A Review? Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead & Apocalypse

It seems like everybody is in their villain era lately. Horror cinema has become mainstream to the extent that wider audiences are becoming more aware of the hidden cypher of morals and taboos lying beneath the human and not-so-human monsters on the silver screen. And for a lifelong and passionate fan of everything scary (as I am), this is the true nightmare. Because making horror suitable for bigger audiences came at the cost of sacrificing much of the boldness of the genre.

Looking for a fun zombie movie to watch with my mum (the biggest The Walking Dead fan I know) I came across the Wyrmwood series, consisting of Road of the Dead (2014) and Apocalypse (2022). Both of which are movies produced and directed by brothers Tristian and Kiah Roache-Turner with a budget of only about 160,000 Dollars each (TWD has a budget of 3.4 million per episode). And yet, this low budget franchise has given me all I wanted from a zombie movie, and so much more.

I want to address both movies back-to-back, not only because their refreshing take on zombie movies made me binge-watch them in one sitting, but also because they are exactly like consecutive movies should be: siblings, not twins.

I have honestly grown tired of the endless conversations about morality and humanity. Whole episodes of The Walking Dead without a single dead person walking in sight. Just people talking about the evil deeds of their fellow survivors and unsolvable battles being fought out in eternal discussions.  I just want to see guts splattering on the screen, is this too much to ask for?

Enter Wyrmwood, the very Australian lovechild of Mad Max and Day of the Dead.

Director Kiah Roache-Turner appeals to his audience’s media literacy: most of us know zombies better than our own grandma. “Everybody knows what the set up is, let’s just cut to the chase. There’s zombies everywhere, you know what I mean? It’s some kind of vague, Biblical metaphor, meteors have landed, let’s put the leathers on and get a double-barrel shotgun out, and it just cuts straight to the chase […].” (Kiah Roache-Turner on flicks.co.nz) Hence, there is not much of a plot to address here. The brothers have reduced the zombie movie formula to the bare minimum. First, it is about people trying to survive in the apocalypse, and then, madness ensues.

It is a zombie movie set in “a world that is cool – it’s a zombie apocalyptic wasteland where the zombies can attach to vehicles and generators as a power source, and you’ve got somebody who has developed the power to control zombies like puppets […].” (Kiah Roache-Turner on Gamerant) Both of these ideas just blew my mind. Not because they are symbolically deep or anything. They are just fun concepts for a movie and look amazing in action sequences.

Their video game-like approach is not only apparent in their ideas, but the camerawork also borrows from this aesthetic. It is incredibly fast, chaotic, with interesting angles and quick shots. Certain scenes have a very game-like boss-fight style to them. (spotlightreport.net)

Especially the visuals and action sequences of the sequel Apocalypse are amazing. The Wyrmwood movies rely on practical effects, rather than special effects. The makeup of the zombies does look quite good (despite the contact-lenses being a bit too obviously fake at times), and the splatter action is amusing. There is no doubt that a low budget movie with practical effects will age better with time than a million-dollar series like She-Hulk, clearly overdoing it with special effects.

Also, it is a very Australian movie, proudly sporting the influence of Mad Max, with heavily modded cars and cool apocalyptic fashion. (Roach-Turner on moviefreak.com). From the usage of cricket players as weapons, to the song Red Right Hand by Nick Cave being used in the opening sequence of Apocalypse. Plenty of shots of the characteristic flora of the outback, warm colours and lonely roads. For once, we get the feeling of a country that is not plagued by overpopulation (in contrast to the vast hordes of many US cantered zombie franchises), there are no big crowds of zombies surrounding the protagonists. In fact, they eventually even struggle to locate one to use as fuel. Especially the second movie, filmed with only a few sets and locations, manages to create a unique feeling of isolation, despite being action packed to the brim.

The dialogue in Wyrmwood is cut down to a minimum as well. It gets the story across, and characterizes the protagonists: nothing more, nothing less.

The zombie genre is a genre that is generally quite good at depicting a diverse cast of characters, and it is something that puts me in a good mood. Wyrmwood is no exception to this rule, as it features a cast consisting of men and women, white people and people of colour, featuring three main characters who are indigenous. But honestly, the women of the franchise steal the show.  My personal favourite is zombie-controlling Brooke (Bianca Bradley), who goes from slightly shy, but still tough in the first movie, to an animalistic, crazed-out zombie hybrid in the sequel. And it is honestly delightful to watch her telepathically make zombies use guns and grenades. Honestly badass, and, like everything in these movies, just plain fun to look at.

Despite its fast pace and straight-up out there characters, Wyrmwood somehow manages not to become ridiculous or overly goofy. There are serious moments and a solid storyline, likeable characters, and vile antagonists. And the worldbuilding is refreshingly unique and consistent.

So, in conclusion, this is as much as a review, as it is a criticism of modern horror cinema. Stop telling me about the depravity of humankind. Show it to me. I want to see the bloody roots of it. Brains and all.


If you want to give your own brain some slack and relax with some fast-paced, bloody action, at the time of this blog’s writing, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is currently available for as little as 0,99 Euro on Amazong VoD, and Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is free on Amazon Prime.


Raven Brunner. “Kiah Roache-Turner Talks Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, Chatting With Fans, And A Potential Third Movie” https://gamerant.com/kiah-roache-turner-wyrmwood-apocalypse-interview/

Skyjoker. Interview: ‘Wyrmwood Apocalypse’ Director Kiah Roache-Turnerhttps://spotlightreport.net/featured/interview-wyrmwood-apocalypse-director-kiah-roache-turner

Steve Newall. Interview: ‘Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead’ director Kiah Roache-Turner. https://www.flicks.co.nz/features/interview-wyrmwood-road-of-the-dead-director-kiah-roache-turner/

Moviefreak. “Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead” – Interview with Director Kiah Roache-Turner. http://moviefreak.com/wyrmwood-interview-kiah-roache-turner/#.Y9QsqK2ZO3A

Overwatch’s Australia: The Freak, The Queen and… the Māori?

The gaming industry is notoriously known to struggle with representation of diverse characters. Protagonists still tend to be male, white, cis, and able-bodied most of the time. AAA titles with the most basic protagonists still make tons of profit, while male gamers with a sexist mindset often react with outrage when faced with one of the rare, non-sexualized representations of women, because ‘everything has to be woke nowadays’.  Despite more than valid criticisms and controversies surrounding the company and its policies, Blizzard’s 2016 game Overwatch (upgraded to Overwatch 2 in October ’22), offers a rather exemplary diverse roster of characters for its player base of up to 1 million daily players.

Overwatch is a multiplayer first-person-shooter, commonly described as a ‘hero shooter’. In hero shooters, the gameplay relies on each of the characters’ unique abilities. With a heavy focus on individual characters, representation matters even more than normal. And not everything is bad in the case of this sometimes quite controversial game.

The game takes place in a distant future, with extremely advanced technologies, fully sentient robots, genetically enhanced gorillas and hamsters. The Overwatch is an international task force established to ensure global stability in the face of the robot rebellion against their human creators: the so called Omnic Crisis. In this setting, Australia has a somewhat unique status, as it is a barren, barely inhabitable wasteland, almost completely destroyed in said crisis. Accordingly, the Australian characters are heavily inspired by the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max. Their chaotic personalities contrast with many of the other heroes, who neatly fit into different, mostly futuristic hero archetypes.



The first character to look at is the attack hero Junkrat, who would be the result of what happens if you put a mad genius, DC’s Joker and a whole lot of Mad Max into a blender. He is represented as insane to the point of being self-destructive, sporting a self-made mechanical arm and leg. Even in the chaotic environment of this destroyed Australia, disabilities are not a dealbreaker. On the contrary, Junkrat is crafty enough to design his own prosthetics, even without access to the sleek-looking prosthetics some of his colleagues use (sometimes to enhance their abilities). Still, he is one of the heroes with the highest damage output and quite some manoeuvrability, simply due to him not caring about his own physical well-being.

His weapons of choice are a whole lot of bombs, a bear-trap and a remote-controlled exploding tire. Everything about Junkrat is chaotic, from his scorched, still burning hair to his crazed laughter. He even drops bombs upon being killed. While other heroes use high-tech equipment, Junkrat relies on the power of pure destruction inflicted by his rusty DIY gadgets, truly making the best out of his post-apocalyptic home country.

Junkrat’s Overwatch 1 & 2 Default Skins

Junkrat’s voice actor (US American Chris Parson) attempts to mimic an Australian accent, but he is American, nonetheless. Blizzard seems to have learned their lesson in this regard, as the newest released Australian hero, Junker Queen, has an Australian voice actress (Leah De Neise), as well as a few Aussie slang voice lines (for example: “Oi! Pick up your feet, ya’ drongos!”)

Junker Queen

Junker Queen, a tank hero, is an extremely tall and muscular woman, using a shotgun, an axe, and a throwing knife. She combines the brute force of melee attacks with her passive ability that allows her to heal herself in relation to damage dealt to enemy heroes. In her case, hurting others means to protect yourself and your teammates. Additionally, she is one of the most self-confident characters in the game. This translates into an aggressive play-style, which spreads over to the other heroes: Her ability Commanding Shout is a fierce battle cry giving allies a health buff. In Junker Queen’s work environment, you just scream at your colleagues to protect them.

She is not only the tallest woman in the game (only towered over by the other Australian tank, two robots and the German man in giant armour) but is also equipped with an unapologetic brawler attitude rarely seen in female characters.

As her name suggests, she is the queen of one of the escort maps, Junkertown. Junkertown is built out of the remains of an Omnic factory in the Australian Outback.  In Junker Queen’s cinematic short movie, we get a glimpse of a popular hobby in this rather dangerous Australian society: Fighting in the Scrapyard, a gladiatorial arena located in the Junkertown map. We get to see the rough society of Overwatch’s Australia, their use of scrap technology, as well as their awesome queen being the best tank of the game (not biased at all). She is presented as a woman who could not care less about gender roles, while at the same time not remaining one-dimensional or unreasonably violent. Junker Queen is not only surviving in post-apocalyptic Australia, but thriving:


The remaining character is another tank: Roadhog, who is Junkrat’s bodyguard. He is a fat man in a mask, mainly communicating in grunts. His outfit’s accessories further hint at road movies, with a spiked tire on his shoulder and a license place as his belt buckle. His weapons are a shotgun and a hook he can use to pull other heroes towards him and finally…”Whole Hog”; some kind of modification to his gun making it look like a meatgrinder firing bullets in a cone in front of him. To restore health, he inhales from his “hogdrogen” (not a typo). Roadhog, similarly to his boss, is a character mirroring the radiated wasteland they are inhabiting. Due to his hostile environment, he has abandoned much of his humanity and has become whole hog himself. Thus, it is still unknown what his face looks like.

While Roadhog is designed in the same Mad Max aesthetic, one aspect differentiates him from the other two. While his ‘official’ nationality is Australian, is has been heavily hinted that Roadhog, whose real name is Mako Rutledge, is of Māori descent.

His first name means ‘shark’ in Māori. Additionally, his ‘Toa’ and ‘Islander’ skins reference Polynesian cultures, including a stuck-out tongue reminiscent of the haka, as well as tribal tattoos. In game, he can also be heard saying “If I wanted to go to the wop-wops, I could have stayed at home.” This “is strictly an informal noun in New Zealand as opposed to Australia which uses ‘out in the sticks’ to imply that it is out in the middle of nowhere.” (Overwatch Wiki)

Roadhog’s Overwatch 1 Default Skin vs. Toa Skin

While Overwatch had some controversies regarding cultural appropriation, it is not unlikely that Mako is a intended to be of Māori descent, as there “are over 170,000 Māori living in Australia – 20 percent of all Māori”. (rnz.co.nz) It is an interesting nod to the relation between the two neighbouring countries, and I was not aware of this demographic situation before looking up the reasons for the controversy surrounding Roadhog’s nationality. Unfortunately, Roadhog’s voice actor is another US American (Josh Petersdorfs). Blizzard missed the great opportunity to give this role to a native Māori, providing some of the much-needed visibility to a marginalised group of people.


Overwatch sticks to clichés, but it does so consistently with all its characters (the German character Reinhardt does, of course, have beer related voice lines and I can definitely identify with VA Darin De Paul’s fake German accent).  The game is walking the fine line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. Generally, characters stereotyped according to their nationality have become a popular trope in hero shooters.

When it comes to proper representation, Blizzard still has plenty of room for improvement, especially compared with other games such as Respawn’s battle royale Apex Legends (2019), which also includes characters from New Zealand and Australia, respectively voiced by voice actors of those nationalities.

The American voice actors deliver a decent imitation of an Australian accent (though I am no expert whatsoever). Nevertheless, Leah de Niese performance as Junker Queen is the absolute best. But overall, the idea kind of works. All characters are unique and charming, with the Australians delivering plenty of personality and some of the most powerful gameplay.

Finally, one last thing that is interesting to observe is the in-game roles of the characters. Roadhog and Junker Queen are tanks, whose main role it is to shield their teammates and soak up incoming damage. Often, tanks are characters that are physically extremely strong.  Junkrat is an attack hero, whose main role it is to deal as much damage as possible. There is no Australian hero in the support category. I would love to see how an Australian healer would look like in the Overwatch universe. Or is the lack of a support hero a subliminal message about Australia’s image as a hostile and dangerous environment producing confident, reckless, and extremely self-sufficient personalities? After all, if there is no healer on your team, Junker Queen quips: “You softies need a healer!”




Media Sources

Overwatch Skin Screenshots taken by me 🙂

Overwatch 2 Junker Queen Cinematic Trailer – “The Wastelander”: https://youtu.be/Mb3_hvPGH3g