Wyrmwood: Apocalypse

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Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is a sequel to the 2015 zombie flick Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead. You don't need to have seen that film to enjoy this one, since it has mostly new characters. What they have in common is a sensibility. Both are unapologetic undead thrill rides, filled with bloody violence and tongue-in-cheek humor. The zombie subgenre has been pretty self-serious in the last decade. Getting a movie with an intentional dose of goofiness is a welcome change of pace.

Rhys (Luke McKenzie) is a soldier who prowls the Australian wasteland trapping the undead. He takes them to a makeshift research facility where the so-called Surgeon General (Nicholas Boshier) performs heinous-looking procedures on them, hoping to find a cure. One of the people Rhys captures is a young human/zombie hybrid named Grace (Tasia Zalar). Her sister Maxi (Shantae Barnes-Cowan) finds Rhys and demands that he go back to help rescue her, as she may hold the key to eradicating the virus. Bianca Bradey returns as Brooke, the zombie with mind control powers over other undead individuals. She joins in the effort to rescue Grace.

Story is not the biggest concern Wyrmwood: Apocalypse has. In fact, it's extremely thin, here mostly to allow for one over-the-top action sequence after another. That's the film's biggest limitation. With more concentration on plotting and characterization, this could have gone down in the annals as a zombie movie classic. The mayhem is here, you just don't get much of a reason to care about anybody or anything on a substantive level. Great potential lies in the revelation of what the Surgeon General is really up to. A bit more development of that idea would have made a huge difference.

The dominant mayhem is mighty fun, though. Director Kiah Roache-Turner gives the movie a fast-paced, pedal-to-the-floor style. The carnage is often injected with humor, allowing it to be gross, yet also funny enough to avoid being outright disgusting. The undead are blown up, dismembered, disfigured, and disemboweled in all kinds of outrageous ways. Even when it's not being gory, Wyrmwood: Apocalypse moves like a bullet train, having its characters spit hysterically sarcastic dialogue at each other and presenting manic chase scenes. The best part is the wild climax, during which the Surgeon General remotely controls a behemoth, while Brooke uses her powers to fight back against it. This is one of the loopiest horror sequences my eyes have witnessed in a while.

I enjoyed Wyrmwood: Apocalypse at its chosen level. Slickly photographed and boasting excellent production design, the movie works as a short-and-punchy horror-comedy.

out of four

Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is unrated, but contains graphic bloody violence, and strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 28 minutes.