Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead

It’s quite the rare occurrence that I see a movie I don’t particularly like and yet still want a sequel. About the only times this happens are those when I can recognize the talent behind the camera, or the interesting ideas in the script, and with a few tweaks the movie would have worked because of those. That, or the movie introduces game-changing ideas too late that I’d like expanded in a sequel. Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, is a movie I only intermittently liked and yet would jump on-board the hype train to Sequelsville as soon as one gets announced.

Shot on a low budget — and it shows — Wyrmwood is a zombie movie. Yes, another one. The poster boasts that it’s “Mad Max meets Dawn of the Dead.” Essentially what it does is follow a small group of people after a zombie outbreak occurs. The lead is Barry (Jay Gallagher), a mechanic who’s forced to kill his wife and child after they turn into zombies. He has a sister, Brooke (Bianca Bradey), who also survives, although not with him. She gets captured by masked government men who wind up performing experiments on her.

So, for most of the film, she’s tied up and experimented upon, while Barry tries to survive and find out where she is … often times teaming up with the same government guys. He doesn’t know they have his sister. It’s an incredibly familiar scenario that hits about all the “zombie movie” beats that you might expect, told with too-close-up cinematography, lots of gore, and a kinetic energy that keeps it fun even when it gets generic.

What separates Wyrmwood, I think, is that it adds in some nice touches, as well as an idea it introduces late into the picture that I want to see expanded upon. One of those touches, for example, helps to explain a horror cliché. You know how cars break down with much more regularity in these sorts of movies than they do in reality? Well, Wyrmwood explains why — and then provides a way to get them going again.

Meanwhile, the idea it introduces later on probably counts as a spoiler, but suffice to say it involves those experiments performed on Brooke. She’s no longer 100% human by the end of them. We don’t get to fully — or even partially, really — explore the potential ramifications of what this means, and if for no other reason than that, I’d like to see a Wyrmwood 2. I mean, zombie movies are often generic affairs that offer absolutely no new ideas; at least this one kind of flips things around at the end and makes things very interesting. When most filmmakers use zombies because they’re lazy, the ones who made Wyrmwood did so in order to get to this cool idea at the end.

Those filmmakers are Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner. Kiah is listed as the director, Tristan is the producer, and they both are credited as writers. It’s their first movie, and it was produced on a minimal budget, so it’s impressive that Wyrmwood is at least kind of competent. It’s not really a good movie — it’s technically lackluster, looks cheap (because it is) and it doesn’t handle some of its story elements particularly well — but with this experience under their belts, and a larger budget, I’d be up for a sequel.

Jay Gallagher is a functional lead, Bianca Bradey gets to act tough and then make a few fun faces near the end, and Leon Burchill is the main “third wheel,” although he’s not particularly memorable. The most fun in the film probably comes from a disco-obsessed doctor, played by Berryn Schwerdt, simply because of how crazy he gets to be. No leashes were put on him; he was simply put in here, told to go nuts, and nuts did he go. Mix in what he does for most of his screen time — experiment on innocents and zombies — and it becomes even more deranged.

A low-budget zombie movie with an attention to small details and a big idea that needs more exploration in a sequel, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is a film I wish I liked more, and yet am completely ready for another. It has a lot of problems, like the camerawork, zombie-movie clichés, an at-times mishandled story, and a very cheap feel, but its smarts and gleeful use of blood make me want to see more from its filmmakers. Hopefully they’ll get the money to capitalize on the idea that they seemingly made a whole movie just to introduce.

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