In their feature film debut, brothers Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner add a touch of Australian ingenuity to the zombie genre – with mixed results.
Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead tells the story of Barry (Jay Gallagher), a typical Aussie bloke who awakens to discover that a meteor shower has reduced most of the population to violent, bloodthirsty zombies.
As those around him fall victim to this frightening plague, a seemingly immune Barry sets out on journey to find his sister, Brooke, encountering a menagerie of strange and hilarious characters along the way. Meanwhile, Brooke (also immune) has been kidnapped and is being held captive by a crazed individual known as “The Doctor”, who is conducting bizarre experiments on survivors.
When she develops the ability to control zombies with her mind, Brooke launches a daring escape, but the nightmare is far from over. As the siblings discover, sometimes the living are far more dangerous than the dead.
The Roache-Turner brothers have created a Mad Max-inspired, post-apocalyptic Australia where anything can and will happen, and many of the film’s concepts push the boundaries of imagination.
The zombies breathe a flammable methane gas – handy, since the infection has apparently rendered all fuel sources on Earth useless – and there is a hilarious scene where mechanic Barry builds a zombie-powered armoured truck in which to tackle the rough Australian terrain. Equally amusing is the high-pitched pig squeal the zombies emit, although as a fan of the genre, it’s hard to be frightened by a squealing undead creature with halitosis.
Gallagher delivers a solid performance as Barry, although there are times when he, like most of the male cast, seem a little too “Aussie ocker” (there’s only so many times you can hear the word “mate” in a sentence before it gets tiresome). Newcomer Bianca Bradey is enjoyable as tough-as-nails Brooke, while Leon Burchill provides most of the film’s comic relief as fellow survivor Benny and Berryn Schwerdt delivers a disturbingly creepy performance as The Doctor.
Set in Australian bushland, Wyrmwood doesn’t take itself too seriously and the Roache-Turner brothers certainly deserve points for creativity. There is enough action and blood-soaked shoot-outs to keep the film moving, but the final fight scenes feel like little more than gratuitous violence and the excessive swearing also becomes tedious.
If you’re game, you can watch a trailer for Wyrmwood here.
Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is screening at the Moonlight Cinema in Adelaide’s Botanic Park on Saturday.
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