Wyrmwood - DVD Review

'Consistently a film you genuinely want to like, even when it falls somewhat short'.

Zombie movies on the whole feel dissatisfyingly stale at the moment. Contemporary offerings which largely stick to the traditional zombie set-up, such as World War Z, feel uninspired and do little to lift this niche area of cinema from its slump.

On the other side of the coin, genre mash-ups deliver mixed results. Comedy initially offered a fresh and gratifying perspective through the likes of Shaun Of The Dead and Zombieland, but now feels almost as hackneyed as straight zombie fare. The opposite end of the spectrum has seen a renewed focus on human drama through the likes of recent release Maggie and, on the small screen, The Walking Dead. Then there's the likes of B-movie exploitation efforts such as Dead Snow (Nazi zombies) and Zombeavers (zombie beavers, in case you weren't sure). Yes, when it comes to zombie movies, there's plenty to choose from at the moment, but seldom within which to find genuine hope for the subgenre.

On the surface, Wyrmwood initially appears to be yet another lazy crossover effort, especially through its promotion as "Mad Max meets Dawn Of The Dead". In truth, the tagline is something of a lazy cop-out by the film's marketing team, feeling largely based upon Wyrmwood's Australian roots. There are admittedly some Max-esque elements here, but this probably feels closer in style to an antipodean Walking Dead in its focus on people and their relationships with each other, rather than the zombie epidemic surrounding them.

Even that, however, feels as though it's selling Wyrmwood short on its own merits. Brothers and co-writers Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner - the former also directing whilst the latter picks up a producer credit - litter their debut feature with plenty of original ideas that actually work to set it apart from other zombie-based narratives both past and present. What this means for the Roache-Turners is that Wyrmwood is consistently a film you genuinely want to like, even when it falls somewhat short in other areas.

The problems here are ones which currently feel inherent to both zombie narratives and the wider horror genre. The Roache-Turners occasionally fall foul of the modern fashion for extreme shock and gore with little of substance behind it, mainly through the character of Doc (Berryn Schwerdt), an unhinged scientist using the zombie epidemic as an excuse to carry out nefarious experiments. Had Doc's role been severely reduced, or even excised all together, with additional time instead given to main character Barry (Jay Gallagher) and his story, it's likely that Wyrmwood would have ended up a stronger film overall.

The other key issue here is the somewhat "conveyer belt" approach to introducing and dispatching characters. It's a stumbling block which The Walking Dead has certainly hit at times during its run, but which feels even more problematic in a self-contained feature under a hundred minutes in length such as this.

Wyrmwood ends up a worthwhile addition to the zombie subgenre; even if it doesn't get everything right, there's enough invention here to make it an interesting, entertaining and satisfying watch. It's also an impressive debut for the Roache-Turners on a relatively tiny budget of $160,000, making the brothers two more reasons to keep a close eye on Australia for genuinely exciting cinema in the next few years.




By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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