It’s been 8 years since the Roache-Turner creative team took Australians and the world over on their Road of the Dead. This post-apocalyptic zombie, blood frenzy was a labour of love for brothers Kiah and Tristan, taking over three and a half years to produce through dedicated weekends to harness their vision. The passion is clear to see on-screen and is just as infectious as the shuffling dead that Wyrmwood is shaped on, shooting from the hip and punching you in the gut with its ferocious energy. Wyrmwood would produce a decent following through a heightened social media presence who latched on to the fun and mayhem that the Roache-Turner brothers produced.
Fast forward to present day and they’ve finally come to fruition with the much awaited sequel to satiate the followers needs, but the big question is, does it live up to the hype?
In many ways, the answer to that question is yes. swiftly followed by a but…
The biggest and boldest move that Roache-Turner makes in the decision process for Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is to deviate a little away from the predecessors’ protagonists. That’s not to say that Barry (Jay Gallagher) and Brooke (Bianca Bradey) don’t feature but this time around the narrative centers its main narrative on a different trio of zombie apocalyptic survivors.
This may upset or turn off some fans of the original but from this writer’s perspective, it only expands the world of Wyrmwood for the richer, especially with the narrative choice following the return of actor Luke McKenzie, this time playing Rhys, not the Captain from the original film. He is in fact playing the Captains’ twin brother. This speaks volumes about the method that Roache-Turner took in making movies; if it’s broken, don’t fix it. McKenzie is an amazing actor, and here they have the opportunity to bring him back into the fold again. Yes. With a different character. But it’s a brilliant choice, as Mackenzie does not falter in this movie. He’s an amazing performer and his role of Rhys, the troubled soldier searching for a cure to the virus, whilst also being infected himself, and on a path to vengeance for the death of his brother makes him an incredibly complicated character, and engaging to watch. Rhys works almost as a bounty hunter rounding up survivors, and then bringing them to the scientists in the hope that they will find this cure, little realising that there’s more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye. This is what he slowly uncovers, the truth behind the facade and tips the balance as to whether he will side with the scientists or the survivors. Will he align with greed and power, much like his brother did, in order to fulfil his needs, or will he see that there’s a bigger picture here?
Along the way he teams up with two young Aboriginal women, Maxi (Shantae Barnes-Cowan) and Grase (Tasia Zalar), with another brilliant piece of writing. It’s clear from the choices that Roache-Turner makes that he has his fingers firmly on the social pulse.
In an interview I had with Tristan a few years back, he mentioned that he had a deep love for indigenous culture. This is evident in the choices the filmmakers are making in casting these two women. They are not only powerhouses on the screen, with strength resistance, and smarts. They’re deadly moves are what made them ultimate survivors. Aboriginal culture is one of the oldest living cultures today and it shows how they are able to adapt and survive in the most brawling of circumstances, often in the face of white power. It is this white power that they are rising up against here as we follow these three characters falling in and out of alliances along their journey to meet their means. Throughout the narrative we are often faced with a case of not knowing what direction or what the resolution will be at the end of the film, which is again a great way to keep the audience engaged.
So back to Brooke and Barry.
We get a window or a snippet of their involvement in the story where things left off at the very beginning of the movie, albeit briefly, their resurrection into the film doesn’t necessarily come about until a good chunk of the way through which may have some fans a little miffed. I personally welcome it. I think the time and dedication that he’s put into building up the characters of Rhys, Maxi and Grace is worth it for us to become engaged in their storyline and when Brooke and Barry do surface again, we know they’re going to bring the goods. We know that they are going to be coming out packed to the max with a zombie army at their beck and call to take on the scientists and the structure of power that is wielding before them.
There’s fun quips and it’s full of arsenal attacks that is just a joy to watch. Roache-Turner is incredibly adept at weaving that fine line of humour, mayhem, carnage, blood and guts to satisfy its audience and they don’t fail here.
It’s a cracking watch and I should probably also say a big nod to Nicholas Boshier, who is an example of how to balance that fine line of comedy and dark energy on the screen in his portrayal of the scientist.
- Saul Muerte