February 13, 2015
Kiah Roache-Turner & Tristan Roache-Turner
Jay Gallagher as Barry
Bianca Bradey as Brooke
Leon Burchill as Benny
I have come to firmly believe that no matter how good or bad you may find a zombie flick to be once those end credits have begun to roll – if a filmmaker can convincingly show me the horrific, raw and electric beginnings of the zombie holocaust (a la the first 10 pre-credit minutes of the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake) you’re going to push some primal and nasty buttons somewhere deep in my psyche. In other words, you’ve hooked me.
Wyrmwood was no exception. Those opening moments in the studio of goth photographer Brooke (the sexy Bianca Bradey) and the intro to her brother Barry (the equally sexy Jay Gallagher) and his small family – hit the mark. I was uneasy. I was excited. I was afraid. And then the film, while not a complete miss – doesn’t live up to this promising set up.
On top of that, the film doesn’t quite seem to have a grasp on what it wants to be. The opening is terrifying (“There’s a man in the kitchen”, says Barry’s young daughter – eek!) and then it tries to be goofy with the intro of some of the supporting characters – the history-less Benny, played by Leon Burchill, is a perfect example. He leans toward caricature, which is fine if that’s what is intended. But the harrowing opening of “reality” doesn’t jive with the wackiness of so much of the film’s remainder and the additional characters who are introduced.
Side note: I could have sworn that Burchill was the Aboriginal friend picked up by the characters inPriscilla: Queen of the Desert – you remember the one? He lip-synced Vanessa Williams’ Save the Best for Last in the end credits? Anyway, he’s not the same actor.
Wyrmwood almost feels like it’s teetering on the edge – ready to fall into the absurd territory created by Peter Jackson’s Dead/Alive, but it won’t commit to this over-the-top aesthetic. The film feels muddy and uncertain.
The characters have little to no introduction (which thankfully gets things rolling – it’s always a pleasure to waste no time when getting to the action), but we never truly get a sense of who they are; whereas the remake of Dawn of the Dead (since we’ve already made the comparison) allows for additional character development once things have settled. And until my dying day when I myself return as an honest-to-goodness zombie, I will shout from the mountaintops that horror films must have well-drawn and believable characters in order to properly capture the viewer’s imagination. Otherwise, who cares? Sure these characters are fun (even though some of their jokes fall flat), but they’re far too broad.
There’s some new ground covered in the zombie mythos. I am as surprised as you probably are to read this! Nothing spectacular, but these little trinkets of zombie lore are interesting. I won’t spoil it, but it all has to do with a meteor shower falling on the countryside – rendering all gasoline inert and therefore useless. But leave it up to our lead man (Gallagher) and his new-found friends to use what they have in a garage (and an ingenious new source of fuel) to come up with a contraption/vehicle which would make The Road Warrior’s Lord Humungous proud. But there are some tricks to this new fuel source. And therein lies the fun new zombie ideas. So I will give credit where credit is due.
All that I read about this film (which is why I immediately insisted that my editor assign it to me) was that your favorite zombie movie is paired up nicely with the George Miller stylings of his Mad Maxsaga. Sold. As in: SOLD! I love me some zombies and adore the immediately pre- and the devastating post-apocalyptic worlds which Miller created.
The whole story revolves around Barry on a quest to find his sister Brooke. After she properly secures her photo-shoot friends (post infection) she is kidnapped by a group of soldiers in gas-masks and then sent to a lab to be experimented upon by a creepy dude in a hazmat suit. She’s injected with zombie blood and things get pretty weird after that. Interesting, but weird. And certainly new in the world of zombie ideas. And in her captivity, the director takes a cue from the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. We’re treated to extreme close-ups of Brooke’s wild, darting eyes as she examines the lab’s surroundings (and multiple zombies tethered near her).
Aside from these new undead possibilities, there’s not a lot going on here. Based on the mixology of these two (very different) post-apocalyptic worlds, I would have expected brilliance! But it’s just not there. Better luck next time.
It’s not without a few good “boo” moments, and the dread of the opening scenes, but it’s by no means something which will make you cling to your partner in some sort of fear orgasm. Fear orgasm. I’m copyrighting that!
There is a pseudo-sequel promise at the end of this film, but a continuation of this story is not something I’d be jumping in line to see. Overall good production values, great zombie make-up and special effects, effective car stunts (there’s that Mad Max) and some fun new ideas simply can’t lift this film from the deep grave up into the highest ranks of zombie greatness.