Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead
Director: Kiah Roache-Turner
Synopsis: If I were to start with a detailed plot summation, I would almost certainly lose you by the second sentence. That might go a long way in explaining why Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, at least in America, has been a little slow in attaining the cult following for which it seems destined. It might be more important to start with the deserved and flattering comparisons earned by the film’s ballsy, pedal-to-the-medal style and story. Director Kiah Roach-Turner and his co-writer Tristan Roache Turner exhibit in Wyrmwood everything that film and horror fans traditionally love in these types of small but ballsy movies.
Overview: This zombie feature moves with the propulsive and maniacal energy of a young George Miller, bumping back and forth between the over-the-top eruptive, screen splattering gore of Sam Raimi and the charm, wit, and comradery of Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. And it’s all spearheaded by a soon-to-be-iconic horror queen, a pint sized but agile survivor who goes from rafter swinging badassery to calm command of her own army.
To put it plainly, there’s a notable undertone of glee running through this movie, a sense that everyone involved is recklessly giving it his/her best out of joy and passion for the form. Each scene (if you could stabilize the frenetic camerawork of cinematographer Tim Nagle) is loaded with poster ready shots. Seriously, this movie is a wet dream for an advertising team. There exists so much busyness within the frame that it probably sounds even more unlikely when I assert that, at its core, Wyrmwood is a character film. The movie begins with Barry (Jay Gallagher) centered as the film’s protagonist, a brawny, bearded mechanic who is evidently one of those folks you want to have around when the apocalyptic shit hits the global fan. After a tragic opening chapter, Barry carries the unshakable hefty weight of mourning that manifests as determined rage, and he joins forces with a number of fellow survivors. His eventual comrades in combat, Benny (Leon Burchill) and Frank (Keith Agius) provide both comedic counterbalance and strangely philosophical and poetic contribution. The three men head to Bulla, Victoria in search of Barry’s sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey), who has been captured by and is being experimented upon by a mad doctor (Berryn Schwerdt).
Within that straightforward narrative line, there exists enough monsters, madness, and mayhem to appeal to the most manic of viewers, but also pivotal to the plot, the zombies created by a falling star breathe gasoline and are physically configured to fuel the customized battle truck driven by Barry and his friends and the experimentation upon Bianca somehow renders her capable of telepathically controlling zombies. Now you know why that’s a bad place to start, but, if you haven’t seen the film, what you don’t know is that it all works. These absurd plates all spin at dizzying speeds, but make for quite an impressive display.
From a cult perspective, if not a wider one, Wyrmwood is going to be important, the sort of movie cited as a milestone accomplishment that most will find more enjoyable than the bigger films it might inspire, a piece of cultural currency that every horror fan will hold in their back pocket for canonical discussions. This kind of raw energy doesn’t come along often. My suggestion is to see it on Netflix ASAP, so you can sit as close to the front of the bandwagon as you can.