Aussie zombie sequel Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is a bucketload of bloody fun.  

When the Roache-Turner brothers made their debut movie Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead in 2014, they painted the screen red and gave audiences an all-new brand of zombie movie. A quote on the film’s poster described it as “Mad Max meets Dawn of the Dead”, and as though they kicked those films around in the dirt, the result was one of the most energised and unique Ozploitation flicks in quite some time.

Fans have been chomping at the bit for a sequel, and always eager to please, Kiah (writer/director) and his brother Tristan (writer/producer) have delivered the long-awaited follow-up, Wyrmwood: Apocalypse. Initially conceived as a TV series, the film continues the story and introduces a stable of new characters.

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, like Mad Max, set the scene and depicted a world gone wrong. It laid the foundations for a much bigger story and expounded a new cinematic zombie with flammable blood – a natural resource in a world depleted of technology. The story saw a mechanic searching for his kidnapped sister while fighting off hordes of flesh-eating dead.

Wyrmwood: Apocalypse provides a small expansion upon the original story. After discovering his employers are experimenting on humans, a soldier named Rhys (Luke McKenzie) leads a rebellion against them, with the help of a group of survivors. Barry and Brooke, the aforementioned brother and sister, hold the key to defeating the evil Surgeon General.

The result is a more polished movie, which recapitulates the original story while expanding the universe and establishing Wyrmwood as a franchise. And it’s a bucketload of bloody fun!

Kiah Roache-Turner recently revealed to STACK that most of the original film was shot in his mother’s backyard, and while the overall scope of the sequel’s production design remains very tightly contained, there’s a much greater vision and breadth to the storytelling.

The filmmaking siblings are no longer rookies, and their efficiency and know-how serves them well. With two features under their belt (also 2018’s Nekrotronic) they have more focus on character and narrative, while saving the really good stuff (i.e. the gross stuff) for the moments that count the most.

Luke McKenzie is great as the rugged hero type, Rhys, whose character lives amongst the walking dead and uses them for training purposes. He embraces the role with absolute stoicism and does, indeed, reflect Mel Gibson in Mad Max. Also wonderful is Shantae Barnes-Cowan as Rhys’s captive turned sidekick, whose story arc mirrors that of the original movie.

“Fan service” is underrated and Wyrmwood: Apocalypse makes no apologies for giving the target audience what they want. And while it may not be the Mad Max 2 that the brothers probably hope it will be, it serves as a deliciously depraved middle-act to what is destined to be a rip-snorting trilogy.

Zombies attack viciously and humans react frantically, and therein lies the crux of Wyrmwood: Apocalypse. It is, for lack of a better comparison, Australia’s answer to Evil Dead 2, whereby the humour of the original is amplified and the outrageousness of the story embellished. And with that analogy in mind, the promise of something entirely fresh and unexpected in a third instalment is something to look forward to indeed.

Interview with Kiah Roache-Turner

In cinemas: February 10, 2022
Starring: Luke McKenzie, Shantae Barnes-Cowan, Jay Gallagher
Directed by: Kiah Roache-Turner

Wyrmwood at JB Hi-Fi