A feeling of foreboding sets in early in Kiah Roache-Turner’s zombie-apocalypse thriller Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with the hellish subject matter and everything to do with the direction. In the first sequence of this blood-soaked feature, Roache-Turner employs an ADHD aesthetic of hyper-quick cuts and slow-motion shots that suddenly ramp up to full speed. The filmmaker might have meant for this style to add an extra punch to the scene’s head-exploding conclusion, but the effect is just mind numbing.
Wyrmwood never recovers from this ominous opening; it soon adopts a stilted setup of jumping back in time as the two leads relate how they came to be fighting for their lives in the Australian outback. Benny (Leon Burchill) was spending a night under the stars when a meteor shower enveloped the sky. The next day, his brother was trying to eat him alive. Barry (Jay Gallagher) was a happy family man and mechanic who bonded with his daughter by burping at the dinner table. When the dead started to walk, his wife and daughter became infected and he killed them both.
In a messy move, Roache-Turner and his co-screenwriter Tristan Roache-Turner then confuse their first-person flashbacks formula with the introduction of Brooke (Bianca Bradey), Barry’s tattooed sister. Appearing as part of Barry’s narrative, Brooke is on set at a Suicide Girl-style photo shoot when a model in Day Of The Dead makeup turns into the undead. Brooke proves to have superior zombie-killing skills, but is then kidnapped by soldiers who bring her to an evil scientist, The Doc (Berynn Schwerdt). In a series of torture-porn-lite sequences, the villain—more MADtv than mad scientist—experiments on Brooke, granting her supernatural powers. Where is this all going? Good question. These muddled plots all eventually intersect in the present as Benny, Barry, and Brooke try to take down government operatives who prove more evil then the flesh-eating demons.
Gore is clearly the name of Wyrmwood’s game, and here the production team at least went the tactile-prosthetic route over bad CGI, which gives the movie a pulpy feel. But the kills aren’t inspired enough to have any real shock, offering repeated shotgun-shattering skull shots and the occasional shovel to a face. As for the zombies, the creatures move with a Night Of The Living Dead lurch during the day and after dusk gain speed, like the nimble creatures of 28 Days Later. In writing their undead this way, the Roache-Turners were hoping for the best of both worlds: slow-moving killer gags as well as scares. Yet Wyrmwood achieves neither. Caught up in trying to weave its characters’ stories together, the script leaves little room for nuance or fun, and attempts at humor are of the basic belching and dick-joke variety. Clearly aiming for “cult classic,” Wyrmwood is too basic to be anything more than a forgettable bro-pocalypse.