In the aftermath of a comet breaking up over Earth, most of the planet's population quickly succumbs to a strange disease which turns them into "zombies." Few survive, and those who do, quickly discover all existing fuel sources have been rendered useless by the plague.
Trapped in a wilderness teeming with living dead, one of the survivors, Barry, has lost everything except his sister, Brooke. But even as the disaster unfolds, Brooke is kidnapped and dragged to a terrifying medical lab run by a psychotic "doctor" who is performing a series of deranged experiments on plague survivors. As Brooke struggles to devise an escape plan, she realizes that the doctor's experiments have given her strange powers over his zombie captives. Unaware of his sister's new powers, Barry teams up with fellow survivors to rescue her and protect what family he has left.
With a healthy dose of Mad Max-inspired vehicular mayhem and an enormous serving of pure, raw talent, this raucous post-apocalyptic epic is one of the most original and wildly entertaining genre films in years!
We've written about a number of zombie movies over the years here, whether it by nazi-zombies, cockney-zombies, zombies in Georgia, or even alien zombies. One thing is for sure though, no matter what type of zombie it is, the blood flows freely, and each film has its own unique imprint on this over-saturated market of the undead. It seems like we can't get more than a week without hearing about a new TV series or film that has zombies in it these days, which for us horror genre fans is great news -- but we all hope we don't see the same story and characters regurgitated with each new zombie project.
That brings us to two sibling Australian filmmakers Tristan and Kiah Roache-Turner, who decided to make a zombie movie. While Kiah directed, Tristan produced --with both contributing to the screenplay, the duo made a highly entertaining zombie movie called 'Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead'. It took the film festival circuit by storm, meeting great reviews as it traveled the world. In addition to that, this zombie movie was mostly financed using Kickstarter, the crowdsourcing website. While it might not have had a big wide release here in the states, this indie zombie film has enough grit, comedy, style, and blood to stand on its own, despite some flaws.
The movie opens up with a great action sequence that has a horde of bloodthirsty zombies attacking some survivors in a car, but it cuts to a few weeks prior, so that we get a glimpse of how this zombie apocalypse started. The two main characters here are Benny (Leon Burchill) and Barry (Jay Gallagher), who find each other in the Australian outback trying to fight of zombies. Through these flashback sequences, we see that Barry had a family at one point and that Benny was camping with friends and family when a shooting star fell out of the sky and caused this havoc.
Meanwhile, Barry's sister Brooke was engaging in some racy photoshoot in her garage with a couple of other females when they decide to go full-zombie, leaving Brooke to use her marital arts skills to stay alive. Soon enough, the military shows up to destroy the zombie horde outside her garage, but kidnap Brooke for a mad scientist who is a bit like 'Dr. Horrible'. The film picks up at the midway point where the movie started off, which is where the film finally gets going. It's nice to see the character development in the beginning, but it takes a bit too long to arrive where we started again. That and the only strong character that is paid attention to is Barry.
More or less, 'Wyrmwood' sets up action piece to the next action piece, without a whole lot of why and where. This is okay, considering the movie it wants to be, but it would have been nice to see more character story arcs with our main actors, so that we may sympathize with them. The Roache-Turner siblings certainly have a unique style, as everything seems overly-stylized with the use of camera angles, shots, and the use of colors. It's a bit distracting at times and takes away from the film, but that being said, these Australian filmmakers have proved they have some serious talent behind the camera, even if they focused more on the technical aspect of it than the story.
There is a good deal of dark comedy here too, mostly with the mad scientist who loves to torture his victims while dancing and singing, and it always gets a good laugh anytime he's on screen. There are a few very cool zombie tropes that seem fresh here, and the end leaves the movie open for a sequel, which has already been green lit.
'Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead' is a very good and highly entertaining zombie film. That being said, it does still to have some flaws with its story telling and slow pace during the first half of the movie. However, Tristan and Kiah have shown us that they know how to shoot an insane action sequence with originality and grit, along with all of the blood and guts that go with these zombie films. This flesh eating movie is definitely worth checking out.
'Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead' comes with a very good 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The movie was shot digitally on a low budget, although according to the director's commentary, there was a lot of fixes and color grading to the image in post production, which you can clearly see here. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the look of the picture is quite striking, however detail and color do suffer a tiny bit.
With all of the color grading, the detail tends to fluctuate all over the place. Sometimes it can be very sharp and vivid, showing every nasty, bloody wound perfectly, as well as each individual hair and bead of sweat on the actor's faces. Then in other scenes, the detail is quite soft and flat, and those aren't the intentional segments, like flashbacks or a "zombie" point of view shot, which have their own detail issues. Colors never seem to pop really, although the color red seems to be the opposition to this rule, which makes sense.
There is an excessive use of color grading here, with almost every scene altered to look a certain color through and through, rarely showcasing the natural color of things. I get that the filmmakers were using their own unique ideas and styles to get this look for their zombie movie, but it didn't translate all that well into this video presentation. There are some instances of banding, aliasing and video noise as well, along with an artificial layer of grain to give the film more of grindhouse look than its original shiny digital feel.
This release comes with an awesome lossless DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix (even though the box says 5.1), and is everything you'd want in a fun zombie movie, such as 'Wyrmwood'. This audio track will fully immerse you into this chaotic world of zombies on every level. Every zombie kill, splat, gush, and gooey chomp comes through very well and might make you squirm with all the squishy noises. Everything is well-balanced and realistic too and will make you look over your shoulder to confirm there are zero zombies behind you.
It sounds that good and full. Ambient noises and zombie growls are also excellent and robust from the rear speakers. The fun and exotic score also sounds great here as well, never drowning out any of the fun sound effects or dialogue. Speaking of the dialogue, it's always crystal clear, and easy to follow. There were no instances of any pops, cracks, or hiss, although I did hear some high shrills and shrieking in some of the heavier action scenes, when each sound dynamic was coming together, but it's over with quickly. The bass has a great rumble to it as well, leaving this audio presentation with great marks.
Audio Commentary - Director Kiah Roache-Turner and Tristan Roache-Turner offer a pretty great commentary. They are fans of the horror genre and it shows here. They discuss how they crowdsourced the financing, their decisions to stick out in the over populated zombie genre, and some fun anecdotes from the set, including how they did some of the visual effects. This is a great listen.
The Wyrmdiaries: Behind the Scenes of 'Wyrmwood' (HD, 50 Mins.) - This is a series of videos that acts as a behind the scenes featurette, and is a whole lot of fun. If you're into moviemaking or love watching behind the scenes stuff like this, then you'll get a kick out of this bonus feature, which shows everything from the cast and crew cutting up on set, makeup effects, stunts, and zombies running wild.
The 7 Minute Teaser Scene (HD, 8 Mins.) - This is the scene that the filmmakers used to secure more financing and is an alternate take on a zombie attack segment from the film.
Crowdfunding Video #1 (HD, 6 Mins.) - The filmmakers discuss their movie, why they love the zombie genre, and show some segments of their film.
Crowdfunding Video # 2 (HD, 4 Mins.) - A hilarious surprise for the people who funded the movie.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 20 Mins.) - Here are some alternate takes as well as some deleted scenes that were left on the cutting room floor due to pacing.
Storyboards by the Director (HD, 2 Mins.) - Here is a small collection of the some storyboards drawn by the director.
Trailers (HD, 5 Mins.) - Trailers for the film.
'Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead' is a solid addition to the zombie genre. It has some great camera shots, a fun story, dark comedy, blood and guts, and some fresh takes on the zombie lore that we've come to know so much about over the past few years. There are some pacing problems and some story arcs that run off on tangents, but this being the debut feature film for the Roache-Turner siblings, I'll say they made a dang fine movie. The video presentation is solid with the audio portion being excellent. The bonus features are all impressive too and worth watching, leaving this new addition to the zombie genre HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!