It’s that time of year again. Time to get ready for thrills, chills and scary creatures roaming the night. No, I’m not talking about Halloween. I’m talking about the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, happening October 16th to 24th at the Scotiabank Theatre in downtown T.O. Just as in past years, Geek Hard will be on hand to take in all the gore, horror, sci fi and genre goodness that the good folks at After Dark always provide. This year, we’re getting the action started early with a few sneak peak reviews of some of the films playing at the fest. We’ve gotten the opportunity to preview/review 4 films playing this year and we’re gonna tell you if they’re worth checking out. We start off today with a film that’s being heralded as “Mad Max meets Day of the Dead”. That is some heavy praise and quite the reputation to live up to. Thankfully, Wyrmwood (directed by Kiah Roache-Turner) is a movie that does indeed live up to the hype with a good story, interesting characters and fun action sequences. And there are zombies……oh yes, there are zombies.
The title of the film is a reference to a verse from the Book of Revelations – “The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” This is the only clue that’s given as to what caused zombies to swarm the Australian countryside. We follow Barry, a regular joe mechanic whose life is torn apart by the outbreak and must leave everything behind in a quest to reach his sister Brook, who’s in not the best of situations. Brook’s been kidnapped by a mad scientist and a group of military types who seem to be a bit more in the know about what is going on. But they don’t share their knowledge. Instead, they experiment on Brook and others for reasons that remain unclear. These experiments do yield results, but possibly not the ones that the scientist is expecting, which take the story down a very unique path for the 3rd act.
While I’ve consumed a number of zombie films/comics/books and a particular t.v. series for the past few years, I wouldn’t never call myself a zombie expert (we can’t all be as delusional as Brad Pitt). I’ve watched and read a great deal but I know that I’ve personally only scratched the surface. That being said, there are a number of elements and devices used here that I have never seen in a zombie film before. Barry, along with Benny and Frank, a couple of good guys he comes in contact with along the way, find out that zombies do actually have a use – fuel. But this power source has it’s limitations that create a number obstacles during the 2nd act. The experiments done on Brook and her new found abilities also create an interesting wrinkle I haven’t seen explored previously. As I said, I’m no zombie fanatic so it’s very well possible that this has been done before in a movie or book or whatever. But I’ve never seen it before and I found both instants to be fun and interesting plot devices.
The main element I like about Wyrmwood is that it makes the same choice as some of the best zombie films of the modern era by making the main antagonists be someone other than the zombies. The fight for survival is key in this film but the the true villains of the tale are the mysterious government types (the scientist and the soldiers). This gives the characters more to play with than just the need to stay away from the zombies. It’s always a better choice to make man the real threat of the tale and the filmmakers make the right call. Another interesting call is to make the film more open-world in it’s storytelling. There is no real a-to-b plot taking place. Rather, we follow a couple of characters making choices. Choices that are made from an emotional reaction instead of a strategic purpose. Because of this, it’s almost impossible to predict the actions of the characters throughout the entire film. We know what Barry’s overall objective is but that’s about it. There are a number of moments where the audience will know where the story is going but will be floored by the times they don’t. By giving the power to the characters, the story lacks any rigid story structure and is able to flow along with the adrenaline rush of the moment.
If you’re looking to take in a zombie film at After Dark but don’t want to partake the craziness that is “Zombie Night”, Wyrmwood is the film for you. While the zombies are many in the film, they take a back seat to the gut punch-like storytelling that this film displays. Definitely one to take in the big screen. The film screens on Wednesday, October 22nd in the 9:45pm slot and tickets are still available! You can also still purchase passes to the whole fest at the Toronto After Dark Website (Passes are 95% sold out, so you gotta move fast if you wanna get one). If you’re looking for high octane action with some classic bad-ass characters, Wyrmwood is a MUST SEE.
We’ll be bringing you a bunch more reviews leading up to and during the festival, so be sure to make Geek Hard a frequent online stop for all your Toronto After Dark news and reviews. See you all after dark.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!