Archive for August 10, 2015

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Let’s be honest : when it comes to balls-out post-apocalyptic action, few people can do it like the Aussies. This fine cinematic tradition dates all the way back to George Miller’s original Mad Max, and continues in fine form to this day not only with the recently-released Mad Max : Fury Road, but with last year’s much-more-modestly-budgeted indie feature Wyrmwood : Road Of The Dead (or, as it was more simply titled for theatrical release in its country of origin, Wyrmwood), a true labor of love shot on weekends over a four-year span by co-writer (along with his brother, Tristan)/director Kiah Roache-Turner that one-ups Miller, at least on a purely conceptual level, by throwing zombies into the mix, as well.

When the infection (and by the way, kudos to the Roache-Turners for adding the cool effect of having their undead breathe a sort of greenish gas) hits, hard-working mechanic and family man Barry (Jay Gallagher) has to do the unthinkable : kill his own wife and daughter. But he’s still got one reason to live — he needs to rescue his sister, Brooke (Bianca Bradey), an internet bondage-porn videographer who had one of her “shoots” go really wrong and ended up in the hands of quasi-governmental military thugs employed by an honest-to-god mad scientist known only as “The Doc” (Berynn Schwerdt)  who makes Richard Liberty’s lab-coated goofball in George Romero’s Day Of The Dead look positively tame by comparison.

Barry’s got some help in the form of sure-to-be-audience-favorite Benny (Leon Burchill), and aboriginal survivor who he meets when — ahhh, shit, the less said about that the better — but there’s a whole outback full of zombies between the two of them and their hastily-assembled ragtag crew and Brooke and and her batshit-crazy captor.

Can you say “bad times ahead”?

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Fortunately for us all, in a flick done right like this, bad times also mean very fun times (at least for us), and Wyrmwood : Road Of The Dead is pedal-to-the-metal insanity from word “go” to word “stop.” Sure, there are plenty of gaping plotholes along the way (the most notable being that the whys and wherefores of how the “zombie mutation” spreads are unclear and/or completely random at best), but so what? You need to slow down to think about those sorts of pesky details, and if there’s one thing the Roache-Turner brothers don’t do, it’s take their foot off the gas.

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That’s entirely as it should be, I think, since they know that what we’re here for is blood, guts (in this case a mix of CGI and practical effects, both utilized in superb fashion), guns, and cool-ass homemade survival armor and battle vehicles — and hey, they serve all of that up by the truck-full. The story might be as brainless as the shambling corpses it features, but that’s all part and parcel of the fun here, and if you can’t stop taking yourself so fucking seriously for 90-or-so-minutes, then you’ve got no business watching a flick like this in the first place.

If you do want to watch it, though — and you should — the good news is that Wyrnwood : Road Of The Dead is now available on Netflix instant streaming, as well as on Blu-ray and DVD from Shout! Factory. I caught it via Netflix myself so I can’t comment on the specifics of the physical storage-format technical specs or extras, but a brief glance at Shout!’s website is enough to convince me that they’re put together a typically impressive package. Given that this is a movie you’ll probably want to watch again and again over the years, buying it doesn’t seem like a bad option at all.

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In fact, I may just do that right now. The term “instant classic” gets thrown around a bit too freely for my tastes, but this bears all the hallmarks of being exactly that.

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Well, are you? Huh? Are you?

Nah, I’m not, either (yours or mine), so let’s just talk about someone else’s shall we? Better yet, let’s talk about somebody who’s altogether fictitious, so we can all  be nice and comfortable.

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Specifically, let’s talk about 16-year-old Carson Morris (played by Lara Vosburgh), the subject of director Seth Grossman’s 2014 “found footage” indie-horror Inner Demons, who was apparently once a bright and promising young girl, but fell in with the wrong crowd once her admittedly dysfunctional parents (dad’s a lush, mom’s a religious fanatic) started sending her to a prestigious Catholic prep school that strikes me more as the sort of place you enroll your kid in to get them away from the wrong crowd, but whatever.

Little Carson’s just not the same anymore. She dresses in black and wears “goth” makeup and listens to heavy metal music and, of course, is shooting heroin and popping pills. Because, ya know, all kids who are into “goth” and metal do that, right? But her folks are sick and tired of supposedly “enabling” her, and have signed her up to be on an Intervention-style “reality” TV show. She, of course, thinks she’s just the subject of some sort of “cautionary tale” documentary, but in due course they’re gonna lower the boom on her, sit her down with a shrink, and ship her off to a rehab center. That’s how these things go.

There’s just one little wrinkle — Carson claims she’s possessed by a demon and that she’s turned to drugs to dull the constant pain that comes with having an evil otherworldly entity living inside her body and mind. I swear, teenagers today say the craziest things.

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Before we go any further here — and there’s really not much further to go — I’ll just come right out and admit it : I fell for the old Netflix “we’ve just added a new movie you might be interested in” email again, and despite the fact that I pretty much always get burned by these things, I gave Inner Demons (which is apparently also available on Blu-ray and DVD from MPI Home Video) a go. The idea of drugging yourself into a stupor in order to “beat” possession sounded like a nifty new wrinkle to me, but rest assured, there’s absolutely nothing on offer here you haven’t seen somewhere else at least a dozen times, and the law of diminishing returns is definitely in full effect in screenwriter Glenn Gers’ heavily-derivative, supremely un-involving script.

By and large the no-name cast (literally the only actor I recognized was perennial “D-lister” Sewell Whitney, who plays Carson’s pastor — which is weird, since the story seems to imply that she’s Catholic, and they’ve got priests)  manages as well as they can with some pretty weak material, but when your primary visual cue that something is amiss is the tired old “camera going fuzzy when the evil gets to close to it” thing, well, not even Laurence Olivier can do much with that.

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Still, as “been there, done that” as the film’s opening 2/3 are, they’re positively Oscar-caliber compared to the laughably absurd third act, when Carson flubs out of rehab and the wheels come off. One of the show’s camera guys, Steve (Christopher Parker) has taken a shine to the troubled young teen (despite the fact that she’s jail bait), and when he confirms — via tactics that are both unethical and flat-out illegal — that all her “demonic possession” talk is the real deal, he goes over to her house in the middle of the night, TV producers in tow, and performs an off-the-cuff exorcism, despite having no training in the field and only one store-bought “occult” textbook that he hasn’t even read yet to guide him through the process. Yeah, that oughtta work out great.

Do you already know how this thing is gonna end? Because you really should.

And, of course, you’ll be exactly right. Inner Demons is a movie that has no clue how to deviate from its by-the-numbers formula, and honestly can’t even get that much right. It has only one real “twist” on offer, it happens at the very last second, and you’ll see it coming from 666 miles away. Better to just turn around and head in the other direction right now.