In a horde of zombie imitators, it can be hard for the cream of the crop to rise to the top. Many zombie flicks are devoid of creativity or just plain incompetent. When a genre becomes saturated, it often falls to the director or the marketing department to distinguish their film through its marketing campaign. Jaded horror fans know that impressive trailers don’t necessarily guarantee quality. This is what makes Wyrmwood such a pleasant surprise. After a trailer filled with bombastic quotes from internet personalities and film festivals, the movie actually delivers.
Wyrmwood has an excellent blend of violence and character. Opening with a bloody attention-grabbing action scene, things then slow down to flesh out the characters. The budget is robust enough so that the effects are impressively gooey. The lulls in action don’t feel like an excuse to conserve money but to genuinely lift the material and advance the characters. Being filmed in Australia means that the scenery is interesting and isolated. This gives you that classic “Mad Max” feel to it that is proclaimed by the trailer and generally sought after by most zombie films.
What really impressed me and ultimately elevates the movie is this perfect blend of action and characterization. This is a balance that I find most zombie films fail to achieve. In Wyrmwood, there are human moments sprinkled throughout with introspective monologues investing you in its heros. The central character of Barry is likable and awesome. He has several “fuck yeah” moments. There are supporting characters but they come and go which surprised me. I would get used to a character and before I knew it they would be gone. The writing and acting is extremely effective. You don’t need a lot of screen time with a character to become fond of them. The movie isn’t funny per se, but the blend of horror and comedy is perfect. The writers don’t go for the laugh, they allow events to present the humor naturally.
I would have to say my favorite performance of the film is from Leon Burchill who plays the fool, Benny. Benny isn’t very bright, but he’s loyal. He sweats a lot and makes mistakes but he means well. Burchill plays him with just the right mix of earnestness and idiocy. This character also shows how humor can work for a film instead of working against it. (Pay attention George Lucas and Michael Bay) Basically Benny is kinda like Hurley from LOST except Australian and running from zombies.
At first the film appeared to be an extended episode of The Walking Dead with no plot or direction, but then it started to present unique ideas that set it apart. One character develops unnatural abilities. A compelling twist on the film’s zombie is introduced. The creatures themselves look great. There is a strange gas that emanates from their mouths that becomes significant later on. They make scary screeching sounds. They have a distinctive hue to their eyes. It all plays into the story and is integrated well. These zombies are fucking cool. If the film doesn’t hook you right away, you should be on-board after twenty minutes or so.
If I had to point out any weaknesses it might be the slow start. The movie appears like it might be a run of the mill zombie film with no direction at first but this isn’t the case. Ending with a cliffhanger that could lead to further films, Wyrmwood has me excited to see where things go.
There’s a bunch out there and it’s hard to stand out from the pack, but Wyrmwood is worth your time. The action is entertaining, the comedy is funny and the story is fresh.