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Director Kiah Roache-Turner on the gas-powered zombies of “WYRMWOOD: APOCALYPSE”

Saturday, April 16, 2022 | Interviews


WYRMWOOD: APOCALYPSE recently blasted onto VOD, continuing the story that began in 2014’s Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead. Directed by Kiah Roache-Turner and co-written with his brother, Tristan Roache-Turner, APOCALYPSE thrusts us back into a splatterific world where familial bonds hold firm, the heart beats just as strong as the action and gore, and the zombies produce a methane substance that keeps things running. Kiah and Tristan have created a signature universe within the zombie sub-genre that is home to characters that reel you in. In a cinematic landscape overrun with zombie flicks, their take on undead lore is a welcome change. RUE MORGUE sat down with Kiah Roache-Turner to delve into what goes into creating the hellish world of the Wyrmwood series.

Both Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead and WYRMWOOD: APOCALYPSE have an air of ferocity as well as heart to them in both visual style and story. What was the process of creating that combination?

Thank you for saying that. If anything, I’m striving for that in my writing. Ferocity and heart would be my favorite description of what I do. I love things where you can have a heartbeat style where one minute, it’s kind of brutal and violent, and then it’s kind of over-the-top funny. And then it’s really operatically dramatic. I love that kind of approach. You’re always striving for good writing, and good writing should make the viewer cry. It’s really, really hard to make something that’s dramatically on point like that so that you can actually get an emotional reaction from the audience. I love gore splatter films like Bad Taste or Braindead or even classic exploitation films like Dawn of the Dead or Mad Max. So there’s a lot in the pot. To get that mixture correct is a real high wire act. If you don’t get it correct, it can be really cringeworthy. If you do get it correct, hopefully, you end up with something successful, and I just hope that I got that blend right with APOCALYPSE.

The blend definitely works. There was a moment where I had to put my hand over my mouth and be like, “No, no, no … don’t cry, don’t cry.”

Ah, good! (laughs) I had a friend who watched it. He’s a big fan of the first one. He said he yelled at the screen. “No, you idiot! Why are you doing this?” Because he knows me. He’s like, “You fucking idiot! You can’t do that!” I mean, it’s a big operatic moment.  And that’s one of my favorite things to do is to bring somebody to the edge of, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe that just happened” and then, hopefully, pull the rug out again. You know, when you find out that thing that you thought happened hasn’t really happened in the way that you thought. That’s just good drama.

There are a lot of relationships in the film that have familial bonds. Did you and Tristan incorporate a lot of your bond into those characters?

All of our films have sibling themes or family themes. Family’s really important to us. Family and siblings, to me, are the most important thing in the world. Those will always be my themes. As a writer, you really should write what you know and what’s in your gut. If I’m going to make a film about the apocalypse, the one thing I’m going to be thinking about would be my family and the people close to me who I love.

The designs of the zombies are pretty spectacular, but my favorite is the one that I called the “Frankenstein’s Monster Zombie.”

“Cyborg Zombie!”

Cyborg Zombie! How fun was it to help create that zombie and a lot of the other little special zombies that are in the film?

Oh, so fun! With the Wyrmwood zombies, I always wanted them to be a certain look, but there’s only so much you can do with zombies given a budget and given the time. I think the most interesting aspect of our zombies is how they move – the fact that they’re fast at night and slow during the day and the fact that they breathe the methane-like substance that powers vehicles. You can run your barbecue off a zombie!

The cyborg zombie was just a labor of love for us. I think, in the end, the design of that zombie was very much taken from a comic book called 2000 AD. That’s where they got Judge Dredd. One of the classic Judge Dredd nemeses was a cyborg, and he had a certain look to him. So we wanted our cyborg to look a little bit like that Judge Dredd cyborg. And it looks great. It was very difficult because it’s all practical. We’ve actually got a dude in that guy, Alex Jewson, who we’ve been working with since 2012. He’s in there under just tons of prosthetics. And he’s got this giant, super-heavy claw hand that he’s got to deal with, and he’s going to hit people with it, and throw people through walls and all sorts of stuff. That was just fun because it’s a practical effect. I love that stuff.

I loved the practical effects!

I’ve got this great idea that I want to do with Wyrmwood 3 where they chop the arms and legs of this zombie and strap it to their back like a backpack. Then they attach a flamethrower to its mouth and use the zombie as a mobile flamethrower, using the methane inside it to create this huge fire. I also want to chop off the arms and legs of a zombie and attach it to a drone. So it is powering this little helicopter drone, and it’s got like guns and stuff attached to it. So you got these zombies, like harpies, flying through the air, shooting guns at some people down below. Oh, I’ve got so many ideas.

It really is limitless what you can do with this world.

That’s what I like about the Wyrmwood world, It’s endlessly riffable. It’s just endlessly entertaining to write for this world because we’ve got so many different hooks and things that we can kind of play with.

In the last few moments of APOCALYPSE, I literally applauded and yelled. This leaves us wanting more! You casually mentioned a third film. Will there be a third entry?

Thank you for saying that. We had a “stand up and applaud” moment because that’s what you want. You always want to be able to structure your entire event, especially if it’s an action film or a film like this, so that you have that moment of “Oh my God!” before the credits so that people are interested in a third one. I could write the third one tomorrow. Oh man, I would love to be able to finish off these characters in the awesome way that we planned so many years ago because we sort of came up with the basic structural narrative loop back in 2010. This is something we’ve been thinking about and sitting in for over ten years. So to be able to seal that loop would be awesome. So I really hope we do get to make one.

WYRMWOOD: APOCALYPSE is available now on VOD from XYZ Films.

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