Feature 50 – Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014)
Featuring: Jay Gallagher , Bianca “Wrath” Bradey , Leon “Stoned Bros.” Burchill
Director: Kiah Roche-Turner
Writers: Kiah Roche-Turner & Tristan Roche-Turner
Hey kids! Mad Max: Fury Road came out this weekend! I haven’t seen it yet (I’m not allowed within 200 feet of opening weekend crowds), but I’ve got something that taps the same vein… and has zombies!
Yes, for my big 50th episode I’ve chosen a movie that fills a veritable ass load of personal criteria for why I watch these mother truckers in the first place: low budget ingenuity, creative twists to traditional formulas, humor amidst the horrors, blood & guts splatter fun, the living dead, mad science antics and some high-octane road ragery for dessert. In the wrong hands, all of these ingredients could result in an irredeemable abomination of a clusterfuck. But put in the hands of brothers Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner (along with an Outback Steakhouse gift card for $160,000), it borders on being an almost life changing experience…almost.
Anyway, it’s time to put on your anti-drop bear helmet, reload your nail gun, grab a beer and a Bloomin’ Onion and give a big middle finger to safety belts, because here comes Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead!
As if the setting of today’s feature wasn’t miserable and depressing enough (Australia was founded as a fucking PRISON COLONY after all!), the Outback is in for a whole new stage of hell when a fallen meteor brings with it an Ozploitation Zompocalypse (“Ozzompocalypticapalooza”!?). Whether it be an airborne extraterrestrial spore, a contagious cosmic radioactive fallout, or a supernatural plague of Biblical proportions, the majority of the Aussies start turning into flesh eating cannibal ghouls when they breathe the polluted air of their beloved homeland. As opposed to the usual pollution of wallaby farts and XXXX Gold belch fumes (if you say Foster’s, Australians will kick you in the balls with their giant punishment boot) that they’ve all worked up a strong tolerance to. Kinda like how China’s genetically engineered its people to breathe smog and respire alcohol mist. Where did you think that Vaportini bullshit came from?
As with any such living dead end-of-the-world, a small group of otherwise normal people share an abnormal trait that makes them immune to the mystery condition. In this case it’s something as simple as their A- blood type. This immunity is fine as far as exposure to the tainted troposphere goes, but once some horror show that used to be their mate sinks their teeth into a survivor as if they were a kangaroo burger, said bitee will join the undead party faster than a college girl suddenly joins the pink mafia after drunkenly making out with another girl at a frat party. So, normal outbreak infection protocol applies: don’t get bit on, bled on, spit on, or splat on. It’s your window to success!
The first survivor we see surviving is Brooke (Bianca Bradey). She’s one of those “splatter chic” artist types that likes to photograph her friends dressed up like zombie versions of an Ed Hardy ad. During their latest shoot in her tool shed “studio”, her model randomly flips her switch from “just another hot girl” to “ravenous infectoid brain starved psycho”, and tears out their mutual friend’s throat, dragging her into the new zombie trend too! Brooke evades the hungry fangs of her infected conformist friends, shovel decapitating one Ash Williams style and chaining the other up before calling her big brother Barry (Jay Gallagher) for help. Barry’s a normal blue collar schlub who also looks like the kinda guy who could just snap one day and rip out his loved ones’ eyeballs with his teeth, just because a koala shit on his neck or his boomerang didn’t come back to him.
No sooner do the siblings end their conversation, the cliched shit hits the fan. Like, a year’s worth of excrement cleaned from the Elephant cages at the San Diego Zoo, then tossed into one of the intakes on the Helicarrier. Big bro’s fam is immediately inundated with a midnight moblette of their own, so Bare, his wife She-Barry (I didn’t catch her actual name) and their young daughter Barry Jr. (once again, not a genuine moniker) narrowly escape town in their economy car with their faces buried in life-saving respirators. Respirators – not just for wanna-be Hot Topic models’ amateur “cyberpunk” photo shoots in their friend’s basement anymore!
Meanwhile, Auntie Brooke is “rescued” from her own predicament by a seemingly military-in-origin contingent of blokes in riot gear and gas masks. After testing her for signs of the mysterious infection and finding her clean, they knock her out and take her away to a mysterious lab, where a delightfully demented practitioner of maniacal medicine known only as The Doc (Berynn Schwerdt) dances to KC and the Sunshine Band while injecting his lovely young guinea pig with borrowed zombie squeezings. The Doc is the kind of insane character that I love and should be included in pretty much all movies. He’s like a cross between Doc Brown from Back to the Future, Jebediah from Beyond Thunderdome, and Dr. Heiter from Human Centipede. If I were ever going to be in a production of Wyrmwood: the Musical Based on the Movie Based on the Meteor, I’d want to be The Doc…not that I can sing for shit after that tragic karaoke accident some years back. But, yeah, Doc or Benny. Who’s Benny? Read on, friend. Read on.
Things don’t end so well for Barry’s beloveds, and our hero is left alone with an empty nail gun and a mountain of survivor’s guilt that even Killdozer couldn’t move. While everybody else who evaded infection is probably trying desperately to escape the island (the same goal of your average tourist in Australia after the first 6 hours), Barry takes to the back roads in search of little sister Brooke. Along the way he meets several colorful fellow carriers of the A- vein juice, the best of which are wise old gear head Frankie (Keith Agius) and jersey clad, sawed-off shotgun wielding, what’s-his-race (just kidding, he’s an Aborigine) pig hunter Benny (Leon Burchill). Frankie provides exposition, tying the events in with the Book of Revelation (though calling it “Revelations”, like everybody else who misquotes it, not unlike people who think Hendrix said “’Scuse me while I kiss this guy”), citing Wyrmwood – the star that falls to Earth following the third angel’s trumpet tooting and kills a “fuck load” of people. Yes, we have our title. His reasoning that they’re not among the dead (“Among the dead we will riiiiise” – http://youtu.be/-HDdFRGkOJU -) is because this is their final casting call to see if they’re worthy of getting past the pearly gates…or it could just have something to do with the whole blood type thing I mentioned earlier. These guys just haven’t read that far into the script yet.
Back to Benny, he’s the other role I’d play in the Wyrmwood musical. He provides the comedy relief. He’s the loveable sidekick to our hard-ass no-nonsense hero, Barry, who’s going through his mandatory Max Rockatansky transformation into a former family guy turned remorseless man-shaped murder machine. And there’s plenty of reanimated cadavers to take his poor mood out on and crush under some off-road tires. If only he could get his hands on a working vehicle…
Speaking of, Frankie’s other big contributions to the road trip are an A-Team’ed pick-up truck and a means by which to power it. See, the weirdest part about the Wyrmwood effect isn’t the walking dead, it’s the way it somehow made all combustible liquids completely inert. And when gassy gassy don’t go burny burny? All those combustion engines ain’t combustin’ SHIT! You know what does burn, though? Apparently zombie blood! Yep, slice off a limb and you’re talking undead napalm. Even better? They’ve got ferocious halitosis that also lights up when exposed to a spark. So, the answer to how to make Frankie’s truck go vroom vroom? Cage up a zombie or two in the truck bed, strap a breathing tube to their suck hole, and burn some rubber, Mother Hubbard!
And so, armored up like agents of Lord Humungus’ color guard (sans the leather thongs), our boys are on the road again, continuing the search for Spock, errrr, Brooke. Speaking of, it turns out that Doc pumping her full of zombie blood has had the entirely unexpected side effect of giving her…zombie mind control powers?! What the fuuuuuuuuuck?! Yep. Little Sister’s gained mental control over whatever gray matter any ghouls near her may have left. This is either very cool or too stupid to handle, and I honestly have no inclination on which side of that line I plant my flag.
You know our heroes are eventually going to cross paths with Brooke’s captors, but are said ‘nappers really government goons like they claim, or is this some Resident Evil Umbrella Corporation type shenanigans transpirin’? What awaits our gang at the ass end of their road trip down the Hoober Bloob Highway of Horrors? Who will survive and what will be left of them? You’ll have to nab yourself a copy of Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead and see for yourself!
I have got a big, rude, unapologetic boner for this movie. I was raised on the Mad Max trilogy and though a lot of people have had their fill of the zombie sub-genre, I still get sloppy from my slurp portal for undead flicks like Tar Man looking over The Dean’s List/Menu of an Ivy League school… “MORE BRAINS!” With that, I think I’ve exhausted my allotment of metaphors and similes for the month on this single review. Sheesh.
But the movie’s not all rainbows and ribbon candy. There are a few questions I’d like to address about the zombies, for starters. The ghouls squeal like pigs. Not like Ned Beatty did, I mean they literally sound as if there are pigs trapped in their throats squealing to get out! Intended as a primal scream sorta thing, or just a bizarro trait to make their monsters stand out? As if the part about oozing petroleum byproduct wasn’t stand outish enough. Also, some of the reanimated randomly emerge from the ground in one scene. Did this mysterious event also have a Lazarus effect, where it raised the dead along with turning almost everybody into plague beasts? If so, why were these particular terrors buried in unmarked graves in the middle of nowhere?! The more likely answer is that they’re just normal dead heads who chose to hide in the ground and spring forth like trap door spiders and snatch their prey unawares. This causes a whole new set of issues though, namely that the fucking idea of living dead guerilla fighters crosses the county line a little too far into Stupid Town for my tastes. I mean, it’s the type of tripe you’d expect from one of Godfrey Ho’s stitched together stinkers! Unless that’s the joke? I’m gonna need a bottle of Windex to clear this one up.
Okay, enough with the nitpicking! We know how this baby handles, but does she look good while doing it? The practical gore and effects are nice, but make the digital ones all the worse to have to look at. The CG muzzle flashes and bullet ricochets and gunshot splatters are especially shit. But, the zombie makeup is good enough that I’ll gladly take the hit. At times the movies has an overexposed look that washes it out and gives you that lovely faux Grindhouse visual. It’s moderately well done and comes off as a nice homage rather than an overdone gimmick. Unfortunately, something that is overdone is the liberal application of the shaky-cam shooting method. There’s a LOTTA shaky-cam going on here, and you all know how I feel about shaky-cam. You don’t know how I feel about shaky-cam? Oh. Well, I shaky-can’t stand it. I don’t believe the lies that it’s meant to “put the audience in the action”. It’s an amateur way of covering up that you don’t know how to frame a fucking shot! You can’t deceive a deceiver!
As a budget movie, there’s only so many extras they can afford to pay, and only so much horror makeup they can afford to dress them up in. As such, the monsters tend to be seen in small groups, which subtracts from the fear of our heroes being overrun by a mob that barely outnumbers them, especially when the good guys are armored up and well armed. The focus is on a lotta action (again, much like a Mad Max movie) and the story gets shoved down the stairs as a result because they didn’t wanna linger on too much exposition. But, for a zombie movie, at least there are some creative concepts tossed around to set it apart from the average undead tale. Finally, if you’re low on testosterone, ask your doctor about using Wyrmwood as a alternative treatment for your Androgel. If the DIY death machines, high octane car chasery (complete with brief “Ship’s Mast” moment from Brooke!), gun fights, and zombie slaughtering aren’t enough queso con jalapenos to top off your bucket of Macho Nachos, our end scene plays out in the most he-manly of fashions! Trust me, it’ll put the proverbial hair on your chest. Pregnant ladies may want to close their eyes during this sequence, as its detonation of machismo has been known to cause premature bearding in fetuses. While not as severe as a miscarriage or “flipper baby syndrome”, premature bearding can lead to uncomfortable internal rug burns on the birth canal upon natality.
…Now all I can picture is Sub-Zero in a delivery room, wearing a white doctor’s coat and parabolic mirror while pulling a baby out of a pregnant woman’s ham purse, then holding it up by the ankle while one of the attending nurses growls “NATALITY!”
Wyrmwood 2 is already in the works, so whether you like the movie or not is irrelevant, as it seems to be a guaranteed production. Me? I liked it. Obviously. I thought it was a stellar first effort from a pair of Bruces like the brothers Roche-Turner. Not perfect, but definitely commendable and a recommendation for all within the sound of my voice. I’d call it more of a 3.5 than a full-on 4, but in a case like this it’s pertinent to round up rather than down. I’m curious to see where things go with the sequel.
As for where I’m going next? Nowhere, really. I’m gonna stick around Kangaroo Country for another episode. Wyrmwood wasn’t on my original itinerary for the Tour de Farce, and only came up as a nice little tourist trap on my walkabout to my original destination. Said destination? Find out NEXT TIME! Oh, and that dingo that ate your baby? Yeah, it was me. Crikey. Sorry, mate.
“Oi oi oi” is what my stomach says after my 4th slice of fried cheesecake.
It’s the illegitimate daughter of Ronald McDonald and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas!
Our hero – arming himself for the Apocalypse, or just prepping to paint his house?
The old “pull my finger” gag isn’t the best of ideas when you’re in a hermetically sealed quarantine suit…
Is Frank wearing a shirt spattered with paint (at least I hope it’s paint), or did he just wrap himself in a star chart before leaving the house this morning?
Hey! They have vikings in Australia!
Jason Voorhees has competition for this year’s “World’s Scariest Goalie” award.
Time is fleeting.
Madness takes its toll.”
Wow! That must be some high tech operation to have monitors and keyboards mounted to the wall like that!… and yes, I’m the type of person who notices the cheap keyboard tacked to the wall first, rather than the young woman in bondage right next to it. Shut it.
“Pimp Your Ride: Down Under!” just didn’t have the pinache of its American inspiration.
He comes from down under a land down under. *rimshot*
“That’s not a knife! THIS is a knife!… No, wait. This is a boomerang. Never mind.”
Anubis will return next time in
“Scary Stories to Tell in the Outback”
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