Wyrmwood: Apocalypse Review

PLOT: A soldier working for a scientist during the zombie apocalypse joins forces with zombie-human hybrids and their siblings when he realizes his boss is a maniac.

REVIEW: The Australian zombie movie Wyrmwood Road of the Dead was a low budget labor of love for director Kiah Roache-Turner and his co-writer (and brother) Tristan Roache-Turner. They were so dedicated to bringing their “Mad Max meets Dawn of the Dead” concept into the world, they spent nearly four years making that movie, shooting it on weekends. They were rewarded when their film was released in 2014 and instantly earned a cult following. Now they have returned to the world of Wyrmwood for a higher-budgeted sequel called Wyrmwood: Apocalypse (watch it HERE), which they were able to get in the can after just six weeks of production. Yet while the higher budget is evident in the vehicles, sets, and weapons on display in the new film… the first movie was still more fun.

The Wyrmwood movies are not your typical zombie flicks. These take place in a world where fossil fuels no longer work. Luckily, the zombies have flammable blood and exhale methane, so these walking corpses can be used to fuel vehicles. The movies also happen to have characters who can telepathically control zombies – so even if you’re feeling burnt out on the walking, living dead, these can still offer entertainment by doing some things differently. There are some wild moments in the movies that you won’t find in any other zombie projects. But I did feel that this second one had story issues.

I spent half of Wyrmwood: Apocalypse thinking the Roache-Turner brothers had made a big mistake in crafting the script for this follow-up. That’s because the lead characters are not returning Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead stars Jay Gallagher (as the shotgun-wielding Barry) and Bianca Bradey – whose character Brooke was turned into a human-zombie hybrid in the previous film and gained the ability to control any zombie in her vicinity. Apocalypse begins with a scene that makes it feel like we missed a sequel along the way, one in which Barry and Brooke teamed up with sisters Maxi (Shantae Barnes-Cowan) and Grace (Tasia Zalar), the nieces of Benny, a beloved character from the first movie. Like Brooke, Grace is a human-zombie hybrid who keeps her zombie side in check by drinking vials of blood. Once Maxi and Grace decide to leave Barry and Brooke behind, we meet the film’s actual lead character: Luke McKenzie as a soldier named Rhys. McKenzie was in Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, and made a strong impression as a villain called The Captain… but the character he’s playing in Wyrmwood: Apocalypse was not in Road of the Dead. He’s the twin brother of The Captain. And we spend a whole lot of time with him. Some Wyrmwood fans will probably be able to go along this without trouble, but I’m sure will be plenty who are going to be as disappointed as I was to find out that we weren’t going to be spending the majority of the running time with Barry and Brooke.

Wyrmwood: Apocalypse Kiah Roache-Turner Jay Gallagher Bianca Bradey Luke McKenzie

We’re about a year into the zombie apocalypse that begin in the first movie, and Rhys is working for a scientist called The Surgeon General (Nicholas Boshier) – yes, just like in the first movie, there are still weirdos in hazmat suits conducting strange experiments on zombies and humans they have strung up and strapped down. Rhys’s job is to traverse the wasteland and capture civilians so he can deliver them to The Surgeon General; as far as he knows, he’s helping search for a cure to the zombie plague. He doesn’t realize the people he delivers to The Surgeon General end up dead. But for a good portion of Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, it feels like we’re following a random villain instead of getting to spend more time with the characters we’re actually hoping to see.

Wyrmwood: Apocalypse Kiah Roache-Turner Tasia Zalar Shantae Barnes-Cowan

Eventually, after he captures Grace and hands her over to The Surgeon General, Rhys will get his shot at redemption. Maxi arrives to show him the error of his ways, and with about 40 minutes of movie left Barry and Brooke finally return to play prominent roles in the climactic action. That’s when Wyrmwood: Apocalypse finally starts to reach the level of fun that its predecessor delivered. The first half of this movie felt like a slog at times. I didn’t understand why the Roache-Turners had chosen to focus on Rhys. I didn’t care about this guy who makes horrific experiments possible and wants to kill the hero of the first movie (to avenge his twin brother). I wanted to cut away to Barry and Brooke. But there are no more storytelling decisions to question in the second half. Then it’s just time to kick back and enjoy the insanity. When a movie gives you the sight of a cyborg zombie being controlled by a mad scientist through a VR headset, the time for nitpicking is over.

If you liked Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, you’ll definitely find things to like about Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, even if you don’t agree with all of the choices. Like I didn’t. If you haven’t watched Road of the Dead, I wouldn’t advise just diving into Apocalypse. If you do, you will be less bothered by the fact that the movie centers on Rhys instead of Barry and Brooke, but other aspects of the movie are likely to be baffling to you. I think the best course of action would be to catch up on Road of the Dead and watch it back-to-back with Apocalypse. Spend three hours basking in the glow of Australian zombie madness. Like I did.

XYZ Films is giving Wyrmwood: Apocalypse a VOD release in the United States on April 14th.

Arrow in the Head reviews Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, the sequel to the 2014 Australian zombie movie Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead.



Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of JoBlo.com, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.