An astronomical event has led to people turning into rabid zombies, including Jay Gallagher’s wife (Catherine Terracini) and child, leaving the former distraught. Gallagher’s sister Bianca Bradey has been kidnapped by a weirdo scientist in a Hazmat suit (Berynn Schwendt) conducting bizarre experiments in a laboratory/truck, thinking she’s a zombie. The truth about her, however, is much stranger than a simple zombie infection. Eager to rescue his sister, Gallagher teams up with a couple of other men (Middle-aged Keith Agius and laidback Indigenous Australian Leon Burchill) he encounters out in the bush. However before a rescue can begin, there’s the pickle of a problem that none of the vehicles seem to be working other than the aforementioned mobile laboratory, as something is wrong with all the petrol. That’s when they discover that the zombie blood is flammable! Luke McKenzie plays one of the military-types working for the mad scientist.
I saw a ‘making-of’ feature on this 2014 Aussie zombie flick from debut co-writer/director Kiah Roache-Turner and co-writer/brother Tristan and dismissed it as a cheap, silly-looking wannabe. Having now seen the film (which took four years to complete, by the way because they only worked weekends!), well, I’ve clearly been humbled. I sounded off way too early, as this film turned out to be a damn good Aussie horror/action film. It’s not the equal of “The Babadook”, but it’s also a whole different beast. As much influenced by “Mad Max II: The Road Warrior” as George Romero’s “Dead” films, this is just…fun. Remember fun, folks? Well, this one’s got lots of it. Yes, the fun delivered here is quite grim at times, but this is a bloody good genre film and I fully understand and concur with all of the hype. It’s worth every bit.
Only in an Aussie zombie film would you get cars powered by zombie blood! That’s just brilliant, and somewhat “Mad Max”-inspired when you think about it. I also liked the Jason Voorhees meets Ned Kelly design of the helmets/masks the protagonists wear at times. What I liked most about it is that, although it contains humour (especially when Aboriginal fella Leon Burchill learns to never, ever take a piss when on the run from zombies), the film mostly takes itself seriously so that it actually works as a zombie/horror film first and foremost. Most of the modern zombie films aim predominantly for laughs, and fail to work overall because they haven’t got the solid foundation of a zombie horror film to begin with. Full credit to the Roache-Turners for really hitting the ground running in this one, it’s pretty much all systems go, and yet I wouldn’t say the film lacked character depth, either. The zombies are also pretty damn messy, rabid buggers too, and the zombie makeup is pretty decent. I thought it was a bit strange just how well-prepared everyone seemed to be here, but that’s a minor issue.
I liked its harshness, as innocent people get their heads accidentally blown off just as we’re getting to know them. It keeps you on your toes. The humour, when it comes, is more laidback (and typically Aussie in that respect), and the film is refreshingly gory too. Most of the acting is a bit raw, but have you watched the first three of Romero’s “Dead” films lately? Special mention must go to Bruce Spence-esque Berynn Schwendt, who as the Hazmat suit-wearing scientist is creepy and loopy as hell. Moustachioed Keith Agius is also clearly the best actor of the lot, and quite solid.
I thought I was all zombie-d out by around 2011. However, I like this because although fun, it takes things mostly seriously, not having its characters bash zombies with cricket bats and Dire Straits records. There's a zombie outbreak, for crying out loud, stop mucking about and just kill the SOBs, it's meant to be a life-or-death situation. There's a grimness and despair to go with the fun and the zombie action. A real pleasant surprise, I liked this one a lot.