It might seem that near enough every spin has been put on the zombie movie as is possible to get, but Australian horror-thriller Wyrmwood successfully takes the sub-genre in a whole new direction.
Little in the way of setup or establishing back story is given: there’s never any reason given for the cause of the outbreak, only that it’s happened, and the world is going to hell.
In among this new world order is a group, containing among their number widowed husband and father Barry (Jay Gallagher) and wise-cracking Indigenous Australian Benny (Leon Burchill), who respond to the zombie apocalypse with typical can-do spirit: by tooling (and armouring) up, and heading off to Bulla Bulla to rescue Barry’s sister Brooke (Bianca Bradley), who is being terrorised by a disco-loving mad doctor, known simply as ‘The Doctor’ (Berryn Schwerdt).
Despite the tragedy that kicks off the film, things don’t remain very serious for long. This is Romero by way of Mad Max, with every ounce of subtlety replaced by gas-breathing zombies and soldiers launching flying kicks in their faces.
Any emotional undercurrent is quickly replaced by splattered gore and irreverent one-liners (some land, others don’t), and is all the better for it. There’s no life lessons to be learned here – only a good time to be had.
Setting it apart from other zombie thrillers is the creativity on show – the revelation that the zombies can be used for fuel is appropriated to brilliantly dark comic effect, with an unfortunate victim being slung in the back of the truck for later.
Other storytelling elements feel more contrived, and work less well as a result – such as one of the characters inexplicably being able to telepathically boss around the undead – but overall the madcap nature of what’s on show just about wins out in the end.
At times infuriatingly inconsistent but always entertaining in some form, enough of Wyrmwood hits its intended target for it to be one of the more memorable additions to the zombie-movie canon in recent years.