Wyrmwood is a virus film. And a zombie film. Maybe it’s a film about human genes gone haywire. Or maybe it’s all three of the aforementioned things. Luckily, Wyrmwood is able to do all three themes quite well. The Australian brother duo Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner, first-time feature writer/director and writer/producer, successfully made a zombie film that is unique. And with all the zombie material staggering around the horror film landscape that’s quite impressive.
Wyrmwood follows the very different hells that Barry and Brooke, the film’s leading brother/sister duo, traverse to get through the post-apocalyptic Australian landscape.
The film begins when Barry, normal family man and mechanic, is kickin’ it with his wife and daughter. After five minutes of heartwarming family interactions, Barry’s world is instantly changed with a frantic phone call from Brooke. While Brooke was working on a photography shoot, one of her models turns into a demonic zombie within seconds. Her change is so quick and violent, it’s a wonder Brooke survives. Sadly, though, after she phones her brother, she’s scooped up by a band of sadistic rovers.
The rest of the film switches back and forth from Brooke to Barry’s perspective. Each character’s experience is equally hellish, but incredibly different. Barry is tested when he has to “put down” his wife and daughter. However, with the help of a friendly band of survivors, he’s able to persevere and get good — quite, quite good — at mowing down the infected population.
While Brooke isn’t exposed to the elements, she sure as shit is exposed to a boatload of sadism, forced medical experiments, and dead and undead insanity. Her spirit, however, is never broken. (In truth, her hell helps her realize a new part of her personality that’s awesomely strong.) She faces down her captors with vigor and spunk, and is a female lead all women can be proud to watch.
One of the main reasons Wyrmwood expertly holds your attention is because it never reveals too much. Sure, we find out why people are turning into zombies, but we never get a lot of detail. We never fully understand why gasoline ceases to work (and why zombies become a new source of alternative fuel). This lack of detail is incredibly refreshing in a film era where writers feel like they have to explain everything in scene-murdering detail.
Another reason the film is such a success is its dialogue. All conversations are quick, quippy and to the point. The film’s dialogue also manages to keep its characters plucky, allowing them to be just the right amount of funny, before kicking the bucket.
Wyrmwood is able to grace the screens of Fantastic Fest thanks to IndieGogo backers who wanted to see the brothers’ cinematic dream realized: To make a film that’s “Mad Max meets Dawn of the Dead.” The brothers definitely succeed in melding the spirit of those two films. There are enough insane car chase scenes, blood-hungry bad guys and fluid-spurting zombies to fill a dozen films. Lucky for us, though, all of this gross-out eye candy resides in the 92 minute explosive package that is Wyrmwood.
WYRMWOOD is directed Kiah Roache-Turner and stars Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey, and Leon Burchill.