With modern film franchises churning out sequels at a pretty consistent pace these days it’s sometimes surprising to see a film receive a sequel several years after its release. This long gap can put further expectations on these films, with fans assuming the long time between instalments meaning that the film will be bigger and better than the first. Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is the new follow-up to 2014’s Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, and whilst I can’t compare it to the first film I can say that as a newcomer to this franchise it’s pretty entertaining.
The film is set in Australia, where a zombie virus as swept through society and reduced the survivors to having to adapt in strange ways to get by. For example, the zombies in this film emit some kind of green gas that people have since come to utilise as a source of power. I’m guessing this is something that would have been explained in the first movie, so as it is we’re dropped into a world where zombies are tied up in the back of cars with masks on their faces that collect the gas to power their vehicles. It’s pretty unique and ridiculous, and I kind of like it.
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We get introduced to Rhys (Luke McKenzie), a soldier who’s been tasked with finding survivors and bringing them back to a secret underground bunker, even if that means taking them against their will. Inside this bunker the Surgeon General (Nicholas Boshir) is experimenting on the infected, and the living, to try and find a cure, and is secretly using liquids harvested from people’s brains to keep his own infection at bay.
There’s also Grace (Tasia Zalar) and Maxi (Shantae Barnes-Cowan), a pair of sisters who come into contact with the protagonists from the first movie, Barry (Jay Gallagher) and Brooke (Bianca Bradey). Brooke has been infected by the virus, but has become a strange hybrid creature who can sometimes control her hunger for flesh and can psychically command the zombies. When she loses control for a moment it results in her biting and infecting Grace. When Rhys comes across Grace he takes her prisoner and transports her to the bunker, believing that she could be the key to finding a cure. However, he soon discovers that the people he’s working for are doing awful things, and so teams up with Maxi, Barry, and Brooke to get Grace back before it’s too late.
The first third of Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is easily the weakest part. It spends some time setting all of the important pieces up, jumping from one group of characters to another as it introduces everyone. Whilst this isn’t bad in itself, not a huge amount of new or interesting things happen here, and it’s not until Rhys turns on his employers that the film really starts to get interesting. From here the movie becomes a weird and wild experience that feels like a love-letter to over-the-top action movies and weird horror games.
There aren’t a huge amount of zombie things that really take themselves seriously, due in part to the entire concept of zombies being ridiculous, and Wyrmwood: Apocalypse steers well clear of trying to make a dark, depressing story that has anything to say about society with its themes or commentary. Instead, it uses the zombies and the end of the world scenario as a springboard to do wacky action. I’ve seen some reviewers comparing it to the work of George Miller on Mad Max, and it’s not a bad comparison.
There are a number of moments in this film where the ridiculousness really helped to win me over, where I ended up shaking my head at what I was seeing, but doing it with a smile. Whether it’s the wind machine blowing Brooke’s hair whenever she uses her psychic powers, heads exploding in showers of blood, or a monster that looks like it stepped straight out of Heisenberg’s factory in Resident Evil 8, this film has too much ridiculous charm. That being said, the possessed arm scene is probably the biggest let-down in this department, as it tries to be Evil Dead and doesn’t really succeed.
The acting is pretty decent, and the best performances come from Shantae Barnes-Cowan, who does a good job as a woman out to save her sister, and Nicholas Boshier, who’s a very over-the-top mad scientist type. Most of the film is filled with macho types who spout one-liners and seem to want to deliver every moment in a way that makes them appear cool and heroic, even if it doesn’t quite fit. This results in a film where most of the characters feel two-dimensional. This isn’t necessarily bad though, as you kind of just switch off looking for anything deep or meaningful and just go along with things.
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The biggest letdown for this release, however, is the disc itself. The film is the only thing on the Blu-ray, without any extras or bits and pieces to give viewers extra content. Perhaps we’ve become a bit spoilt with home releases coming with commentaries, trailers, and behind the scenes documentaries and interviews, but the lack of anything on the disc really felt like it let the movie down, and depending on the cost you might want to wait for it to come down in price a bit to justify purchasing it.
Wyrmwood: Apocalypse feels like a cheesy action movie mixed with a bad survival horror game in the best way possible. It’s the kind of film where you don’t have to think and can just switch your brain off for an hour and a half and just enjoy some silly, ridiculous fun.
Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from 101 Films.