be churlish to mention that the Lord of the Rings director, as well as his cast, are all from New Zealand, thereby placing the accents just out of Australian range and while the two sound similar they are different. Just as Jackson’s film is from this one.
Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead shares much more with Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. The humor is very similar, and with his hockey mask on, hero Barry (Jay Gallagher) has Bruce Campbell’s eyes, wide, brown and alarmed looking, just like the character Ash’s eyes in the Raimi films. Like most Australian horror films, the violence is over the top, gory, blackly funny and memorable, again very much like Raimi’s.
The plot of this zombies in the outback film, is that everyone who is not an A+ blood type, become the walking dead after a meteor shower. These zombies have flammable blood and breath and their bodily fluids are able to make new zombies. After the meteor shower, petrol aka gasoline and all other petroleum based products cease to burn causing all vehicles to stop running.
Barry gets a call from his sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey) who has been trapped in her garage/photograph studio in Bulla. In short order, Barry’s daughter and wife become zombies who he kills with a nail gun, Brooke is “rescued” by the military, Barry is picked up by a man named Chalker, who is then killed by Benny (Leon Burchill), the two men meet up with another couple of survivors, and the four set out to rescue Brooke.
The film is darkly humorous and features buckets of blood, a few dodgy looking FX and a freewheeling plot line. Brooke, for example, is experimented upon by the government troops who were meant to save her. As a result she becomes some sort of super zombie/human hybrid who can control the creatures.
“Wyrmwood” does not attempt impress with science or even to rely on a lot of supernatural, or paranormal, hugger-mugger. The zombies come to “life” and infect others. The dialogue features many hysterically funny lines such as Benny’s “Oh! F**k me dead!” A lot of the actors say f**k a lot, every other word it seems, but it adds to the humorous ambiance of the film. This reliance upon stereotypical Australian’s spices up the action and the storyline brilliantly.
The costumes of the intrepid, and rapidly dwindling, heroes of the story consists of Mad Max type combinations. Hockey masks, American football helmets and pads along with a score of different guns. In terms of budget, some of the weapons look better than others and in at least one scene the rifle that Barry points at Chalker is clearly fake.
The low budget does not harm the film at all and is actually part of its charm. The entire thing feels like a throwback to the good old days of heading down to the Drive-In with a six-pack and a group of friends for the $1 a car night specials.
Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, is a brilliant example of what Australian cinema does so well, low budget horror that is entertaining and fun to watch. 4.5 out of 5 stars for pure old fashioned The Evil Dead and Mad Max viewing. The film is available on US Netflix and should not be missed.