Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead

The Aussie horror film gets a one-night-only cinema release, when else but Friday 13th.
Tom Clift
Published on February 12, 2015


When Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead hits cinemas this Friday (and only this Friday), do yourself a favour and remain indoors. The feature film debut of the Sydney-born Roache-Turner brothers, this is a gruesome zombie apocalypse movie with a grungy, DIY aesthetic — the duo spent three-and-half-years on the project, and their hard work and enthusiasm can be felt in every frame. But enthusiasm alone doesn’t excuse derivative storytelling. Nor does it make the film’s casual racism and leering misogyny any less unpleasant to watch.

The movie begins — as such movies tend to do — with the downfall of civilisation. Specifically, a meteor shower, which for some unknown (possibly biblical) reason turns a majority of the population into zombies. It’s especially bad news for blokey auto mechanic Barry (Jay Gallagher), who’s forced to execute his wife and daughter before they make him a meal. Armed to the teeth — and with a homemade armoured vehicle to match — Barry and a group of survivors make their way down the outback highway, in an attempt to rescue his sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey) from a similarly grizzly fate.

Wyrmwood is being sold as a cross between Mad Max and Dawn of the Dead. It should probably go without saying that it doesn’t hold a candle to either. This is bargain-bin horror filmmaking, and although the brothers endeavour to throw in a few new twists on the zombie genre, ultimately the formula remains the same. It’s a movie more focused on interesting kills than interesting characters; Barry has less personality than a reanimated corpse, while his sidekick Benny (Leon Burchill) is a cartoonish collection of belittling Aboriginal stereotypes.

Even more distasteful is Wyrmwood’s handling of its only significant female character. While Barry and Benny slice their way through the zombie hordes, the scantily clad Brooke finds herself chained up in a laboratory, at the mercy of a syringe-wielding mad scientist. Dull and repetitive, the subplot serves zero purpose in the film, other than to give pervy male audience members ample opportunity to star down Bradey’s top. This kind of sexism is all too common in the low-fi horror world, and frankly, it needs to be stamped out.

Technical specs are solid, particularly given the film’s presumably minuscule shooting budget. The camerawork recalls the madcap energy of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead film, although with next to none of that series’ ingenuity or humour. Credit also to the effects and makeup teams for credibly bringing the film's monsters to (un)life.

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead will have its Australian premiere at Moonlight Cinemas around the country on Friday, February 6. These screenings will be followed by a one-day theatrical engagement on Friday, Feburary 13.


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