Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, the sequel to 2014’s Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, continues to successfully mash together the vibe of Mad Max and the zombie genre. In Apocalypse we follow a soldier who collects survivors for the Surgeon General with the hope of finding a cure and eventually teams up with the survivors of Road of the Dead when he learns the truth about the people he works for.
It’s a gruesome and violent story that owes much to the likes of Mad Max and George Romero, with plenty of original silliness thrown into make it a truly original Australian experience. While not the best zombie movie I’ve seen, it still proved to be wildly entertaining.
Rhys (Luke McKenzie) is a soldier who lives alone in his own zombie proof compound. After survivors in the first film learnt how to harness zombies as a source of energy, Rhys is accustomed to having them around his compound trying to kill him yet providing precious energy as part of his everyday life. He spends his days tracking and capturing survivors for the Surgeon General (Nicholas Boshier) whose underground laboratory is dedicated to finding a cure for the zombie infection.
His life changes, however, when he tracks down Grace (Tasia Zalar) and her sister Maxi (Shantae Barnes-Cowan). After capturing Grace and handing her to the Surgeon General, Rhys now finds himself targeted as Maxi will do anything to get her sister back – and Maxi isn’t alone. Maxi is friends with Barry (Jay Gallagher) and the zombie mind controller Brooke (Bianca Bradey) – both returning characters from Road of the Dead. Barry, Brooke and Maxi aren’t happy with Rhys’ day job, but when Rhys learns of the truth about the Surgeon General and his laboratory, he teams up with his new ‘friends’ to do the right thing.
Wyrmwood: Apocalypse isn’t a serious dramatic story so you won’t find any Oscar-worthy performances here, but that’s not surprising. But considering the wild genre mashup the filmmakers are aiming for – as well a very Australian tone – the acting is surprisingly good and on point.
Of particular note is Luke McKenzie who plays Rhys. He has an Eric Banner-quality about him and does a great job of portraying your stereotypical ‘Australian bloke’ trying to make the best of it in a world gone mad and spends his days doing a dangerous job that others wouldn’t want to do. He might seem like a merciless, cold bounty hunter at the start as he serves his employer almost without question. But we learn through the course of the story that he’s a good guy and willing to do what needs to be done to make things right. McKenzie portrays this character well and is able to carry the film as the main protagonist.
Director Kiah Roache-Turner, also co-writer with his brother Tristan Roache-Turner on both Wyrmwood films, continues the action-packed, gory, Mad Max-esque take on the zombie genre that made the original film a success and worthy of a sequel. Just like Road of the Dead, Armageddon boasts great zombie effects with impressive prosthetics and makeup creating creatures that look fantastic on screen. The costume department also continues to impress with great post-apocalyptic style warrior outfits that seem plausible given the limited availability of resources in a post-apocalyptic world.
Perhaps as a nod to its country of origin, there’s definitely some (ahem) inspiration from the Mad Max franchise, but you won’t see me complaining.
And speaking of Mad Max, Wyrmwood: Apocalypse also boasts some great post-apocalyptic vehicles that have been modified for combat and to run on what I’ll call ‘zombie fuel’. Mix all that with brutal, gory violence and it makes for a fantastic visual spectacle of a world that feels tangible and almost real even though the storytelling style is a bit comedic at times.
That said, the only thing preventing Wyrmwood: Apocalypse from being a great zombie flick is that I felt more could have been done with the story. It’s not a long film but towards the end I found myself feeling fidgety because plot-wise, not much was really happening. Which is fine for the most part because like I said before, this isn’t a serious piece of dramatic work. But when compared to more serious zombie fare like 28 Days Later, you realize a more (forgive the pun) fleshed out plot could have made it more engaging.
However, I will acknowledge Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is a very different style of film than 28 Days Later, one aiming for a much sillier vibe, so maybe I’m asking too much for a film that’s already trying to straddle multiple genres at once.
Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is a worthy zombie adventure that merits adding to the watchlist of zombie movie enthusiasts and for those who enjoyed the original, which it holds up to quite well. Though I wish the filmmakers had done more with the impressive world they’ve created in this franchise, the impressive costumes, zombie make-up and effects, props, and solid Australian cast make this an easy film to kick back with and enjoy with a cold Australian beer.