Horror festival favorite knockabout labor of love Aussie debut of brothers Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner, WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD (2014) kicks off already at risk of becoming a bit too WALKING DEAD meets ballsy-wallsy Aussie dingo-aitcha-baby macho, with so much wobbly-booted whiplash camera movement, slow-mo splatter, mud flecks, grime streaks, diesel oil drips and blood splatter (both dried and fresh) coating every makeshift black spray-painted football pad surface that pretty soon a little spot of cleanliness would go a long way, even if just for contrast. At times, with nary a wowser to bounce shit offa there's a bit too-much macabre laddie deadpan humor, but it all eventually locks into place and once the momentum hits, you're in, thrice-buckled to the boosted ute, mate.
So we're left with, then is real, more NIGHT OF THE COMET or old AIP-Corman budgeting tricks, i.e. you imply the zombie attacks from other films are taking place at the same time your own movie is going on. You borrow our collective cinema memory. But I ain't whingin'. I'd rather WYRM be AIP-COMET honest than simply packed with the CGI macro-calamity and hence part of our post-Syfy channel era. Plus the whole doing experiments with the brains and blood of the immune in relation to the zombies having a cool jet black humor superhero side effect of the damned and Brooke's torturously slow race against time trying to telepathically control tied up zombies into patiently cutting their way out of straps, is all genuinely new to the genre, commenting perhaps on the nature of video games (and perhaps their macabre future, as in GAMER) rather than just trying duplicate them, i.e. to duplicate movies based on games that were trying to duplicate movies in the first place, like RESIDENT EVIL, movies which themselves were copies of earlier movies, and down the rabbit hole until we're back at square one, the terror of children worrying their dad will turn into a monster again once he spends half his paycheck at the local tavern, like a Jekyll/Hyde fundamental human split we all still carry like an archaic memory of the days before we learned how to start fires.
And then, just when it was getting so badass, it's over. Needing perhaps more crowdfunding to continue on into sequels. Well they should get it, as this WYRM may digest the same sources as all the other Romero-zombie rules (the head shot thing, after all, wasn't part of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, which came out the same time as DAY OF THE, and had zombies talk and be obsessed with eating "braaainnnns"), it does generate some interesting mutations and manages to do quite a lot with actually very little, thanks to all that grime, solid acting and Michael Lira's droning junkyard 'Stravinsky meets the Cramps at a John Zorn concert' score. I kept hoping for a didgeridoo in there, all low and alien and mean and maybe processed through flanger. It didn't come, but I still liked WYRMWOOD. Give it a squizz when yakka's got you stonkered and you need to rip a rollie and coldie. Shout's Blu-ray has an insightful-Turner commentary, deleted scenes, and an array of helpful bis--crowdfunding trailers, pitch meetings, that should be a great little crash course in using social media to get your scrappy little horror-action movie off the ground. But more importantly, the Blu-ray has the movie, and a full bore kickass stereo mix all but screaming for max volume and/or kickass headphones when the rest of the household is at peace. No didgeridoo, though.
And the movie itself... ah yes, what is it the Aussies say about a nice buzz and low expectations? Nothing - because it's such a natural state for them they don't know any other way. And that is just one reason why we still love them, despite everything... and by 'everything' I do mean Yahoo Serious.
(2014) Dir David Michôd
Ozploitation films set in the endless miles of Australia's interior, the harsh, alien, truly strange Outback, has--beginning in American minds with MAD MAX and CROCODILE DUNDEE and cumulating in the torturous WOLF CREEK but with ON THE BEACH never far from our minds, apocalypse wise. It's left many of us in the States declaring we do want to visit Australia, just not go farther away than a few miles from the coast (and then not too deep in the ocean, cuzza shahks). To judge by films, in the Outback the apocalypse seems to be eternally happening. Inhospitable and strange, the Outback sucks in whole swaths of 19th century schoolgirls, and kangaroos and wobbly-doos (all the Australian wildlife has great weird names reflecting perhaps some hybrid of English and Aborigine in the distant past) run wild, and there's insufficient petrol reserves or manpower to police the whole damn wasteland area. THE ROVER is set in some future where military patrols try to keep the peace, but the best they can do is lumber along down the endless highways in the direction of the criminals, driving through the parking lots of any motels along the way, occasionally shooting someone or getting shot.
But t's a chance for Robert Pattinson to stretch his limber chops as a contorted half-starved young snot who for some reason rocks a Southern (as in the USA) accent and hooks up with a John Lurie-esquely taciturn rogue (Guy Peace) who has such a homicidal fixation on his car that you just know some little Iowa State Quarterly-esque twist is coming. The deeply seedy impoverished look suffers from being too earnest and downbeat and what's worse, the way--as in MAX--this collapsing civilization works by some seriously inconsistent rules. A dwarf arms dealer is dumb enough to take a lone wild-eyed customer to a secluded room, hand him a gun and ammo and then tell him he can't afford to buy it, like he was just dropped down into the Outback from frickin' Dumbville. Another man wisely works behind thick walls with automat-style sliding doors for items bought, but when they need gas, he sells them a five gallon jug, which should be about enough to get them just smack dab in the middle of nowhere before they run out. How these guys ever keep these vehicles going over these vast distances seems a little vague. Out here in the perimeter there are no hospitals or AAA. A person could die by hitting his head on a rock after diving in a lake, and only Toni Collette would ever know (as in JAPANESE STORY).
Pattinson, hair cut lice inspection short, is one weird little freak and this role. His whole body taught and lean and crouched like his hamstrings were all shortened by a sadistic Gepetto, a runt of a litter born hunched up to deflect kicks, his big T-shirt barely fitting over his lanky, underfed trunk. But to me his role here is one more link in the chain that will one day show modern naysayers that he, like his TWILIGHT co-star Kristen Stewart, one of the more underrated actors of his or any generation. Not that this makes it any more pleasant of an experience, becoming instead as glum as THE ROAD but with a worse smell. You know that moldy smell some old cars get, like a tent left too long rolled up in the basement? That dirty, moldy smell? Well, the whole movie smells that way. It's the most malodorous film I've seen since the recent Blu-ray of CONVOY, which also had that vaguely sulphuric tang of hot asphalt and dust, diesel gas exhaust hanging breezeless alongside moldy naugahyde and motor oil. If that's what good literature does, prithee to what end? There was never a doubt why the MAD MAX movies existed--for drive-in thrills! But whither our ROVER? For a few weird twists that would seem interesting only to someone who's been in a grad school fiction workshop so long they're afraid of admitting their own un-PC urge to shoot people and guzzle amber fluids. Better there be a red-tinted desert shotgun ancient cinema flooded with sand odyssey like in John Stanley's DUST DEVIL (set in South Africa, but the vibe's the same) 'cuz it at least has a hot chick, tantric voodoo sex, and some metaphysical weirdness underneath the sand and blood surface.
But one thing Australia did right, mate, was old Croc Dundee, the Jack Burton of the Outback, and if you go to the land down under where women grow and men thunder, and they ask about me, how's old Erich the Rah-Shmerick doin' or what's Erich into these days, you tell 'em he's hunky doro and preaching the Crocodile Dundee (also Burt Reynolds) non-duality approach to self-defense in the face of evil, a philosophy that might have spared Billy Jack, Sgt. York, The Quiet Man, and all those other game-as-Ned Kelly but pacifist dubbos a lot of soul-searching. Croc teaches that even going lemony berko on some shickered yobbo can go fair dinkum... by which I mean, the man beyond duality does everything with love, even a knockabout blue with a big smoke bounce. Just avoid wallies... in any language. For not even wildmen can withstand their withering mundanity, reducing even the grimiest philosophy to a T-shirt platitude and crossing guard coloring book tie-in. If you doubt, just ask the Men without Hats to make you a vegemite sandwich, and take cover.