In a zombie apocalypse wasteland, the gaseous belching undead are used as the primary energy source, but the sight for a cure is still the goal for survival. At least that is for boots-on-the-ground foot solder Rhys who lives in an isolated camp surrounded by the dead and ventures out to retrieve uninfected humans to bring them to the bunker-dwelling Surgeon General in hopes in discovering a cure. After snagging a hybrid female named Grace who can control her turning by drinking single vial of blood, Rhys quickly learns that the Surgeon General and his armed entourage are experimenting to death the people he’s delivering to the bunker for their own selfish objectives. Teamed up with Grace’s people – Grace’s sister Maxi, Barry, and Barry’s sister Brooke who is also a hybrid – Rhys is determined to no longer retrieve people but rather retrieve his soul from a group of well-armed maniacs while trying to not get eaten by the zombie hordes.
For someone like me, a film reviewer, whose fairly anal about watching a series, franchises, sequels, etc., in sequential order, I am stepping outside my comfort zone and out of my own convictions and into unknown territory by watching “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse,” the direct sequel to Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner’s 2014 Australian bloody zombie comedy-romp, “Wyrmwood” aka “Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead”, before the first film. While typically a no-no in my book, and very much likely in the rest of the filmic community, I like to live dangerously. Any who, Kiah Roache-Turner sits once again in the director chair with the direct, follow-up sequel that picks up immediately where the other film left off or, I at least think so. In reading the ending to the 2014 film, I see no mention of a couple of characters that are present at the beginning of “Apocalypse” and so I’ll be interested to watch “Road of the Dead” to see for myself how both films tie together. The script is penned by Kiah and brother Tristan after fan support of the first film urged the filmmakers to do a sequel to their brainchild inspired by the blood-soaked and vaudeville slapstick horror of New Zealand and Australia – such as Peter Jackon’s “Dead Alive” aka “Braindead” and the Spierig brother’s “Undead.” “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” is a Bronte Pictures production (“Out of the Shadows”) in association with Roache-Turner’s Guerilla Films and backed by the executive producer team of Todd Brown, Tim Nagle, Rhys William Nicolson, Sam Gain-Emery, Clement Dunn, and Maxime Cottray.
To make matters more confusing for someone like myself who hasn’t seen the first film, Tasia Zalar and Shantae Barnes-Cowan, nor their badass sisterhood characters Grace and Maxi, are listed in the cast of the first film nor are they in the short-lived teaser episodic series from 2017, causing a bit of disconnect for a nobody like myself who knows absolutely nothing of Wyrmwood universe when beginning the Roache-Turner series will the latest production. The “Uninhabited” Zalar and the “Frostbite” Barnes-Cowan quickly establish themselves as survivors devoted to each other by blood as their introduced rather quickly, harshly, and without background in the company of returning actors Jay Gallagher as Barry, described in the first film as a talented mechanic, and Bianca Bradley as the zombie hybrid Brooke who can control the regular horde of gas-chucking dead heads. Of course, being that a direct sequel, at least that’s how the Roache-Turner plays it, follows up 8-years later, some of the characters don’t quite look the same as when we first left them. For instance, Barry’s a little rounder and beefier and Brooke is, well, blonder. However, the bond between brother-sister is still strong and is even reinforced by Grace and Maxi’s relationship that blood trumps all. Another actor returns for the sequel but not toward the same character as Luke McKenzie adds to the theme of family by playing the avenge-longing brother of the first film’s antagonist known only as The Captain. Rhys (McKenzie) has more of a pure heart in contrast to his brother, or so we’re informed by returning characters, and becomes the unintended principal character amongst an ensemble cast by being the retriever, the deceived, and the reclaimer of his soul when he discovers the paramilitary survivors – The Doctor (Goran D. Kleut, “Alien: Convent”), The Colonel (Jake Ryan, “Out of the Shadows”), and the Surgeon General (Nicholas Boshier_) – are experimenting and killing captives for their own survival and grinding their corpses to make into anti-viral pills. There’s nothing bland about the Roache-Turner brothers’ character diversity and charisma as they each stick to a persona throughout the unfolding that quickly established who-is-who in the bad and good category.
“Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” is dieselpunk coated dead and delirium. With a definite George Miller approach and a zany-zombie gift of gore and gags, I can see where fans of the zombie genre can feel freer and more relaxed outside the confines of the somber-and-serious toned oeuvre of zombie films of the last two decades that has literally been beaten like a dead horse with a stick at every angle. The gonzo-gearhead carpet definitely matches the drapes in an outlandish universe where zombies are the Duracell and Diehard batteries of the future and while the story engrains a kindred theme and blood splatter fun, one element still guts me more than the multiple eviscerated entrails in the movie. Being a zombie movie of the flesh-eating kind, one would hope scenes of flesh-eating would be apparently present. Unfortunately, “Apocalypse” has zilch on zombie feasts. Though close in one scene where a big toe might be become an appetizer, in the end, there isn’t one bite of rotting teeth be pressed and puncturing flesh or viscera. What “Apocalypse” offers quite the opposite in where the dead are the exploited, utilized as a fuel source by feeding them beef and harnessing their oral gasses to drive vehicles and run high-powered miniguns or be under-the-influence of control by telepathic hybrids to do their bidding, aka suicide bombers or take the hits so the living can stroll in without garner so much as a scratch in a skirmish.
The final conclusion about “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” is this, watch “Road of the Dead” first. Then, enjoy the rip-roaring and violent horror-action zomedy now available on an UK Blu-ray from 101 Films. The hard region B locked, AVC encoded Blu-ray is presented in 1080p, high definition, with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. “Apocalypse” has the look of the early comic-book era style of pre-“300” Zack Snyder that hovers around the practical properties of “Tank Girl” in what’s fashioned together by the director of photography, and co-producer, Tim Nagle to appeal to a tactile of cold and grimy steel, sweet, and blood. The film uses very little visual effects which is mostly on the blood splatter, and you can tell the splatter is a bit off in having a waxy look to it. The decoding runs efficiently well to provide a clean picture through an edit heavy story. The English language audio mixes come in two options: a Dolby stereo PCM and a DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound. While there’s nothing wrong with the stereo PCM track that offers a clean and lossless recording, the 5.1 audio mix is a robust beast that channels every engine roar and isolates a zombie belch to be more inclusive for a viewer. If you’re in the mood for a longer sitting and bonus content, perhaps this 101 Films release is not for you as the runtime hits just above an hour at approx. 70 minutes long and just contains the feature and a scene selection. However, there is reversible front cover art. Easily, continuing the journey by working backwards in the Wyrmwood universe is worth the time as “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” catapults the zombie into a new and unexplored rancid category of reverse exploitation in parallel with carnage, mayhem, and all of the anarchical above.