Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead (2014)

Writers: Kiah Roache-Turner, Tristan Roache-Turner
Director: Kiah Roache-Turner

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is an Australian zombie movie from the Roache-Turner brothers. It would be easy to label it as ‘Mad Max with zombies’ – which is what the publicity material seems designed to do. There are certainly elements of this, but the film’s a a lot more than that.

The story starts just after the outbreak and we see the beginning through a couple of flashbacks. The exact cause is unclear, but after a night of shooting stars many people were Turned. There are suggestions of biological contamination, although one of the characters prefers a religious interpretation; the name Wyrmwood comes from Revelations 8:11 in the Christian Bible: “The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.”

The initial driver for the story is one of the characters trying to get across country to find his sister. What he doesn’t know is that she has been taken prisoner by a paramilitary group who are carrying out experiments on the zombie virus.

So far so normal, however Wyrmwood manages to add a few twists to the genre. For example, the zombies shamble during the day but run at night – something that was innovative at the time this film was made. There’s a (rather dodgy) scientific explanation for that which also links nicely to another important plot point I won’t spoil. And near the end the film heads in a direction I certainly didn’t expect. There’s no deep social commentary, however as usual the humans are worse than the zombies.

So the story is surprisingly interesting. The direction is also superb with great deal of atmosphere and appropriate use of hand held camerawork.

But it’s the characters that really make the film. Unlike many films – zombie or otherwise – the main characters are all fully rounded rather than being cardboard cutouts. It’s rare for me to actually care about the characters in a zombie movie, but thanks to the writing and acting I did in this case. The human element is captured well without descending into sickly sentimentality.

Although this isn’t a zomcom as such there are some very funny moments and clever one-liners. In particular Berynn Schwerdt provides great comic relief as the wonderfully OTT mad scientist.

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is an original and intelligent zombie movie that blends action, humour and humanity. It’s a long while since I’ve enjoyed a zombie movie this much.