“Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead” revives zombies

To most Americans, the zombie genre is a little played-out. The fad was good for a while, but these days, zombies are a little passe. Even “The Walking Dead” doesn’t quite scratch that itch for some.

However, the Australians haven’t gotten the memo. Still making the festival circuit, “Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead” is a mind-bogglingly awesome zombie movie. Named for the mythical meteor heralding the end of the world in the book of Revelations, Wyrmwood is superficially just like any other zombie movie out there.

The basic plot device of the zombie apocalypse is almost cookie-cutter. A couple of ordinary people who didn’t otherwise know each other get thrown into an apocalypse scenario and need to sink or swim to survive.

While the synopsis may be yawn-inducing, five minutes into the film it becomes abundantly apparent that this movie is something different. While on the surface things are normal, the quality is stunning. Almost indescribable, it seemed like I was watching an actual zombie movie for the first time, and all other zombie movies before this were shallow parodies.

One thing that Wyrmwood did better than any other movie is to show just how absolutely bleak and soul-crushing the zombie apocalypse can be. Plenty of people would celebrate at the thought of zombies running rampant and immediately run to Home Depot to get their murder on.

Wyrmwood, on the other hand? An apocalypse isn’t supposed to be a fun adventure. One of the most soul-crushing scenes involves a survivor describing how his zombified brother kept following him through the forest for hours, ambling along, zombie shuffle style. Even comprehending the kind of pain the character must have been going through is difficult to do, to be followed by a brother, a family member, a loved one who aren’t themselves anymore, in an almost leisurely pace. It was quite unsettling and really made me sit and think about what was going on in the story, and what if I were in that situation. Pretty much all you can ask from an awesome movie.

The storytelling in Wyrmwood is unbeatable. From the get-go, the film draws the audience in and never lets go, even at the end. I am very hard-pressed to think of a film that was this well done. All the usual zombie story elements are present. The DIY ethic is strong, homemade zombie armor and zombie vehicles reminiscent of older George Romero films make a definite appearance. The zombies have a unique aspect of being slow staggering zombies during the day, but fast, running zombies at night.

Not content in rehasing the usual zombie tropes better than anybody has before, Wyrmwood ventures far into unknown territory. One of the most striking aspects of Wyrmwood is the world built within the story. The military is suspiciously knowledgable about how the zombies work, and mysterious medical researchers only serve to raise more questions.

Questions are the order of the day when it comes to Wyrmwood. Numerous aspects of the story remain unanswered at the end of the film. Unlike most stories in modern culture, Wyrmwood does not hold the audience’s hand, blatantly explaining every little thing. Viewers are tossed into an incredibly complex story with not much information to go on. More questions remain unanswered at the end of the film than were answered during. Not surprisingly, a sequel has been announced.

There may be a definite cultural aspect for an American reviewer that makes Wyrmwood that much better than other zombie flicks. Wyrmwood is incredible Australian, without being hackneyed and silly, not one person says “G’day, mate.” Australian badassery permeates Wyrmwood from beginning the end.

In an American movie, a suicidial hero, despondent over the loss of his family would probably be talked to, with a heartfelt speech reducing him to tears. Wyrmwood has none of this. Punch that sad sack in the jaw and beat him up until he feels better.

For the fan of zombie movies, Wyrmwood is an absolute must-see. Normal adjectives don’t do the film justice, I only wish I could make up some new words that could truly describe how incredible Wyrmwood is.

In my opinion, it’s the single best zombie movie made thus far, better than Romero’s films, Zombieland or anything else out there. Absolutely brilliant. Go watch it now. As in right now.