How many times will I have to lớn write a variation of this: “Yeah, I know, I didn’t think I wanted any new zombie movies either, but here’s another one I liked”? No one knows. WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD (2014) feels a little bit more like a normal zombie movie than THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS or TRAIN khổng lồ BUSAN did, but it has an energy that I really like. It’s Australian và proud of it, oi oi oi, by which I mean that when a quote on the cover calls it “MAD MAX meets DAWN OF THE DEAD” it’s not that far off.

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It starts right around the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, the morning after a freaky meteor shower, when most but not all people have gone ghoul. It centers on a small group of survivors, flashing back khổng lồ show how it started for each of them. The lead, Barry (Jay Gallagher), kept reminding me of Scott Adkins, và though not a martial artist his character is a fighter, as in he gets in fights. In fact, early on, when a zombie is blocking the road and Barry’s companion (Yure Covich, FEED) is saying he “just can’t get used to” them existing, Barry says “Fuck it, I’m gonna fight ‘im,” gets out of the car & starts punching the thing.

He ends up teaming with a few other survivors, including the endearingly goofy Benny (Leon Burchill, “Didjeridoo Busker,” THE DIPLOMAT) & older, gruffer Frank (Keith Agius, “Special Agent Team Leader,” MR. NICE GUY). Things are rough but it’s good that there are still opportunities for some dudes lớn sit around in garages drinking together & maybe working on some engines or something.

I gotta say, I’m surprised at the cấp độ of armor they’re able to put together just from stuff that must’ve been in the garage. I guess everybody’s a hockey goalie down under. Or maybe you gotta wear that shit in case a kangaroo punches you?

Oh, by the way, there’s a pretty badass boomerang scene in this. So it’s properly Australian. Sorry about the kangaroo reference – I know that was corny. I just think it’s fuckin cool that you guys have a native animal species known for 1) built-in storage & 2) fisticuffs. So I bring it up out of sincere admiration.

Barry is trying to get to his sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey, THE OSIRUS CHILD), a tough girl artist. Ironically her first zombie was painted up in Day of the Dead skeleton makeup for a photo shoot in her garage studio. Brooke immediately demonstrates her agility by climbing nimbly into the rafters, which we can infer she may have gotten good at while spray painting murals on the ceiling.

As tenacious as she is, she still gets captured by soldiers & ends up shackled to lớn a wall with some zombies in a small trailer while a mad scientist in a bio suit (Berynn Schwerdt, AFTER ARMAGEDDON) pokes at them and sometimes turns on disco music and dances around. Eventually she realizes their experiments or the meteors or something have given her an unusual nguồn that she can use for a slow, complex escape plan.

The other, weirder twist is that they figure out the reason all the cars stopped working is that in this new world all the flammable gases somehow stopped being combustible. But then they also figure out that the green, fart-smelling breath of the zombies is. So they build a zombie-powered engine for their armored, roll-barred beast and hit the road. There is chasing & shooting and not just against zombies. (The soldiers have electric engines.)

The only small problem I had with WYRMWOOD is that the varied tones didn’t totally gel for me. I mean yes, they have zombies tied up in the back of their truck to lớn breathe into their engines, this is true. But most of the time I swear to you it’s grounded và human. I bởi vì think there’s some humor that could be compared lớn SHAUN OF THE DEAD (and maybe even an homage with a cricket bat used to fight zombies) but the emotional moments feel much more real than that, & I prefer that. Each of these characters suffers immense tragedy, many of them forced khổng lồ kill their loved ones, others having already been through the wringer before the dead walked the earth, and all of this is very effective. When Barry’s wife Annie (Catherine Terracini, “Pathologist,” Bite Club) realizes she’s turning & steels herself to hug him & tell him she loves him in her last few moments as a human it’s truly heartbreaking. But then it turns on a dime into hyperactive Sam Raimi homage mode with that EVIL DEAD 2 type suiting-up sequence and cameras zooming around & other kinda cartoonish touches like drop kicks và the doctor having a bunch of extra magnifying glasses attached to lớn his goggles lượt thích he’s trying to lớn be in a Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie. Và I lượt thích that stuff too, it’s just kind of a rough fit with the drama, but that could just be me. & even for me it’s weird but it works.

Man, this is one of the bleakest zombie scenarios though because, although they never complain about it, we are given enough information lớn know that it must constantly smell lượt thích farts.

The movie is written by the Roache-Turner brothers, Kiah and Tristan, directed by Kiah. They also have a recent sci-fi horror thing called NEKROTRONIC which Variety called “A little bit TRON meets BLADE” in a mostly negative review. It kind of ends up being an origin story, so I’m happy to lớn read that the characters are expected to lớn return in a 10-episode mini-series called Wyrmwood: Chronicles of the Dead. I hope they get really competitive in the building of zombie-powered vehicles.

Most horror fans will spend the first act of “Wyrmwood: Roadof the Dead” ticking off the boxes of cinematic influences. There’s a littlebit of George Romero. There’s a gory splash of Peter Jackson. There’s an angledzoom stolen straight from Sam Raimi. And why does this whole thing remind me of“Mad Max”? While the fine line between homage and plagiarism may be crossed forsome, debut director Kiah Roache-Turner commits so completely lớn the insanityof his melting pot concept that he won me over with sheer force. Adam Wingardtold me that he literally dreamed up “The Guest” after watching “Halloween” and“The Terminator” on the same night. One could see Roache-Turner having asimilar vision that led lớn “Wyrmwood” after a double feature of “Dawn of the
Dead” và “Mad Max”.

“This morning I shotmy wife and child with a nail gun.” This is our hero, Barry’s (Jay
Gallagher) first line of dialogue in “Wyrmwood,” which should give you some idea what toexpect tonally. This is splatter, blood and guts zombie mythology, filteredthrough an Australian horror sensibility. Roache-Turner wastes no time gettingto the meat of the matter. One day, everyone who doesn’t have A-Negative bloodtype goes rabid/zombie/infected crazy. These are more the running/screaming/terrifyingzombies of Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later” than Romero’s hulking brood. Afterdisposing of wife and child in the aforementioned manner, Barry teams up with apair of fellow survivors lớn try & track down his sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey),who has been taken prisoner by a paramilitary group already doing experimentsinvolving turned people và those still without a hunger for brains.

There’s a streamlined simplicity to lớn “Wyrmwood” that’sadmirable in an era when too many horror movies get cluttered with subplots andcharacters who wander into frame merely khổng lồ be turned into goo. It’s a roadmovie fueled by a passion for the genre. Horror is a genre in which homage canbe more easily forgiven as a sản phẩm of relatable love for the same movies.Most zombie movie fans love Boyle, Jackson, Raimi, và Romero, và it’s clearfrom frame one that Roache-Turner is a zombie movie tín đồ himself. We lượt thích itwhen our horror movies don’t feel lượt thích merchandise as much as the result of apassion for the genre khổng lồ which we can easily relate.

There are also clever twists to lớn the narrative that I won’tspoil but that keep “Wyrmwood” from feeling too much like a rip-off. Thedisco-loving mad scientist who seems khổng lồ have been eagerly anticipating theundead apocalypse is a fantastic horror creation, & the trajectory of Brooke’scharacter is certainly an unexpected one. In the end though, “Wyrmwood” is notabout narrative. It’s about in-your-face style, the kind where every punch,shot, and kick comes with an accompanying zoom, canted angle, và quick cut.Roache-Turner and cinematographer Tim Nagle’s camera is a character, commenting on the insanity of the kích hoạt as it rises in pitch. It’s alwaysmoving (much like Raimi"s & Jackson"s) in time with the action, giving the piecea lively, energetic pace despite having not much of a plot when one thinks backon it.

Ultimately, the success of “Wyrmwood” comes down toconfidence. Roache-Turner is lượt thích the mad doctor in the film itself,experimenting with his genre with a dance in his step & a maniacal smile. He doesn’tapprehensively lift a piece here & there from the films he’s loved, he pusheshis influences khổng lồ the forefront, spinning, twisting, and owning them in such away that my trepidation at the beginning had turned lớn anticipation for asequel by the end.

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Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of Roger
Ebert.com, và also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video clip games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist,The new york Times, và GQ,and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.