Review: Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead

Directed by: Kiah Roache-Turner
Category: Horror

I'm pretty late to the game on this one, but I held off on watching it for long enough; it was time to get on it, which was made especially easier since Netflix added it to their streaming site last month. Now I had no excuses.

Since this film initially came out, hitting the festival circuits and then the home video market, I've been keeping up with it - following it's status, buzz and word of mouth. From everything I'd read, it had mostly positive reviews, with some out there that just didn't like it, or understand the love for it. Kind of how I feel about Boondock Saints. And of course, that comes with every film, so it's no real surprise. But the general consensus for Wyrmwood was that it kicked ass. So I kind of went in with some expectations.

Wyrmwood did indeed kick ass, and did not disappoint. I will say though that I half expected it to play out more silly and playful, and it didn't. So that was a surprise. I guess with all the buzz and subject matter, I guess I assumed they would have gone the fun route, but instead took the serious path, which was just fine, because it worked effectively well.

This film is "strong" on a number of levels. Visually, first time writer/director Kiah Roache-Turner
goes the freestyle handheld approach, intermittently throwing in some impressive and stylish "stable" shots. Overall, it works. Being someone who is usually turned off by this freestyle approach, he does it rather well, and never overdoes it to sell anything. It really adds to the films frenetic pace, and in my book, that's a plus.

The effects work is another solid plus. While they do implore a large amount of CGI, mainly in the bullet wounds and head shots, while noticeable, it's not bad. I've seen worse. The practical effects work though is pretty outstanding, and where Wyrmwood really shines.

One of the pluses from taking the serious route, the intensity level is pretty high in this. I found a number of sequences to be pretty spot-on in it's attempt to emit a sense of intensity, dread, and urgency. It's one thing if a zombie film is serious, but if it doesn't get you to care about any of the characters, or what's happening to them, then it's hard to feel any of those emotions. Wyrmwood tackles all of that the right way. You care about these people, and because of that, when shit hits the fan, it's pretty damn intense. But that doesn't keep the filmmakers from having a bit of fun with the idea, because while the film is loaded with creative ideas, witty dialogue and a sharp intensity, it's also fun. A LOT of fun.

Today it's getting increasingly hard to make zombie films, because currently it's probably the biggest and most used horror sub-genre. Hell, I've lost count how many zombie shows we currently have available on cable, and that's not even counting the relentless onslaught of Straight-To-Video or VOD titles that all have pretty much the same cover. So when something like Wyrmwood comes out, it's such a breath of fresh air. Why? Because it's anything but a conventional zombie film. Set in the Australian countryside, first time writer/director Kiah Roache-Turner has put a slightly new spin on the zombie genre, offering up some new and inventively creative touches that easily make this stand out among the crowd. Sure, we'll never get anything near the quality of Romero's Dawn or Day of the Dead, but we can do our best to look past that and embrace the few gems in the over-saturated and cluttered genre. Films like Wyrmwood are a reminder that there are good zombie films still left out there.

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