Thursday, July 30, 2015

WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD (2015)

WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD (2015) 

Label: Scream Factory I IFC Midnight 

Release Date: August 4th 2015
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated 

Duration: 98 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 7.1 Surround, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Kiah Roache-Turner
Cast: Bianca Bradey, Jay Gallagher, Keith Agius, Leon Burchill, Berryn Schwerdt, Luke McKenzie

This low-budget slice of Ozploitation zombie-apocalyptic cinema is high-octane and gore-soaked right from the opening scenes, a seizure inducing action-sequence with kinetic editing that throws up right into a hornet's nest of gnashing zombie teeth. Then it takes a breather to set-up the characters of the film and explain how the zombie apocalypse started, sort of. 

We have a family man named Barry (Jay Gallagher) at home with his smart-mouthed teen daughter and lovely wife, miles away his photographer sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey) is in a garage shooting a model painted up in Day of the Dead make-up, and an wise-cracking Aborigine Benny (Leon Burchill) who is on a hunt in the Outback with his brother. That night a comet breaks-up over Earth and just about everyone on Earth is transformed into fart-mouthed zombies who crave human flesh. 

Obviously not everyone one is transformed into the undead, a certain select few seem to have an immunity to the plague, such is the case with Benny, Brooke and Bennie. Early on Brooke is kidnapped by what seems to be the military and brought to the lab of a mad scientist known only as The Doctor (Berryn Schwerdt), a strange bird in a bright yellow contamination suit who keeps a mix of infected and the immune chained to the walls of his lab, carrying out demented experiments, maybe meant to save the world, or maybe he's just an evil loon. The Doc loves to play awful pop music while prancing around the lab, injecting fluid from the zombies brain straight into Brooke's brain, not sure what the intended effect was but I am pretty sure it wasn't meant to give her mind control over the zombies, which it does. 

While Brooke's left on her own for a bit both Benny and Barry must kill their loved ones who have become infected and eventually meet up with each other and then find a shack where three survivors are holed up, lead by Frank (Keith Agius). Teaming-up with the trio they group discover that for unknown reasons - there's a lot of those in this movie - all fuel has become inert and will not combust - rendering all vehicle useless, until they realize they can harness the methane-spewing zombies as a fuel source, brilliant. At this point the boys set out in search of Barry's sister and must contend with not just the vapor-mouthed chompers running around but military who just seem to want to utilize them for their twisted experiments, they don't seem to keen on saving any survivors really.

Had a lot of fun with this one, there's still some life left in the land of the undead, particularly in Australia where they now how to make a kinetic and gore-soaked zombie-apocalypse movie, complete with Raimi-esque armor-up montages, the aesthetic of the film definitely has an old school Sam Raimi by way of Peter Jackson vibe about it, with a smattering of Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake thrown in, plus it has that weird aesthetic that you can only find in Australia, a visual flavor that adds a lot of punch to the movie. 

Thankfully there's a crocs ass full of practical special effects on display with loads of pulp gore blowing-up in your face, this is a very bloody movie, with the only negative really being the digital head shots we so often see in these low-budget movies, it's forgivable but it's there just the same. The look of the zombies brought to mind possessed Ash from Evil Dead II with the pronounced, sunken-in eye-sockets and the white of the eyes, with tiny pin-prick pupils, very simple but effective, I also enjoyed the way the vapor-mouthed creatures screeched, very similar to the way the Bennell screeched at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), again, simple but effective.

The cast are pretty one-dimensional with not a lot of depth and that too is something I can look past with a zombie movie. Barry a man of few words but a true badass, Brooke is a tattooed ass-kicker, and Benny is the wisecracking comedy relief. The military and the scientist are just evil for the sake of being evil, without the baggage of having to state that it's for the greater good every five seconds, nope, they're just bad people. 

Filmed over the course of four years the fact that this is as fun, let alone coherent, is quite an accomplishment in my book. While the budgetary constraints of the production shows through it's easy to forgive a few small flaws all in the name of a badass ozploitation zombie movie, I really loved this damn movie. 

Audio/Video: Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of another IFC MIdnight and Scream Factory team-up, we get a very strong HD transfer framed in the original widescreen aspect ratio with some solid eye-popping 1080p goodness, the close-up shows a fantastic amount of detail on the characters faces, you can see every pore and glistening bead of sweat up close and personal. The color scheme seems to shift a few times throughout the movie, one dusky scene in particlar is desaturated to near black and white, but overall this one is vibrant and the colors are strong with reds and green popping off the screen.

Audio chores are capabley handled by an English language DTS-HD MA 7.1 Surround Sound mix which is aggressive and powerful with strong use of the surrounds, creating an experience that envelopes you, dialogue is clean and clear and the score from composer Michael Lira is top-notch. There's also a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo audio option and optional English SDH subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extras this one packs quite a bit onto the single Blu-ray disc beginning with an audio commentary by the very enthusiastic Roache-Turner Brothers who clearly loved making the movie, this was quite obviously passion project for the spirited brothers. 

As this was a crowd-funded film we get a selection of material designed to help raise funds for the film including an eight-minute teaser scene and two Wyrmwood Production Pitches totaling about ten-minutes in length. There are also twenty-minutes of deleted scenes, a collection of storyboards, a pair of trailers for the movie, and a forty-nine minute making of doc with loads of behind-the-scene footage. The packaging includes a cardboard slipcover for the Blu-ray case and a sleeve of reversible artwork.  

Special Features
- Audio Commentary With The Roache-Turner Brothers
- The Wyrmdiaries: Behind The Scenes Of WYRMWOOD Featurette (49 Mins) HD 
- 2 Crowdfunding Videos: Wyrmwood Production Pitch (10 Mins) HD 
- Deleted Scenes (20 Mins) HD 
- 7-Minute Teaser Scene (8 Mins) HD 
- Storyboards By The Director (2 Mins, 19 Images) HD
- 2 Trailers (4 Mins) HD 

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is a pretty fantastic slice of undead Ozploitation cinema, it comes at you fast and hard with a action-packed mix of horror, gore and comedy all wrapped up in a nice Blu-ray package with a very nice A/V presentation and entertaining bonus content from IFC Midnight and Scream Factory, this is by far the best zombie film I have seen this year. 3.5/5

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