Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Utterly lacking in decorum or shame, this is a film that reeks of self-indulgence but gets away with it completely."

Post-apocalyptic Australia, check. Lone hero on a desperate quest, check. Desperate need for fuel, check. This might sound like a cheap Mad Max rip-off aimed at cashing in on excitement about Fury Road, but this time around the apocalypse seems to have been caused by astronomical events, most of the bad guys are already dead, and the fuel comes from, shall we say, a very unusual source. This is a no holds barred action adventure infused with the anarchic spirit of early Peter Jackson films, with a dash of science fiction, some joyfully lowbrow comedy and occasional moments of devastating bleakness.

Jay Gallagher is Barry, a quiet family man who is woken one morning by a panicked phone call from his younger sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey) telling him to grab his wife and child and get out of the city as fast as he can. Like Max, he's unable to preserve his family for very long in a world suddenly overwhelmed by violence; the only person left fighting for is his sister, so with the help of a stranger he meets in the road (and has a ridiculous fight with, recalling They Live), he sets out to find her. She, meanwhile, has escaped the immediate zombie threat only to find herself the prisoner of a sadistic, dancing scientist backed by brutal military types. Some kind of experiment is going on, and if she can't escape soon, it won't only be zombies who are a threat to her brain.

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Wyrmwood is uneven and a lot of the acting is poor, but it has the energy of the old Ozploitation classics and there are some stunning set pieces. We don't really have time to get bored by familiar zombie tropes as fresh ideas seem to come out of nowhere. Its internal consistency and fierce pacing means it gets away with things that would simply be too ridiculous elsewhere, though its quirky humour won't appeal to everyone. Gallagher brings intensity and conviction to the main role, keeping us focused and keeping us caring. His desire to do violence to everything plays like an undead riff on South Park's fictional TV hit Russell Crowe: Fightin Around The World, though it's actually Bradey who is the most impressive in action, even before she acquires an unexpected advantage. They're supported by the slightly more cautious Benny (Leon Burchill), who turns what could have been a flimsy comic relief role into something far more meaty, helping to convince us of the strength of friendships formed in adversity.

Utterly lacking in decorum or shame, this is a film that reeks of self-indulgence but gets away with it completely. It's made with such enthusiasm that any number of reluctant viewers will find themselves won over. Tim Nagle's cinematography adds to its character and gives it moments of surprising beauty, making the most of natural landscapes, whilst Michael Lira's score far outclasses what one expects from this kind of production. Overall, it's a stunning debut. Although it has plenty of shortcomings, it's not something you'll forget in a hurry. Writer/director Kiah Roache-Turner has just the kind of invigorating new voice that the genre has been crying out for.

Reviewed on: 03 May 2015
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During a post- apocalyptic zombie crisis, a mechanic sets out to rescue his sister from the clutches of a mad scientist.
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Director: Kiah Roache-Turner

Writer: Kiah Roache-Turner

Starring: Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey, Leon Burchill

Year: 2014

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Australia

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