The Walking Dead. Dawn of the Dead. Last train to Busan.
Simpson Zombies. World War Z.
The hordes keep coming.
One of the most-watched series on Netflix right now is the South Korean series about coming of age during an apocalypse. we are all dead. And the latest installment in the Australian zombie franchise, Wyrmwood: Apocalypsejust got out.
At its beating heart, the zombie genre is all about showing what happens when humanity is sorely tested and all we are left with are survival instincts and makeshift tools.
The first references to “zombies” in popular culture draw on Haitian legends and the unimaginable sufferings of African slaves, some of whom ‘believed that dying would bring them back to guinealiterally Guinea, or Africa in general, a kind of beyond where they could be free [but that] those who committed suicide [would] to be condemned to roam the plantations of Hispaniola for eternity, undead slaves both deprived of their own bodies and yet trapped within them – soulless zombies.
60s Director/King of Horror/”Father of Zombie Movies” George A. Romero reigned supreme for decades with classic hits such as Night of the Living dead, madmen, day of the dead, land of the dead etc
Flesheeaters have remained at varying levels of popularity since Hollywood’s early days and even with all the classic story elements – “undead shenanigans” and “infecting humans with a bite” – it’s a genre that invites constant creativity, reinvention and rejigging. Like most things, zombie movies and shows exist on a spectrum: from blockbuster budgets to freelance garden jobs.
Whether you’re a purist who likes your slow zombies or you’re got sick during the sprintyou are covered.
Since the resurgence of the shaky camera of the 2000s, there has been your Shaun of the dead-type [chef’s kiss] examples of adding something new to the canon, there have been weird romance x zombie crossovers and of course, video games have reanimated endless rotting corpses.
For all the allegory heads out there, zombies represented overflowing racial tensions; the Communists “under the bed”; they were stupid consumers in a capitalist hellscape; and now it feels like they are a global pandemic personified.
And look, sometimes they’re just dumb and cool. Sometimes violence just East the answer. (Sorry, pacifists).
Writers and directors have somehow moved away from religious nuances – “When there is no more room in HELL, the dead will roam the EARTH!” – and adopted the medical model. Now we have lab accidents, research for a cure, bioweapons and Brad Pitt.
“I fucking knew it! This guy is a bite hider!
Hearing this line in Wyrmwood: Apocalypse you may be thinking A) “of course the Australians would have created such an aggressive nickname for this”, but also B) if COVID has taught us anything:
“There’s something about the way an Aussie says ‘boittt-hoidah“,” says director Kiah Roache-Turner, who wrote the film with his brother Tristan. “They’re like the anti-vaxxers, aren’t they?” someone is just gonna [hectic cough] “I’m just clearing my throat” [teehee].”
Obviously over the last few years we’ve all had a lot of time to think about The Greater Good and apocalypses and societal collapse and cute things like that – but the cast and crew of wyrmwoodwho have spent a few months living together in a COVID safe caravan park/together/bubble.
“The irony of filming a story about a viral pandemic where people have to wear masks and people are dying, in a situation where it’s actually happening day-to-day, didn’t escape us,” says Kiah. “Talk about meta.”
What ended up being a bit of a method direction, also meant that they were “the healthiest group of people in Australia at the time”.
“It’s the only film set where there hasn’t even been a cold. As if no one had even coughed.
Shantae Barnes-Cowan, an Adnyamathanha woman who grew up in Whyalla, plays Maxi (the zombie slayer) and honestly is responsible for some of the best moments in the film. “There was a nurse on set and all that was to check our temperature,” she says. “I wasn’t really used to that or the normal COVID rules, and obviously in Sydney as well.”
“If you like retro horror, madmax and dawn of the dead, you’re going to like it,” Kiah says. “This movie is really just a standard post-apocalyptic, crazy vehicle, weird creature, head-exploding movie. It leaves the brain out – to some extent – and just lets you having fun, which is nice. I think that’s what we need right now.
If you don’t necessarily like horror, though… here’s how Shantae would introduce it: “Listen, my friends. It’s crazy; the whole concept, the costume, the makeup, the whole story. It’s just too deadly. You will love it and you can’t miss it. i’m in it too [laughs] so watch it.
Zombie apocalypse: a preview of things to come?
Humans will not stop dying; at least anytime soon.
When zombies are involved, people are forced to deal with the death of loved ones. Usually the grieving process is accelerated, due to murderous rage, but the seven steps are still there.
There’s shock and denial (“what’s wrong with your face, honey?), pain (“it hurts when you try to gnaw on my arm”), anger and bargaining. (“Stop it!”), resolution (*climbs bathroom window*) and acceptance (“I have to start a new life with this motley group of survivors and goons”).
When is this rotting corpse no longer the person I once knew? (CC : Ship of Theseus). Apart from necrosis, they look like them and wear their clothes. Do you keep them as decaying pets in the hope that one day they will come back?
These are the questions zombies ask. In recent years, the idea of zombies hits differently. We’ve all had a taste of what the end times might look like and what we might have to do. In the wyrmwood series in particular, or in any apocalyptic situation, it makes you wonder: are we destined to become a savage nation? Do you need to leave empathy at the door when the fuel runs out?
Will only sadists survive?
“I love that question because it’s at the heart of the film,” says Kiah. “What does it take to survive in a world like this? And my answer to that is: family. (CC : Wine Diesel).
Of course, for Kiah, who made wyrmwood with his literal family, this is an important theme. “I think family helps you through a pandemic or a zombie apocalypse, you know? And also, do only sadists survive…? If this film is a thesis, then my theory is nobecause they defeat the sadists.
“Of course, people have to get a little monstrous themselves…you have to toughen up when times are tough, but for me – and maybe I’m just a romantic – I think if people s unite and support each other, then we can get these bastards out.