By: Brendan Graham
Zombie movies: I love them, you love them - there is just so much to enjoy about them as a horror fan. Intense life and death stakes, the human element of trust and betrayal, and, of course, the gut-wrenching gore and brutality. From the sharp social commentary within the Romero zombie universe to the high body count of splattering fun mayhem of films like Zombieland, we have many zombie creations to devour, hungrily. With so many flesh-eating creature features out there, you have to bring something new to the table or just be an absolute blast to keep your audience’s attention. WYRMWOOD: APOCALYPSE brings mostly the latter, but enough of the former to whet your appetite for fresh, flesh-ripping goodness.
In this fast-paced sequel to 2015’s WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD, we are quickly thrown back into a world that has been ravaged by a virus that turns humans into fuel-belching, killing machines. We are introduced to Rhys (Luke McKenzie) who happens to be the twin brother of a character from the first film. He has created a fortress in the middle of a field, surrounded by the undead. He is a self-sufficient survivalist, using the unusual property of the undead to his advantage, to fuel his vehicles, his grill, and to power his intricate water system to grow his plants.
He is given the assignment to hunt down a hybrid - a half-human, half-zombie girl named Grace (Tasia Zalar). After capturing her, he delivers her to the nefarious and show-stealing “Surgeon General” (Nicholas Boshier), who claims he is working on a cure for the virus, and assures him that no harm will come to her. Shortly after making his delivery, Grace’s sister Maxi (Shantae Barnes Cowan) arrives, and shakes up Rhys’ understanding of what his bosses are actually doing with the people he delivers. Rhys now must team with the people he has been told to hunt in order to take down the operation he had been aiding all this time.
For starters, this film is an absolute blast. I have a soft spot in my horror-loving heart for midnight features (grindhouse-style), and WYRMWOOD: APOCALPYSE wastes no time in getting into the delightful, crowd-pleasing carnage. The film knows it's over the top, and silly at times, but it doesn’t care, it wears it as a badge of honor. This low-budget indie feature has incredible makeup effects, and a very unique look to their infected. The gore is absolutely spectacular, with splatters, headshots, and chunks of neck meat being torn out aplenty. The film is also well shot and arranged, and screams with Mad Max inspiration. Fast camera movements, and frantic cuts that don’t distract, but in fact, enhance the action on screen add to the film's allure. Siblings Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner work well together bringing their world to life efficiently, and effectively. The film oozes with atmosphere and grime - it’s a real treat for splatter fans.
The cast does a decent job, although some of the dialogue comes off too hokey with some characters. Nicholas Boshier is delightfully bonkers as the “Surgeon General,” equal parts sleazy, malicious, and witty. He is easily my favorite part of the movie - from his outrageous scene with VR Goggles controlling a zombie monster to him snorting his “cure” powder from the table like he’s Scarface. I found myself chuckling at his antics, and in awe of how diabolical his character really was. The action scenes are well designed and clever, using set pieces and zombies as ammunition in assault sequences that are high octane and fun. The comedy elements of the movie don’t detract from the action, and instead enhance it (very much like in Shaun of the Dead).
I think where the movie fizzles out a bit for me is the lack of a more established story. We’ve got a fairly basic course of direction, take this person here, rescue this person, kill this guy, etc. It’s not fleshed out enough to be dynamic, and it relies too much on what they already established in the first film. As much as I praise the intentional goofiness, the score of the film was distracting and often obnoxiously silly, and in some scenes, it often didn’t fit the mood.
WYRMWOOD: APOCALYPSE is a fitting sequel that doesn’t reach the same heights as the first film in the series, but leaves fans hungry enough for the eventual third film. The cast works well together, the action is well-choreographed and the effects are top-notch. I had a lot of fun with this one, and if you’re open to grindhouse-style zombie goodness, I think you’ll enjoy it too.
WYRMWOOD: APOCALYPSE splatters onto VOD platforms on April 14th.