Of all the heavy hitter sub genres in horror that have become mainstream over the years, things like zombies, werewolves, vampires, etc., the zombie genre has probably been drawn out the longest, to the point of fatigue. Just on television alone, we've got 2 different 'Walking Dead' series, Z-Nation, iZombie, and a myriad of other series that feature various creatures. Not all bad, it's just inevitable that when a particular subject is overexposed, people begin to become burned out. Zombie movies have become even more plentiful, but at this point, it takes something pretty special to stand out from the pack. Just like the sun setting and the sun rising, you can count on those whacky Aussies to come up with a movie that is so original and balls-to-the-wall that it leaves your head spinning, and you can't help but admire the hell out of it.
The poster for the movie features a quote from a review in big letters that says "Mad Max meets Dawn of the Dead!", and that is probably the most accurate description of a movie I've ever heard. I could think of probably 10 movies and throw them in a blender, with New Zealand, and you get this movie, and not to say they're ripping anything or copying anything, this is certainly a movie that wears it's influences on it's sleeve, but in a great way. If you've never seen an Australian horror movie, you should. They're always very compelling and original and just batshit crazy, they always have a certain quirk to them. From the early days of Peter Jackson with his early films like "Dead Alive" and "Meet the Feebles, which are so far removed away from his LOTR saga that you can't hardly imagine them coming from the same brain. In recent years, there's been another renaissance with excellent movies like "The Babadook" and "Housebound", so I naturally became very intrigued when I started hearing about this movie. I was a bit disappointed in some of the unexplained plot devices and plot holes(ish), it ended up being an adrenaline filled, surprisingly gory spin on something that's become old and tired by now.
Our main character is Barry, a normal everyday man with a wife and daughter. We see their everyday routine, and in a seemingly unrelated scene, we see another group of guys sitting around a fire in the Outback, admiring a sky full of shooting stars. Barry's sister, Brooke, calls him frantically, explaining to him that two of her friends that she was just with got sick and spazzed out and tried to kill her. Then Barry's daughter tells him there's someone in the kitchen, he checks it out, and it's a zombie. The zombies themselves are pretty unique looking. In so many movies, zombie are basically just covered with blood and rotting flesh, but in this movie, they are physically changed. Their face and eyes take on an appearance straight out of 'Evil Dead'. So after a bloody battle, finally defeating the zombie, Barry and his family, donning gas masks, get in their car and are heading towards where his sister is. Barry's weapon of choice is a nail gun, btw. Naturally, Barry's wife and daughter fall to the virus or whatever this is, and he reluctantly has to dispatch of them. Bound with grief, he tries to take his own life, but it interrupted by another survivor. This is the catalyst that kind of sets everything else into motion. After teaming up with another survivor, Benny, who is honest to goodness just freaking hilarious, they end up finding a garage, where two other survivors are holed up. These two guys are pretty much survival badasses, having suits of armor, various weapons, they even have a chained up zombie they keep alive in a deep freezer. Now, this is where one of the plot points takes effect, and while it's definitely original, it pretty much makes zero sense, even in something as nonsensical as a zombie flick. They discover that zombies are run on fuel/gas. They see that the gas they have in jugs isn't flammable anymore, but that the breath and blood of zombies is perfectly flammable. Obviously, the figure out they have to have the blood of zombies in order to fuel their trucks, generators, etc. Ironically, this means that essentially the thing that is killing them is also the thing that is essential to their survival. Maybe that irony is the point, I dunno.
Gearing up in garb straight out of 'Mad Max', with hockey masks, shoulder pads, knee pads, and even rigging up their own truck with a cage in the back, to keep their fuel source secure when they catch one. We have a few expository scenes, during which they've run out of fuel, for example, we're told a few things. First, we figure out that for some reason, during the daylight, zombies are shambling and slowed down, not near as dangerous. But at night, they're reinvigorated, and can run, jump, do parkour. Best I could tell, this is really never explained, it just is. We're also given one character's theory on what is going on, and he tells a story out of the Book of Revelations in the Bible, where Wyrmwood, was a star that fell during the end of days, and basically caused a sickness amongst the world. While this is going on, we see scenes of Brooke, who has been captured by some sort of militaristic force, chained to the wall, and a mad scientist guy is performing sadistic experiments on people, zombie or not. Oddly, this is a source of humor, as the guy performs these macabre experiments while blasting and dancing away to KC and the Sunshine Band. Here is where something else happens that seemingly is there just as a plot device: this doctor is repeatedly injecting Brooke with blood he has drawn from a zombie. What I find strange, is that it takes her a looong time to "turn", and even then, she doesn't really turn. Whereas with everyone else in the movie, they turn literally immediately after so much as getting the tip of their finger bitten, here is a woman that has zombie blood being injected directly into her brain stem repeatedly, yet it takes a long time to see any effect at all. And instead of just straight up turning, she eventually gains the ability to mentally control the zombies. I assume this is a result of these experiments.
After using this ability to kill the doctor and escape this torture chamber, she is rescued by her brother and Benny, but they're being chased by those military officers. During our climax, we have lots of back and forths, with the two different sides gaining advantage, it actually becomes pretty tense because you really aren't sure what's gonna happen. While it does come to a fitting conclusion, it doesn't really do anything to explain a lot of the things, such as the zombies having flammable blood. One of the soldier guys does say something about this being a matter of survival to the human race, but goes no further than that. Also, with the way it ends, it sets itself up very nicely for a sequel.
I highly recommend this movie. I watched it on Netflix, even though I've come close to buying the Blu-Ray for a few months now. I now regret not having bought it when it came out. It's even been on Netflix now for quite a while, which is how I actually just watched it. Just looking at it, you might assume it's just one of those straight-to-DVD movies, but I promise you, it's not. It's fully original and pretty epic in scope, lots of fun and surprising gore, and entirely likable characters and actors. Questionable and somewhat oddly vague plot devices aside, this movie is an absolute blast and definitely worth a watch!
"Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead" gets 8 Killer Boomerangs out of 10!