Review: Wyrmwood Apocalypse

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Shantae Barnes-Cowan as Maxi in Wyrmwood Apocalypse. Photo by Emma Bjorndahl.

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Directed by Kiah Roache-Turner
Written by Kiah Roache-Turner and Tristan Roache-Turner
Produced by Blake Northfield and Tristan Roache-Turner
Starring Shantae Barnes-Cowan, Luke McKenzie, Nicholas Boshier, Bianca Bradey, Jay Gallagher, Tasia Zaler and Jake Ryan

A hellish, blood-soaked thrill ride!


by MATTHEW EELES

No one else in Australia is making movies like brothers Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner.

While their films would have fit right in during the Ozploitation movement of the 70s and 80s, the Roache-Turner’s contemporary approach to their craft is a unique gift to audiences hungry for local films with a wild edge. Regardless of how well their work is received critically, a new Roache-Turner joint guarantees explosive, outlandish, playfull, roaring, no holds barred, laugh-out-loud, batshit-crazy fun.      

And that’s exactly what the brothers have delivered with their latest film, Wyrmwood Apocalypse – the long-overdue sequel to their spectacular and raw 2014 feature film debut, Wyrmwood Road of the Dead. As promised on the box, Wyrmwood Apocalypse is a hellish, blood-soaked thrill ride, which, just like the original, moves at such a rapid pace, there’s rarely a moment to catch your breath.

Wyrmwood Apocalypse picks up soon after the events of the original. Brother and sister duo Barry (Jay Gallagher) and Brooke (Bianca Brady) have joined forces with fellow rebels – sisters Maxi (Shantae Barnes-Cowan) and Grace (Tasia Zalar). When Grace is captured by soldier Rhys (Luke McKenzie) and delivered to The Colonel (Jake Ryan) and his villainous leader, The Surgeon (Nicholas Boshier), Maxi and her new rebel friends must slaughter their way to her rescue. So much more happens in Wyrmwood Apocalypse with more twists and turns than a pair of wrestling snakes, but to say any more would ruin the fun. 

If Road of the Dead took its style cues from George Miller’s original Mad Max, Apocalypse riffs on Fury Road with a narrative emphasis on modified vehicular rigs that growl like rabid creatures, accelerated car chases and sensational rollovers, all bathed in a hue of orange and blue. There’s keg loads of blood and guts, exploding heads and severed limbs too. Equally impressive is the note-perfect humour – A frozen zombie desperate for a taste of toe is a genuinely gut busting moment.

Jay Gallagher as Barry, Bianca Bradey as Brooke and Luke McKenzie as Rhys. Photo by Thom Davies.

All of that humour would be worth very little if it wasn’t for the enjoyable performances. Apocalypse gets better as the film goes on thanks to the depth these talented actors give to their very likable characters. We expect the likes of Bradey, Zalar, Gallagher, McKenzie, Ryan and Boshier to give great performances considering their experience, but it’s newcomer Shantae Barnes-Cowan who steals the show as the steely Maxi. Shantae is certainly one to keep an eye on.  

As well as being a rollicking good time, Apocalypse is also a major technical achievement. You’ll be awed by the world class makeup effects on display here, but keep an ear out for Lauchlan Harris’ impeccable sound design. From the swallowing of a pill, to the thud of an airgun, every sound pulls you in and keeps you engaged in the action.

The horror genre is often guilty of trying to over politicise things, often with minimal impact. As much as Road of the Dead emphasised toxic masculinity within Australian culture, and played on true blue caricatures, Apocalypse is much more subdued when it comes to political subtexts. While it does touch on authoritarian heavy handedness when it comes to, ahem, curing and managing a virus, the Roache-Turner’s never over complicate their main objective, which is to have as much fun as possible.

If Apocalypse is anything, it’s a joyous celebration of Australian cinema, and the fun that can be had while making a movie. Along with their cast and crew, the Roache-Turner’s passion and enthusiasm for exciting cinema bursts through the screen.

It’s a cliché to say this, but Wyrmwood Apocalypse truly is the most fun you’ll have watching an Australian movie all year.

Wyrmwood: Apocalypse will screen at the Sydney Film Festival Saturday, 6 November. An official release date will be announced soon.

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2 thoughts on “Review: Wyrmwood Apocalypse

    • Screened at Brisbane International Film Festival on the weekend, multiple screenings this weekend at Sydney Film Festival, followed by Sydney Science Fiction Film Festival and MonsterFest all over the country up until December 2021.

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