Posts Tagged ‘mad scientist

28
May
18

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014) High Octane Corpse Grinder

 

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a Primal Root written review

“You get to see what the Adults do after dark…” – The Doctor, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead

The zombie apocalypse has been done to fucking death. I used to eat every film, every book, every piece of pop culture I could find related to the re-animated, flesh craving undead ever since I unearthed a VHS copy of both George A. Romero’s classics Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978) from a  bargain bin inside the Tallahassee Mall back in the early to mid 90’s when the zombie genre was far from thriving. I was infatuated, tracking down as much as I could back int he day before there was a computer, let alone the internet, in our house. Fast forward over twenty years later, and not only has the living dead genre risen from it’s shallow grave and crawled back to life, but the hordes of these shambling corpses have practically taken over pop culture to point they are appearing of throw blankets, children’s films and are the central issue in long running, incredibly repetitious television programs.

To me, the zombie genre has been irrelevant and tiresome for decades. The last time a living dead film really got me revved up it w=as probably Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, when a filmmaker decided to create an updated version of the creature and new rules were invented. It livened things up and gave us something new and truly interesting within a genre that was just beginning to come back into sharp focus within the cinematic landscape. But, before long, it was the same old horde of zombies, following the same old rules, chasing the same rag tag group of thieves and misfits. It’s tired, done, to death, and no real fresh blood has been injected to give this world something to interest me.

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That all came to an end the other night when I sat down to a viewing of the 2014 film entitled Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead. An Australian independent horror film that took nearly four years to create and touts itself as”Dawn of the Dead Meets Mad Max.” The film has more unrestrained energy, ferocious creativity and enthusiasm for the genre than I’ve come across since Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive aka: Brain Dead from 1992 and Drew Bolduc & Dan Nelson’s The Taint from 2011.  Wyrmwood is the living dead film I have been craving for 25 year, a film so fun, so heartfelt and so genre defying while staying true to it’s spirit, it not only revived my love and hope for a genre that has been the lackluster, stale floating turd of horror for far too long. Wyrmwood is the new high watermark of the genre. Seriously, it is THAT good. This mother fucker IS the fiery, fresh shot of new blood the likes of which I never even dreamed I’d see again.

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Wyrmood: Road of the Dead starts off on familiar territory, we are introduced to our central characters which will be Barry (Jay Gallagher) a bearded, well built handy man, husband and father of a cute and rambunctious young daughter who is woken out of a sound sleep by the sounds of a society starting to collapse just outside the door to his warm suburban home. Brooke (Bianca Bradey), his sister who happens to be a makeup artist working on a photo shoot with two other young ladies when the outbreak begins, and Benny (Leon Burchill) who is on a camping trip with his mates when they all witness the plethora of shooting starts lighting up the sky the night the outbreak begins. All prove to be more than capable of defending themselves against these living dead, human meat chomping, ghouls, but it soon becomes apparent that these zombies are not playing by the familiar rules set up by George Romero 40 years ago. No, these foul breathed carnivorous creeps are something entirely different.

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Sure, some of the same rules apply, obliterate their head and they drop like a sack of monkey cum, but there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to how people are becoming infected, not only that, but there’s a strange new mystery revolving around which certain machines have stopped functioning. The story splits off into two different tales as we follow Barry and Brooke on their struggles to survive. After Barry loses both his wife and daughter, he is left suicidal, but soon begins to cross paths with other survivors, discovers answers to mysteries about their current biblical Doomsday situation, and steadily gains back his will to live by harnessing his grief and rage into being proactive and moving forward into this new, horrifying world while trying to protect those around him. Brooke, on the other hand, is abducted, drugged and experimented on by a disco dancing wack job in a hazmat suit who is part of a roving pack of the Australian military, it would seem, who continuously inject her with a serum  created using the blood of those infected with this reanimated virus which results in some very unexpected consequences.

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If you think any of what I’ve told you above is a spoiler, trust me, they are not by a LONG shot. I went into Wyrmwood knowing nothing at all about it and the film left me absolutely thrilled and slack jawed by it’s immense creativity and bold new and totally out of left field rules. On several occasions Wyrmwood completely inverts audience expectations and leaves you wondering just where the Hell the filmmakers are planning to take you. It’s a spirit and kind of maniacal glee in a team of creative thinkers always one upping themselves and deciding to crash right ahead down the road less traveled and blazing a whole new path that they know will leave the audience on the edge of their seats and smiling ear to ear. Several time during our viewing, Bootsie Kidd and I turned and looked at one another, eyes wide, gapping smiles and laughing with absolute joy at just how insanely intelligent, hilarious and deeply human this Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead was. Not afraid to introduce likable characters and then rip them away from us brutally, and often with fates worse than death, and allowing viewers to feel the gravity of these losses. Sometimes you might laugh at the absurdity of the loss, but there’s almost always a moment of sorrow for them being gone.

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I really don’t want to say a whole lot more about Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, and I STRONGLY advise you don’t watch the trailer and simply go in blind. I can guarantee it will be a far more rewarding experience, as the trailer spoils pretty much everything that’s surprising and original about the film itself. I know Wyrmwood likes to advertise that it’s like Dawn of the Dead meets Mad Max, but to me, it feels almost like a spiritual offspring of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead meets Peter Jackson’s early work, specifically Bad Taste and Dead Alive aka: Brain Dead. It’s a go for broke, low budget, independent labor of love. The kind of love you can feel just oozing from this thing like so much maggot filled vomit from the black, rotten, gob of and long deteriorating zombie. Truly, it’s the kind of film I could see Oscar winning director Peter Jackson making today is he were to get back to his roots ala: George Miller with Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s honestly that fucking impressive.

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Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is the low budget high energy and inspiration action gore fest the genre has been lacking in for what feels like fucking ages. I happen to know the film’s director, Kiah Roache-Turner has a new film coming out this year entitled Nekromancer, a tale about a man who hunts down and destroys demons in the internet. After watching the absolute joy that is Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, I am chomping at the bit to see how Kiah will subvert the genre and surprise us in the future.

I am awarding Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Check this breathless and badass motherfucker out, Gang.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

17
Feb
12

Grignr the Ecordian battles 1982’s “SHE”!

Good morrow, travelers!  I am Grignr, an Ecordian!  Wanderer, carouser, rapscallion, slayer of foes, taker of women, watcher of enchanted moving pictures about warriors and wenches and sorcery!

I come to tell you of one such picture.  “She”, it is called, from the 1,982nd year after the Christ-god was nailed to the Cross of Pain by the Ro-Mans.  “She”, it is claimed, is adapted from the novel of the same name, with which H. Rider Haggard invented the “lost world” subgenre of the adventure tale.  I have not myself read this tome, being but slightly a man of learning and letters.  But in my travels I have heard no rumors of Haggard being stricken with madness, or enslaved by addiction to every mind-raping drug dreamt of by alchemy, and so I must assume this adaptation to be as loose as a she-slut of Gorzom.

By all the gods, what a lunatic picture!  It seems that the intent was to make a picture of swords and sorcery in the grand tradition, but that a scarcity of coin forced the makers to settle for some sort of beggar’s post-apocalypse.  In that way, they were able to use such armor and swords as were at their disposal, and outfit the rest of the cast with whatever came easy to hand, like football pads and baseball bats, and removed any need to find or create any suitably mythic locations.  These failings are easily overlooked by a barbarian such as I, but the hows and whys of the lawless world elude my simple powers of reason.  For an apocalyptic world, there is a puzzling dearth of blasted landscapes and true devastation.  The picture is set 23 years after an event which is called The Cancellation, but never explained.  That seems a scant span of time for a world to recover from scorched earth and poisoned skies to a point of lush vegetation and forbidden forests.  I would love to believe that the Cancellation was a less explosive world-ender, as if perhaps one Tyler Durden succeeded in his quest, and society as was known collapsed.  This solution pleases me, but does little to explain the animation of the opening titles, which depicts a world in space blasted by the light of massive explosions, and twisted landscapes of doom and death swarmed by a Grim Reaper made of smoke.  I should add that this animation was vastly bitching, as I am told such things are described, and gave my heart – which lusts always for battle, adventure, and carnage – great hope for the picture to come.

After the empty promise of the opening titles, what greets us is a metal ferry barge crossing an unimposing river, bearing a mule and three people.  These are Tom, the musclebound blond hero, Dick, his aptly-named cowardly knave of a friend (who resembles Bret McKenzie, if Bret McKenzie were a human rather than an elf), and Tom’s comely sister Hari.

Yea, travellers, I jest not.  Tom, Dick and Hari.

The three enter the village of “Heaven’s Gate”, where a market is in full swing, with items such as board games, shampoo, shoes and yellow kitchen gloves for sale.  No sooner have they arrived with their mule-load of unspecified wares to sell than the village is attacked by a band of brigands we are later to learn are called the Norks.  They wear sports equipment with painted-on swastikas, and whatever Hallowe’en costumes the actors had in their closets.  Our heroes do battle with them, and the Norks do two important things: they drag Hari away by a harpoon fired into her leg, and they serve to make the audience lose all hope for any real suspense to come by knocking Tom and Dick down and beating them extensively, never bothering to use their swords, daggers and scythes on them.  “Ah”, one says to oneself, “a picture with villains who do not try to kill the heroes.  I suppose I’ll have another mead or four to get in the mood.”

If at this point you wish to see the picture, you may do well to skip to the final two paragraphs.  Below I will tell its tale out of a mysterious sense of duty to any who may wish to know, but have the understandible instinct not to bother watching.

Suddenly the scene changes to an art museum, which is the stronghold of the titular “She”.  A hall full of worshipers bow rhythmically and chant “She! She! She!”, seemingly ’round the clock, while two to three male prisoners in diaper-style loincloths stand chained to an altar in front for reasons not revealed.  One struggles against his bonds in a humorously ineffective and nonsensical way.  No man attempting to free himself from chains would move in that way, is all Grignr is saying.

SHE arrives, and She is lovely.  In fact, She is Sandahl Bergman, of Conan fame, clad in a torn floor-length nightgown.  She looks rather as though she is wearing her boyfriend’s tee shirt, and her boyfriend is a giant.  As far as this barbarian can tell, this scene serves no purpose but to allow for the passage of time between the assault on the village and Tom and Dick awakening from their beating, inexplicably left alive, without the editor having to resort to such tricky time-warping effects as the dissolve.

Return we do to Tom and Dick, and the quest is set.  Hari must be rescued.  Our heroes are promptly duped, drugged and put in chains by a beguiling woman, who also reveals that “She” is a goddess, apparently.  The remainder of the picture contains no evidence to back up this claim.  Tom is taken by She and made to walk the “Path of Blood,” a torture gauntlet which is as painful-looking as it is pointless.

"Put on your battle briefs, ladies, it's man-spiking time!"

He is then left alive to learn that only She knows the way to Nork Valley.  Tom finds Dick peeling onions and crying, and frees him.

They promptly infiltrate She’s fortress, which seems to be no great feat, and disguise themselves as worshipers just in time to see She leave.  She is accompanied by Shanda, her lovely but incessantly whiny sidekick, to a barbed wire fence so haphazard that we suddenly know how Tom and Dick got in.  She goes on alone into a junkyard wasteland full of punks in medieval armor who seem to be using kendo, but not well enough to defeat a goddess of extremely human abilities in a nightgown.  Also there is a Frankenstein monster/android.  She comes to a place of fog and red lights, disrobes and bathes in a hot spring.  The only nudity in the picture is welcome, but brief.  As she bathes, an old oracle crone tells her that a man will come to claim her heart, that for him She will break her (unspecified?) vow, and that through him She will be destroyed.

"Nice butt flap. Now get in the tub, I have something to tell you."

 

She returns home and is goddessnapped by Tom and Dick.

The rest of the picture is a succession of setpieces involving odd tribes in silly costumes.  There is a band of chainsaw-wielding lepers in a factory who like to use a Star Wars-esque trash compactor and seem unconcerned by the loss of limbs.  Shanda and company rescue Tom, Dick and She from these crumbling simpletons, Shanda whines because She does not plan to execute the men publicly, and She lets the men go for no clear reason.  She and Shanda then follow them, also for no clear reason.

There is a Grecian garden peopled by decadent freaks (we can tell they are decadent because their leader seems to be gay, and they have balloons) who get even freakier after dark, but only after dressing Tom and Dick in tuxedos.  Tom forgoes a shirt, however.  Like myself, he is too much man for a shirt.

There is the stronghold of Godan, another self-styled god.  Godan seems to have more behind his claim than She, for he has eyes that glow green and powers of mind-sorcery.  His followers dress as Soviet monks.  He orders She and Shanda tortured, and they are whipped, mostly across the wide leather straps covering their stomachs, while Tom and Dick dine in luxury because they feigned allegiance to Godan.  This was Dick’s idea.  Godan takes She for a bit of a rape party, and Tom and Dick save the day (sort of) after they tire of listening to Shanda scream.

There is a forest featuring skeletons tied to trees, a cloud of poison gas which Tom alone escapes, a crazy sort of Doctor Moreau type in a Baron Munchausen suit and a Texas Rangers baseball helmet, and his giant, bearded, hairy-backed assistant in a ballerina costume.  The doctor has poor methods of prisoner retention.

There is a bridge guarded by a cigar-waving loon in a fringed cavalry uniform, who behaves like a more annoying version of Robin Williams at his most annoying, speaking in bad movie star impersonations and singing television theme songs.  His strategy seems to be to irritate all comers to death, which seems a plausible outcome since he spawns a clone every time part of him is chopped off and Tom is too stupid to stop chopping parts of him off.  Dick and She come along later, and She has sense enough to throw the obnoxious fool onto a land mine.  Where his innumerable clones went is unexplained.

Then there is the city of the Norks.  At last, a location that looks as though some sort of apocalypse might have occurred 23 years ago!  Why the producers did not set a much larger portion of the picture in this city is a mystery to me.  Our heroes disguise themselves as Nork army hopefuls and attend a pre-deathmatch banquet.  The Nork general announces: “This is the life of the Norks.  Food, women and war.  Nothing better on the face of this Earth.”  At last, a man after my own heart!

A gladiatorial free-for-all ensues.  The last two survivors will be allowed to join the Norks.  The Nork leader, in a disco haz-mat suit, oversees the bout with Hari at his side.

"I covet his tire throne."

Tom, Dick and She are the last three standing.  When Tom is unmasked and the others realize who they have been fighting, they unmask themselves.  The Nork leader is furious that a woman has infiltrated his sacred bloodsport, and responds by releasing Hari into their company and letting all four of them go, with a promise to enslave She’s people tomorrow.  I swear by the Eye of Argon, not a soul in this picture makes a damn bit of sense.

She decides to wait outside the gate and fight the Nork army by herself.  Of course Tom has come to love her, and stays to help.  And of course Dick and Hari do as well.  In a matter of hours, pits are dug, bows and arrows made, and a mine field relocated by the four heroes.  The following battle is better than most in the picture, because the participants are at least trying to kill each other for the most part.  Shanda shows up at the last minute with reinforcements, and the day is won.  There is much rejoicing.

At long last Tom and Hari return to the barge upon which we first met them.  Dick stays behind with Shanda, whom he has apparently come to love for some reason, and she for equally mysterious reasons shares his feelings.  Tom and Hari cross the river, and Tom and She stare longingly at each other across the water as the picture ends, the oracle’s prophecy of vow-breaking and destruction completely ignored, or forgotten.

SHE is a queer, queer beast of a picture.  Comely wenches, a wide variety of strange characters, and plenty of battle, to be sure.  But the battle is too often pathetically staged and bloodless, and is set in a nonsense world built from a meager budget.  Worst of all is the utter nonsense of the story and the characters’ choices.  Perhaps best of all is the delirious silliness of the whole affair.  The picture certainly does not take itself seriously enough that one senses some artistic target was aimed for and missed.  Also worth noting is the score by Rick Wakeman, he of “Yes” fame.  Grinding guitars and flailing synth riffs abound, and one action sequence is set to a song by… I know not who, but I have heard worse Aretha Franklin impersonators in my travels, of this I can assure you.  The strongest endorsement I can give is that you should watch this picture if you wish to be completely perplexed and amused.  Much strong drink is a necessity, and a small party of like-minded adventurers is recommended.

Until next time, travelers, drink deep of food, women and war, for there is nothing better on the face of this Earth!

Kneel before She!




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