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Review: Wormwood’s End (2014)

There are very few good things that can be said about COVID-19. One of them is that it’s given a few filmmakers time to go back and dust off and/or finish up long-shelved films. Wormwood’s End is one of them. Writer/director William Victor Schotten filmed it as a sequel to his first film, Dead Life, but shelved it when he couldn’t find a distributor and didn’t want to self distribute.

When COVID shut everything down he decided to give the film a few re-edits and self-release it. Instead, he ended up making a deal with SRS Cinema who were willing to give it a release on DVD and Blu-Ray. Was that a smart idea, or should Wormwood’s End have stayed on the shelf?

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Sully (William Victor Schotten) and Giuseppe (Arthur Leo Collins) are scavenging for supplies when they find Tammera (Ashley Gallo, Bloodlock) hiding from a zombie. She responds with the kind of gratitude that would have had me throwing her to the next zombie I saw. Instead, the three of them are captured by survivalists holed up in Camp Wormwood.

After Sully wins a fight with The Beast the camp’s leader Marcus (Michael Hanton) welcomes the group. Also arriving that day are Dr. Kyle Richards (Jeff Robek) and his son. It seems the living dead are evolving into something a lot harder to kill. But the biggest threat may already be in the camp.

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I haven’t seen Dead Life so I can’t comment on how much of Wormwood’s End is a direct follow-up to it. Looking at IMDB I do see a couple of common characters though. I didn’t have any problem following the plot and that’s the important thing. That plot pulls in elements from Day of the Dead. A military, or in this case, militia camp. A scientist doing experiments on the living dead, and the idea that they’re evolving. There’s also a strong dose of The Handmaid’s Tale in the way the camp treats its womenfolk. And a few interesting original ideas as well.

The action in Wormwood’s End is intercut with video footage of Maxx, who founded the camp back in the 1990s. Constantly quoting scripture and giving off a David Koresh vibe, you know something isn’t right. And that sets up a nice three-way struggle as the trio find themselves caught between multiple enemies by the film’s end. That end leaves questions unanswered in a way that suggests this was meant to be the middle film in a trilogy.

With a microbudget film like Wormwood’s End you know going what to expect. And taken on those terms it’s actually pretty good. There are zombie makeups and there is some gore. And there’s a fair number of extras for the final conflict. Probably more than the entire casts of the last five Mark Polonia films combined. If you like this kind of film, you should enjoy this one.

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On the downside, this never convinces us as being a post-apocalyptic world. Everything is too neat and clean. The cast doesn’t look like they’re living rough. All the vehicles are clean, with no dents or rust. And the store at the beginning is in perfect shape, not looted or trashed. But that’s a common issue on the low-budget end-of-the-world tales such as this or The Directive

This was Schotten’s last film so we’ll never know what the zombies evolved into. He has however recently returned to working in film as the cinematographer on Finding Purpose: The Road to Redemption. Coincidentally, that film is in the pile of screeners I need to catch up on.

Wormwood’s End is available from SRS Cinema. You can check their website or the film’s Facebook page for details.

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