In my humble opinion, Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner’s Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead (2014) is one of the best action zombie movies ever made. Part grindhouse, part Mad Max, part Train to Busan (2016 – our review), this gory, ultra-violent Ozploitation flick took the rather plodding zombie subgenre and flipped it on its decomposing head. So when the two brothers announced a sequel, Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, I knew I had to see it. Did it live up to the insanity of the first film?
In a zombie-infested Australian wasteland, soldier Rhys has dedicated his life to tracking and capturing survivors for the Surgeon General in hopes of finding a cure.
Wyrmwood: Apocalypse was co-written by Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner (Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead 2014) and directed and edited by Kiah. The film stars Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead’s Luke McKenzie, Bianca Bradey, and Jay Gallagher, as well as Shantae Barnes-Cowen (Firebite TV series), Tasia Zalar (Mystery Road TV series), Goran D. Kleut (Alien: Covenant 2017 – our review), Nicholas Boshier (The Moth Effect TV series), and Jake Ryan (Wolf Creek TV series). The music was composed by Michael Lira (Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead 2014). The makeup and hideously gross FX were created by The Matrix’s Nick Nicolaou and Paul Kratt, Rachel Scane (The Invisible Man 2020 – our review), Christian Joachim Heinrich (Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead 2014), and Mad Max: Fury Road’s Helen Magelaki and Mariel McClorey.
Wyrmwood: Apocalypse jumps right into the action from the start, with the first film’s Barry (Gallagher) trying to restrain his sister, the psychic half-zombie Brooke (Bradey), from attacking two armed women, Maxi (Barnes-Cowen) and Grace (Zalar). This attempt fails, unfortunately, and someone gets bit and Barry ends up with a foot long spear shot into his right hand. This turn of events changes the entire course of action for everyone, including military man Rhys (McKenzie), who’s still collecting uninfected humans for the Army in the hope of finding a cure. At least, that’s what his assignment says he’s doing.
From the moment Rhys wakes up, it’s a splatterific, shotgun blasting day-in-the-life tale as he begins his morning as a zombie apocalypse survivor. First, he exercises and takes his antivirals. Since zombie breath can be used as fuel—the coolest concept ever—he makes sure all of his current undead are well-fed and angry enough to power everything from his truck engine to his water sprinkler. He leads them around at a safe distance with a dog catcher snare pole about the neck and crams birdcages on the heads of captured zombies so he can practice hand-to-hand combat without having to worry about being bitten. The whole setup dropped me right into the story, and I was ready to believe anything that came next.
I love seeing Brooke back again. In the first film, she was experimented on by the military doctors and can now communicate psychically with the zombies. Yes, she can get the undead to do her bidding. Because she herself is a half-zombie, kept in control by drinking vials of what looks like blood, she can play both sides, which is totally unique in the zombie subgenre. What a creative and innovative concept, something that I hope the filmmakers explore even more in the future.
Then there’s the movie itself. Wyrmwood: Apocalypse has the same non-stop action, pitch black humor, neon-bright, high-intensity violence, and awful, offal gore as its predecessor. The entire 108 minute runtime is set to a brilliant, rock solid score from Michael Lira, who continued his musical adventure seamlessly from the first film. Both the practical and visual FX teams didn’t pull any punches, giving us dirty, desiccated, flesh-stripped zombies that attack in fierce, energetic packs that even Peter Jackson would be proud of. They even sound terrifying, like a combination of squealing pigs, growling crocodiles, and bellowing tigers, sounds humans are intrinsically wired to fear. And, because they’re powered by zombie breath, the Mad Max-inspired vehicle engines and machines roar with the same reverberations. There’s even an Evil Dead hand attack scene that tickled my little black heart. You can’t go wrong with a Bruce Campbell shoutout.
What Doesn’t Work
The one aspect about Wyrmwood: Apocalypse that I don’t care for—mostly because I don’t understand it—is the idea that things like the zombie virus can be held at bay in an infected person by using various pills, vaccines, and vials of unknown liquids. There’s no explanation of how these things came about and the science behind them. What was wrong with the doctors and military guys that they needed such specific treatment? If it was to keep them from turning full zombie, then why was it different from what the other infected characters had to take? If that really is blood in the vials, and that keeps the virus from taking over, why don’t they turn back after biting a living person? Maybe I missed something, but this whole concept is so weird to me, and I wish it was explained a bit more.
I couldn’t be happier about the way this sequel turned out. Wyrmwood: Apocalypse has everything the first film had and more. The gore, humor, and action combine perfectly to create the best zombie film I’ve seen in years. Highly recommended!