From the Toronto After Dark Film Festival

“I hesitate to call Wyrmwood a mad-cap thrill ride through the zompocalypse, but it does present us with some fun, new ideas about the zombie uprising.”

by C. Rachel Katz

Remember when zombie movies were about something, something other than running away from zombies? Or, if they didn’t lay on the social commentary, the movies at least tried to do something fun or interesting with their story? Seriously, think about it. Carriers was well done but formulaic. 28 Days Later was all window dressing. But Shawn of the Dead? That was a mildly critical of modern society while also being a slacker comedy. And Zombieland had characters you cared about who had places to go and things to do.

In the better zompocalypse movies, the zombies situation gets the plot rolling, but it’s the characters and their stories that keep it going. And I mean proper characters, not the stock players and stereotypes that populate a lot of horror movies, but real people you can sympathize with. Wyrmwood, as crazy and ridiculous as it is, is full of people you like and feel sorry for.

Directed by
Kiah Roache-Turner
Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey, Leon Burchill
TADFF Release Date
22 October 2014
Rachel’s Grade: B

One night, apropos of nothing and with no warning, the sky is full of shooting stars. The following morning, for no apparent reason some people have turned into zombies. Benny’s out pig hunting with his brothers when it happens. Barry is at home with is wife and daughter, and his sister Brooke is working in her studio. When the zombies happen, each one is caught up in a different situation; Benny and Barry intersect and together they set off to find Brooke.

Wyrmwood is advertised a cross between Mad Max and Dawn of the Dead, which I think is more telling of the film’s atmosphere than its plot. In short, it’s high energy craziness. Thankfully, the movie doesn’t waste any time on inter-personal drama. In fact, everyone’s pretty likeable and complete strangers easily band together to deal with the situation. It’s rather refreshing to watch a zombie movie that doesn’t feel the need to cram in a lot of conflict within and between survivors, and Wyrmwood understands that cutting down on needless human drama leaves room for more important things like zombie-proofing your ride and performing weird experiments on people.

Even though Wyrmwood features a kind of action/adventure plot, the film does leave time for musings about how and why the zombies happen. As the title suggests, the movie takes its end-of-days scenario literally, drawing inspiration from the Book of Revelations. Again, its a nice change from the constant onslaught of viral- or radioactive-led zombie plot. Moreover, Wyrmwood‘s writers have thought this thing through, giving reason to why some people survive and others don’t. Most impressive of all is the attention to detail given to the zombies themselves, to how they operate and what it means for the survivors.

Wyrmwood is not without its problems. A great deal of this movie appears to have been shot in close-up which creates a certain amount of disorientation. Adding to this is the constant racking focus which, under normal circumstances would focus viewer attention, but in this case only serves to create too much chaos in an already chaotic space. The film’s zany enough without the need for additional “creative” camerawork.

The film ends at an odd point in the story, one might even call it a turning point. Friends of mine took it to mean the movie didn’t actually have an ending. I think the opposite. I think after witnessing everything that happens, you know where the story’s headed and don’t need to see it. Ending with the big, expected confrontation would be too much, too Hollywood for an indie Aussie zombie movie. Rather, the film ends on the build-up to that moment and it feels more personal, more invested in the characters.

I hesitate to call Wyrmwood a mad-cap thrill ride through the zompocalypse, but it does present us with some fun, new ideas about the zombie uprising.