Directed By: Kiah Roache-Turner
Starring: Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey, Leon Burchill
Line from the film: "We need to find a zombie... fast!"
Trivia: Because it was shot only on weekends, it took four years to complete this film
2014’s Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, directed by first-timer Kiah Roache-Turner (who co-wrote the screenplay with this brother, Tristan), may not be the first zombie road movie ever made (Zombieland and George Romero’s Diary of the Dead leap immediately to mind), but it’s one crazy film all the same.
A bizarre illness, triggered by a meteor shower, is transforming people into bloodthirsty zombies. Barry (Jay Gallagher), a mechanic from Melbourne who was forced to kill his wife Annie (Catherine Terracini) and daughter Meganne (Meganne West) when they “turned”, is one of the few not affected by the mysterious virus. After teaming up with several other survivors, including an Aborigine named Benny (Leon Burchill) and fellow mechanic Frank (Keith Agius), Barry attempts to reach his sister Brooke (the awesome Bianca Bradey), who he thinks is holed up in the small town of Bulla Bulla. Unbeknownst to him, Brooke has been kidnapped by a military outfit, and is currently the prisoner of a sadistic doctor (Berynn Schwerdt) who’s conducting experiments to figure out why some people are immune to the illness. Armed to the teeth and driving a truck that runs on “zombie power” (for reasons unknown, the virus has neutralized all flammable liquids such as gasoline, while turning the infected themselves, who exhale a form of methane gas, into a fuel supply), Barry and the others try to track Brooke down, but will she be the same person he once knew, or have the experiments changed her into something else entirely?
Though it does eventually develop a sense of humor (thanks to Benny, who adapts to this new world order with the greatest of ease), the opening scenes of Wyrmwood are deathly serious, not to mention nerve-racking. Following an action-packed sequence where Barry, Benny, and a few others do battle with a horde of angry infected, we’re shown, in flashback, how each of the characters learned about the outbreak (While asleep in their bed, Barry and his wife were awakened by daughter Meganne, who told them somebody was in the kitchen. Barry decided to check it out, only to come face-to-face with a particularly hungry zombie). These scenes get Wyrmwood off to a rousing, and at times very dramatic, start while also serving as a precursor for the insanity to come.
And Wyrmwood does get kinda crazy after a while, due mostly to what happens to Brooke as a result of the experiments she’s subjected to (much like Romero’s classic Day of the Dead, many of the so-called human characters in Wyrmwood are more frightening than the infected). Yet as peculiar as the later sequences are, they’re but one aspect of a film that from start to finish is a thrill ride drenched in blood (despite its low budget, the movie offers up some pretty impressive gore). An exciting, occasionally original horror flick, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is a nifty addition to the zombie sub-genre.