Streaming On: Tubi, Vudu, Apple TV, Redbox
I for one got a huge kick out of Kiah Roache-Turner’s “Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead,” because while it was a huge departure from what I usually like in my zombie movies, he compensated with huge creativity and a great series of performances. In particular Bianca Bradey was a scene stealer as the zombie human hybrid Brooke. In “Apocalypse,” Kiah Roache-Turner and Tristan Roache-Turner shift the focus ever so slightly to a new series of characters. Sure they keep the integrity and novelty of “Road of the Dead” in tact, but this time we’re given a wider scope with a new series of villains and some bad ass zombie hybrids.
Here, we meet Rhys (Luke McKenzie), a tough soldier with a Mad Max level of resourcefulness and a dead brother-size chip on his shoulder. Brooke killed his brother, so when Rhys’s conspicuously twitchy, blood-covered boss (Nick Boshier) orders him to hunt her down so they can experiment on her — Brooke is a hybrid, able to calm down her zombie side by drinking blood — he doesn’t hesitate. But after nabbing Grace (Tasia Zalar), another hybrid and one of Brooke’s allies, Rhys starts to realize that not all zombies are expendable.
A lot of “Apocalypse” centers on exploring a lot of the zombie hybrids and sub-species that are vividly realized here. Sure there are shambling and running flesh eaters, but there are also climbers, hybrids, half human zombies able to control the dead, and of course android zombies. But that bit of steam punk juiciness is left for the epic climax. Much of the original 2014’s movie’s energy and chaotic tone is carried on, with a lot of great action sequences, as well as some great exposition. There’s a lot of deep exposition on hero Rhys who confronts isolation, and struggles everyday to hunt down some zombies.
Zombies in this universe can act as fuel for a particular kind of engine, so thankfully the resources are abundant. The film is decidedly grimy and gritty with much of what unfolds feeling so slimy and gruesome. Even when Rhys is resting in his cabin and staving off loneliness, you can feel the humidity dripping off the walls. Thankfully the new characters are a lot of fun, with Luke McKenzie stealing scenes as the Mad Max-esque anti-hero Rhys. He’s constantly working on a ticking clock, as he’s also infected but can only fend off his infection with the help of medication that he very much relies on. He’s given a lot of great action sequences, with one particularly tense moment involving him using a tree to evade incoming groups of hungry flesh eaters literally at his feet.
There’s also Tasia Zalar, a clever survivor whose own sister was bitten, and is also fending off the need for blood. She works with Rhys not only to help find a cure, but to also fight off the corrupt local government (Nick Boshier is delightfully over the top) who is using the zombies as tools for torture, and a source of recreational drug. “Apocalypse” steers away from the usual zombie tropes well, allowing for menacing undead monsters that aren’t quite the walking dead we’re used to, but still very much horrific flesh eating beings. There’s always the sense that a zombie is going to pop out of a corner at every point, and this keeps the characters constantly on their toes in order to see one more day.
Granted, “Apocalypse” goes a little off the rails content wise in the climax, but I was still smiling from ear to ear in the end. I even dug the little reveal in the closing credits, ensuring yet another visit in to this blood soaked wasteland. I sure as hell am ready for another ride.