With some unique twists, Wyrmwood makes zombies fun again.
Directed by Kiah Roache-Turner. Produced by Tristan Roache-Turner. Starring Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey, Leon Burchill. Video on Demand release: 13 February 2015.
Barry and his new companion stalk through a forest, weapons at the ready. A deafening gunshot is suddenly heard, and his companion's head explodes into a red mist. As Barry sees the gunman emerge from the foliage, he exclaims, incredulous, "Why did you do that? He wasn't a zombie!"
"He wasn't?" the other survivor replies, glancing down at the mush that used to be a human head. "Oh shit. You think he's okay?"
Wyrmwood is a fun movie. The Australian indie film pays homage to the long line of zombie flicks that came before it while injecting some fresh ideas, building the narrative around key scenes that will get audiences cheering, and perhaps most importantly, never taking itself too seriously.
I've been a zombie movie buff for years, and while I could still appreciate a well-made zombie flick, the last thing I expect to see from one at this point is originality. Going into Wyrmwood, my thoughts were, "Okay, how well can this movie deliver on the tired old formula?" Within half an hour, my skepticism - which was not quelled by some initial questionable character decisions - was replaced with jubilance at the path Wyrmwood decided to take.
Wyrmwood cuts straight to the chase - erm, almost literally, as a significant portion of the movie involves protagonist Barry trying to rescue his kidnapped sister, Brooke. Oh, there's some initial fluff that involves the death of Barry's wife and daughter, which segues into a scene that wanted to capture the same drama as the final moments of The Mist but falls flat due to a mixture of the unrealistic character decisions that led to it and a cringe-worthy anguished wail. But we quickly move past those bits, which only really serve to establish Barry's frame of mind: "Grrr, I'm mad and suicidal; my sis is all I got left. Also, f*** zombies."
There's little build-up before we jump into the action, and little need - the audience is assumed to be genre-savvy enough to get what zombies are, and the characters behave this way as well. The movie opens with an impressive meteor shower, which is presumed to have somehow caused the zombie uprising. Mirroring Dawn of the Dead's pseudo-Bible quote, "When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth," it is revealed midway through the movie that scripture talks of a falling star called Wormwood that made a third of the world's waters bitter, killing many. Were this a competition, the point would go to Wyrmwood for making use of an actual Bible reference rather than the fictional ramblings of a TV evangelist, but Wyrmwood's quote is chilling only on account of the framework that the memorable Dawn of the Dead quote laid out before it.