Digital Popcorn: Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead

I love zombies (Romero, Sean of the Dead, Zombieland and even the Dawn of the Dead reboot) but lately it seems like the living dead are the fast food of movies and they have a budget and talent pool just as dissatisfying and greasy.

But every once in a while there comes along a movie that makes me rejoice in exploding heads and disembowelment. Case in point, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014). This Australian entry into the zombie niche grabbed my attention right away with its explosive beginning, three dudes in body armor and low on ammo facing off against a mob of zombies.   Those of you who’re gore hounds won’t be disappointed. It’s a kick in the face in terms of action and special effects, all of which seems rather old school – in a good way.

But as much as I love me some zombie decapitation, I need something more to hold my interest. Fortunately, Wyrmwood takes the time to give background stories to the three main characters. This is done via flashbacks to a time prior to standoff you see in the beginning of the movie. To be honest, the transition to the flashbacks was a bit jarring and could’ve been written and edited better. But none the less the bits about Barry, his sister Brooke, and Benny does a good job giving insight into each character. Unfortunately, the story tends to focus on Barry more so than the other two. He’s an interesting character, but honestly, I would’ve liked to have seen more about the other two.

The basic gist of the movie is Barry has lost his family, except for his sister, Brooke. His sister in turn has been kidnapped by a crazed doctor and his military goons. I won’t give too much away in terms of what happens to Brooke but I will say she’s no ‘damsel in distress’. The chick can kick some ass, and I’m grateful that they didn’t go the exploitation route with her character. It was refreshing to see a strong female character in a genre where traditionally women are zombie fodder or only there to be saved by their man. The crazed doctor is one of those characters that’ll either annoy the hell out of you or you’ll love to hate him. Personally, I hated him and loved the fate he suffered in the end. The dude was seriously bat-shit crazy.

The general atmosphere of Wyrmwood is gritty and dark, but at moments there is dark humor. In particular there was a scene where Benny mistakenly blows another survivor’s head off. Those of you who are fans of the Evil Dead movies will notice some subtle references to its cinematic style, quick edits and use of gore. It’s subtle, but a nice touch, especially the scene where Barry is gearing up for combat.

Wyrmwood does feature fast zombies. I know that’s the source of many bitch-fests amongst horror fans, but they actually have an explanation for why the zombies are fast. They also have a reason for why the zombies slow down. All of this is learned through the characters’ experiences. There’s no wise old man to explain everything to them or the viewer. There’s also only a loose explanation as to how/why the plague started. It’s things like this that piques my curiosity about Wyrmwood’s world.

Wyrmwood manages to present itself as a classic zombie movie, while adding some interesting spins on the zombie archetype. Most of these occur during Brooke’s scenes. The whole idea of controlling or manipulating the zombie mind is an interesting one and the end results of these experiments prove to be more than just weird/disturbing scenes between Brooke and the doctor. In fact, they play a major part in the final climax of Wyrmwood.

The plot of Wyrmwood is pretty simple stuff – survival and finding Brooke. It works well and is entertaining. I didn’t feel that the movie dragged at any point or had any needless filler scene. The climax of movie is intense and has one hell of a conclusion.

When the time the movie ended, I wanted more. I wanted to know more about this fictional world and the characters. I wanted to know more about the crazy doctor and the goons that worked for him. Were they part of something bigger? Fortunately, a part two is currently being made and the actors that portrayed Benny and Brooke are returning. It’ll be interesting to see where they take the ideas started in this movie. If they can do a quality job on the second film I would love Wyrmwood become a cult classic trilogy. I think horror fans need something like it after a serious drought in quality zombie horror.

I would suggest this movie to gore hounds and zombie fans in general. The plot moves at a good pace and there wasn’t any scenes that I felt were merely filler or too long. Wyrmwood manages to take the great things of old school zombie horror while keeping it fresh with its characters and unconventional twists on the zombie archetype.

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