Post-apocalyptic road warriors versus zombies. Let the slaughter begin.
In director’s Kiah Roache-Turner’s “Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead,” it tells a tale of man’s family torn apart during the zombie apocalypse and must seek a way to rescue his sister from sinister gas mask wearing mercenaries.
The film stars Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey, Leon Burchill, Luke McKenzie and Berynn Schwerdt.
Latino-Review had an exclusive phone interview with director Roache-Turner on his first feature film earlier this month. We discussed making this zombie film different from the others and using the Australian wilderness as a setting for the apocalypse.
“Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead” is playing in select theaters and on VOD/iTunes.
Read the interview below.
Latino-Review: How did you come up with the idea for the movie?
Kiah Roache-Turner: I don’t know. It’s one of those things with me and brother making those films since we were thirteen together with horror films and music videos. It was inevitable at some point to make a feature. So you would bang your heads together since we got no money and no one in the industry wants to give us money. What are we going to do? So you sort of look around on what you got. We got a bunch of mates, in which some of them are mechanics and builders.
So we could build stuff. We can make a big car with spikes on it. Then it sounded like a zombie film to make. We kind of just did it. We grew up watching “Mad Max” or you guys call it “The Road Warrior” I think. That was one of the favorite films growing up along with “Dawn of the Dead.” So we thought on why don’t we combine the two [movies] and see what you get.
I don’t think anybody has ever seen “Mad Max” crossed with “Dawn of the Dead” before visually and ever been done. So we thought it was original and went in that direction.
Latino-Review: There are a lot of different zombie movies out there. Why would you think this one is different?
Kiah Roache-Turner: Well, it’s funny actually. We started the film in 2010. There were a few zombie films before that time, but what kicked the genre forward was with “28 Days Later.” It took us four years to make this film. In that four years, “Walking Dead” came out and the world just went zombie mental. We found ourselves at the point of release that zombies [films] are so saturated as a genre. We just needed a decent hook. Thank God that we had that hook early on. Like you said, there are a lot of zombie films out there.
We figured if we got the “Mad Max” aesthetics—the post-apocalyptic, leather clad armor wearing, gun-toting look—that’s a hook, but it’s not enough. If you just make another zombie film, then nobody is going to be interested. There are just a lot of them out there.
My brother, after a couple of beers, came up to me and goes, “Zombies should release methane gas so it can run these Mad Max vehicles on them.” So he really said that and light bulb went off in my head. I said, “That’s it. That’s the hook.” We started writing right away.
As soon as he came up with concept, I knew we had something. It was very, very cool. If somebody just described that to me, then I would want to see that film on a Friday night.
Latino-Review: The style you used for the film was much more of a Grindhouse feel. Could you talk more about that?
Kiah Roache-Turner: If you’re going to make an independent film with absolutely no money, then you have to make a film that jumps up and down to make a lot of noise. It has to say, “Hey! Look at me!” or else it’ll be lost in the noise. The great thing about the Internet is that you can get to a lot of people very quickly.
Another thing about the Internet is that if you’re not extreme, individual or original, you’ll get lot in the tsunami of imagery. We went with a style that we really intense. Like all filmmakers, we loved the films of Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese with the hyper-intense visual films. I just love the filmmakers with the very intense style, but if you’re trying to make yourself known with a first film—you got to come out punching.
There was no way I’m going to make the world’s first romantic zombie film. If I’m going to make a zombie film, then I’m going to make the most meat-grinding, grindhouse, action-packed zombie film that ever seen out of this country. That’s what we set out to do. I think we came pretty close and the low style dictated in that regards.
Latino-Review: Could you tell me about the background about the bad guys and on where the zombies actually came from?
Kiah Roache-Turner: Yeah, you know what, Gig? We got a whole script on where we discussed all that stuff—maybe a virus from Korea or a virus from China or even an alien invasion. Then on if the military knows about this virus. We even had a backstory on where the doctor came from.
Then we realized very quickly that in a genre like this, definitely from my perspective, I would get bored as soon as the writer shows exposition in my face. We did a lean and mean version of the screenplay. We cut out all the expositions and go straight to the action.
We decided rather than create this world with backstory to explain everything. We just want to jump in there to make a story based on character and action alone. I think that was a good decision. I would get very bored quickly.
As a filmmaker, Gig, I’ve seen a million films. It’s the same story over and over again. So really on what you want is that you want to be made to laugh, to cry and to sit back to go “Wow!” I’ve decided to concentrate on that—to hell with the expositions. It doesn’t really matter. As long as you got cars racing up and down highways with enough emotional content and somebody’s head on fire, you really don’t need all that exposition.
Latino-Review: Yeah, that’s true. A zombie kill is a zombie kill. No matter where they came from or where they’re going, right?
Kiah Roache-Turner: I think so. We’ve seen these stories so many times before. Filmmaking, in general, has become a little bit leaner and explanatory. You like at a film like “Drive,” for instance, on where they just cut out all the dialogue. And it still works. This guy drives around and barely said a word, but you get it. We like that top down writing style and that’s what we were going for.
Latino-Review: Could you tell me about the setting you’ve chose—which was Australia? You could’ve used any setting. I’m assuming this is in your own backyard?
Kiah Roache-Turner: We set it in Australia, because we live in Australia. [Laughter] Quite frankly, America has enough good zombie films like from George A. Romero. Australia really only has one with “Undead” by the Spierig Brothers. It’s a much loved genre and I love zombie films. I wanted to hear the accents of my countrymen running around to blow zombie heads off with the shotgun.
The Australian bush was particularly a place that I really wanted to shoot in. It’s a really creep place. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to it. Have you ever come down to the place?
Latino-Review: No, it’s actually on my bucket list right now. Hopefully in the next couple years.
Kiah Roache-Turner: You gotta do it. As a kid, if you wander around in the bushes—it’s a really crazy place. I’ve always been creeped out by the Australian bushland. There’s some kind of horror out there. As soon as I lined up these shoots of the zombies wandering through these creepy gum trees—well this is something that hasn’t been done before.
That’s why we shot most of out in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. It was in a pine forest, with brushes, and below zero temperatures. It was tricky for Bianca Bradey, because she had a pretty skimpy costume on. The Australian landscape is very iconic. It’s one of the things in the film that is quite original and you don’t have a background like this in a zombie film before.
Latino-Review: So what do you suppose was the greatest challenge for you on this project?
Kiah Roache-Turner: The fact that we had no money. We couldn’t pay anybody so everybody was working on the third payment. We were shooting on weekends. That means you have to convince a whole bunch of people for three and a half years to take the weekends off to drive all the way up to the Blue Mountains to shoot a film.
Not to mention to keep the whole crew together for nearly four years was very difficult. You have to be very confident on what you’re doing. You want to be that filmmaker acting like Alexander the Great leading the charge and yelling, “We can win!” You got to be constantly pumped and positive for three and a half years.
I think those were the hardest things. Everything else was just fun. It was the fun thing to keep 50 people together.
Latino-Review: By the way, you could have fooled me—those zombies looked very, very real in the film.
Kiah Roache-Turner: That was done to our makeup artists, Lisa Cotterill and Gavin Kyle. They’re great. There are all these makeup artists sitting in Australia waiting for someone to make a monster movie. Most of them have to do weddings—that’s not fun. It wasn’t hard to get makeup artists. We’re very lucky with Lisa, because she’s a bonafide genius. She actually worked for years in a morgue. She dealt with dead bodies for long periods of time. She really knows on what a cadaver looks like. That was very beneficial to the production. That’s why the corpses look so freaky real.
Latino-Review: Let me start to wrap things up. You said this was your first feature film?
Kiah Roache-Turner: Yeah, this is my first feature. We’ve been leading up to it for a while. We finally got it out there.
Latino-Review: Would you do this again yourself? And what are some of your future projects?
Kiah Roache-Turner: All I wanted to do for the rest of my life, Gig, is this—I just love making films. There’s no more fun than just standing up. The next film will be this R-rated Ghostbusters with bit of Lovecraft and Stephen King. It’s a very, very usual idea. It’ll be ghosts in the paranormal in which what we did for zombies. I’m a filmmaker who grew up in the 80s and loved Ghostbusters and conjuring films. I just longed for the day with a ghost movie in which somebody picks up a big gun…...and shoots it. I want to shake up the paranormal genre on the next one. I can’t wait to get it started.
Latino-Review: One last question. Since you’re such a zombie expert, what is your preferred weapon of choice.
Kiah Roache-Turner: I grew up watching “Mad Max,” I just loved the idea of a sawed-off double barrel shotgun. The only thing is that it doesn’t shoot far and you would have to reload pretty quick. Then again, nothing will take a head off like a massive buck shot. I just like the look of them.
After that, I suppose a really big tank. Maybe?
Latino-Review: [Laughter] Good answer. Good answer. The pleasure on speaking with you and good luck with the movie.
Kiah Roache-Turner: Thank you so much, Gig. I really enjoyed this.
“Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead” is playing in select theaters and on VOD/iTunes.