Sunday, August 30, 2015

Horror Film Review

Wyrmwood - Road of the Dead (2014):  It's settled, then.  Australia needs to make more zombie flicks.  This one is a  phenomenal hybrid of post-apocalyptic thriller and undead creeper, as if Mr. George A. Romero remade Mad Max. With its gore, humor, and pathos, Wyrmwood hits all the right notes and pushes all the right steampunky buttons.

A meteor shower of biblical proportions precipitates a mass infection that changes certain folks into flesh-eating ghouls.  Why?  No idea.  It could be the end of the world as portended in the book of Revelation, or it could be an extraterrestrial contagion.  Doesn't matter, really.  The focus of the film is on three people lucky (or unlucky) enough to be immune.

Benny (Leon Burchill) is a wise-cracking Aborigine with a sawed off shotgun.  Barry (Jay Gallagher) is a husband, father,  and nail gun-toting mechanic.  Brooke (Bianca Bradey) is Barry's ball-busting sister who ends up having a worse day than anyone.  Barry escapes the city with his wife and daughter but unfortunately is forced to dispatch them both.  Initially suicidal, he eventually decides to find his sister who, unfortunately, has been taken by a psychotic doctor determined to understand the illness by any and all sadistic means necessary.  Barry and Benny join up with Frank (Keith Agius) and subsequently learn all fuels (gasoline, kerosene, etc.) are no longer flammable but zombie blood and zombie breath is.  They construct a Mad Max-esque vehicle that runs on zombie breath and begin their journey to find Brooke.  Brooke, after many hours of experimentation, discovers she has developed the ability to telepathically control zombies.  As you may imagine, things don't end well for Dr. Nutjob.  Once they finally meet up, Barry, Brooke, and Benny square off against the military man who ordered the experimentation, the Captain (Luke McKenzie).  It's a hell of a thing, that final fight.

The telepathy angle is new and interesting.  So is the deal with the flammable breath and blood.  It doesn't make a lick of sense, but it's fodder for some pretty groovy scenes.  I think this is the first time where I wasn't annoyed with the lack of scientific explanations.  Just didn't care.  Why?  Because the filmmakers assaulted me with wild visuals at a pace that didn't allow for a whole lot of thinking.  (We eventually do find out immunity is based on blood type.)  I also very much enjoyed the dry, dark humor which is made even better with the Australian accents.  Example:  Trapped in the truck and surrounded by zombies, Frank decides to try to sleep and tells Barry, "If they break and and kill me while I'm asleep, wake us up, will you?"  My only real complaint is how they resolve (or don't resolve) Brooke's situation.  Weird and a bit awkward.

The Skinny

Acting:  There are no Hugh Jackmans or Mel Gibsons here, but they do all right.
Story:  Goofy and strange and a little bit wonderful.
Direction:  Frenetic camera work, almost spastic at times, keeps the action moving along.  You won't be bored.
Production Values:  There's a pervasive raw grittiness that really does remind one of the original Mad Max.  See the movie poster?  Like that.
Gore/FX:  They didn't skimp on the blood, that's for damn sure.  Zombie nerds won't be disappointed (I wasn't).  The CGI is utilized mostly for head shots, zombie breath, and fire and isn't horrible.
Scares:  One or two, which surprised me.  Don't normally see them in zombie flicks.
Ending:  Probably meant to be upbeat.  I found myself scratching my head because of Brooke.
Verdict:  Should you see Wyrmwood?  Abso-freaking-lutely.  It's a hell of a lot of fun from our friends Down Under.

Rating:  4 out of 5

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