WYRMWOOD: APOCALYPSE *** Australia 2021 Dir: Kiah Roache-Turner. 88 mins
Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014) was a feature length calling card for co-writer / director Kiah Roache-Turner, in collaboration with his brother Tristan, delivering a zombie-plague movie that stood out from the crowd with a mixture of high-octane, inventive action, Mad Max riffs, surprising pathos, neat ideas (zombie emissions as fuel) and quote-worthy lines like “I can’t hold a gun and my massive cock at the same time”.
This unimaginatively titled sequel has higher production values than its self-financed predecessor and amps up the kinetic camerawork, fast cutting, swooping aerial shots and bursts of visceral action. Luke McKenzie is a charismatic, attractive lead: a self-sufficient protagonist in the grim post-apocalyptic, George Miller-influenced landscape. His brother was killed by the hybrid Brooke (Bianca Bradey), who can control her undead bloodlust by drinking blood. Rhys’ superior (a very broad Nick Boshier), promises justice for his dead sibling if he can deliver Brooke to their bunker labs for further experiments that seem intent on finding ways of managing the virus.
The cast – with nice work by Tasia Zalar and Shantae Barnes-Cowan – give it their all, and McKenzie nicely underplays both the comic and dramatic elements of a character who has adopted zombies for energy, gardening and sparring purposes. The bigger budget results in more ambitious set pieces, more souped-up vehicles and some impressively splashy carnage, though we probably could have done without yet another deployment of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand”. It’s a fast-paced, amusing, Ozploitation comic book-style ride, with clever ideas along the way (“We make pills!”) and various nods to famous earlier films including (inevitably) Day of the Dead.
Despite all the exploding heads and machine gun action, however, it’s also more one-note than the original. A set piece riffing (less imaginatively) on the immortal possessed hand scene of Evil Dead II suggests inspiration might already be running a little thin.
Review by Steven West