Fantastic Fest Review: Wyrmwood a Solid Zombie Film – a Mix of Something Old, Something New

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Wyrmwood reviewfile_176635_1_shock-score-7.90x72Although zombies have had a presence horror since the early days of cinema, this sub-genre has enjoyed a hell of a consistent run over the last 14 years or so. And because of that constancy, I think you’ll agree it has become increasingly difficult to discern which zombie offerings are deserving of our attention. I look at a zombie movie now and think of which camp they want to be in. Will it be: “I wanna do a George Romero zombie movie?” or “I wanna do a Danny Boyle/28 Days Later sorta thing?” (they’re always coming from someplace like that). And then from there, it’s assessing how that zombie movie sets itself apart from the pack. If it’s solid and if it’s competent and it tries to do something unique, I’ll recommend it to the world-weary horror fan tired of zombie fare.

Wyrmwood I would recommend.

In spite of being saddled with some tired traits we’ve seen not just in horror movies, but in modern cinema in general, I liked this film’s unapologetic, unpredictable hyper attitude and zippy pace. It’s George A. Romero infused with Peter Jackson and George Miller. But, more importantly, the Australian filmmaking team – Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner – attempt to bring something fresh and energetic to the zombie sub-genre. They fearlessly spitballed some kooky ideas and executed them in a lot of fun visual ways. It would live at home nicely on a double-bill with Night of the Comet I would think.

Like most zombie films, Wyrmwood relies on the ol’ “strangers coming together” premise in the wake of some bizarre phenomenon. In the case of this story, that phenomenon has to do with shooting stars…or something. What you need to know is the dead come to life and Barry, a mechanic, loses his wife and daughter to this sudden zombie apocalypse and he’s trying to get to his sister, Brooke. Wyrmwood is about his journey and, through this, the Roache-Turner brothers inject a little mayhem as well as some new zombie mythology along the way. Brooke, on the other hand, is catapulted into an intense scenario on her own as she is captured by the military and thrust through peculiar science experiments that pave the way for some pretty big supernatural stuff.

Wyrmwood bounces all over the place at first, beginning with a kinetic moment that reappears later in the movie (which is a bit of an annoying narrative device I’ve grown tired of…it diffuses the mystery entirely), then it settles into the introductions to both Benny (the comedic relief and supporting character played by Leon Burchill) and Barry. With its rhythm in place and back stories out of the way (it doesn’t take too long before someone brings up the “Z” word), you really feel like Roache-Turner are enjoying their freedom and the world they created.

Barry (Jay Gallagher) is an amiable guy and you appreciate his strength and occasional stubbornness. His grieving process usually involves wanting to beat the shit out of something (or someone). Bianca Bradey really steps up to the physicality of the Brooke role and she clearly had a blast demonstrating her newfound “powers” that are given to her character. The zombie designs are rather uninspired. And you should know the filmmakers choose to embrace the slow and the fast zombie (there’s a reason behind it, too). There’s more to the walking dead than meets the eye here.

The thing about Wyrmwood is that its insane, splatter-filled momentum can get slightly tiring. When giant plot reveals that you would normally expect earlier in the film are dropped in the third act; you may be left checking your watch wondering “where is this all heading and is there an end?” The answer is yes, but the door is thrust wide open for a sequel. Would I like to see one? Sure, I suppose. But I’d rather see the Roache-Turner brothers turn their enthusiasm and ingenuity onto another subject in the horror genre. Wyrmwood is an impressive feature debut and I think they’re future is bright.

Box Office

Weekend: Oct. 18, 2018, Oct. 21, 2018

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