Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey, Leon Burchill, Luke McKenzie, Keith Agius, Berynn Schwerdt
Writers: Kiah Roache-Turner & Tristan Roache-Turner
Director: Kiah Roache-Turner
Distributor: IFC Midnight
Release Date: February 13, 2015

A scene from WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD | © 2015 IFC Midnight

A scene from WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD | © 2015 IFC Midnight

Zombie movies (and TV shows, for that matter) come in all moods and mythologies. WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD, set and shot primarily in the Australian bush, is a perfectly good mixture of gore, drama, humor and a couple of new ideas to make the plot spin in some novel directions.

As scholars of Biblical lore – and a lot of horror fans – know, Wyrmwood is the name of the star the blazes in the Book of Revelations, foretelling the coming of a great plague. Here, a night sky full of shooting stars is prelude to a morning where a lot of people become flesh-eating zombies for reasons we learn later.

We meet Barry (Jay Gallagher), Benny (Leon Burchill) and Frank (Keith Agius) in mid-attempt to escape from a building surrounded by the dead. A couple of extended flashbacks show us how Barry and Benny separately came to be here. One of the things that makes WYRMWOOD stand out in the field is that, throughout the film, Barry never stops mourning his lost family, even though he is usually able to rise to whatever occasion confronts him.

Then there’s Barry’s sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey), working on a photo shoot with two friends when things go horribly wrong. Brooke is dragged off by the military and, as someone who is still healthy, subjected to some brutal tests. The results are something that neither Brooke nor her captors expect.

We can guess where quite a few elements here are going, but director Kiah Roache-Turner and co-writer Tristan Roache-Turner earn our emotional involvement. We come to like and appreciate the protagonists, especially because the more emotional they feel, the quieter they get. Nobody makes huge speeches, and yet the characterizations come through quite clearly – we really want our heroes to prevail and the bad guys to come to the kinds of nasty ends that are possible in this scenario.

The film is at its freakiest in the med lab, where primary colors and ‘70s funk music are the backdrop for the kind of evil that zombie movies were dreamed up to address. However, the inventiveness in exactly what the characters need to do in order to get from Point A to Point B and in order to have any kind of chance of survival is also engaging.

WYRMWOOD is a very satisfying zombie film. It’s got plenty of action, plenty of splatter, a story and people who hold our attention. It works on the undead level and as a plain old well-done movie besides.


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