Nekrotronic: A Genre Mashup Already In Need Of A Reboot
The Australian filmmakers, Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner, return to the science fiction film NEKROTRONIC. Entertainment One (eOne), Hopscotch Feature and Guerilla Films have announced that they will make their world debut at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) the infamous midnight show Midnight Madness.
The other day I wrote about Netflix’s Wu Assassins and by extension the idea of “guilty pleasure” entertainment. I thought that was a really good example of when the term truly applies, but I spoke too soon. Nekrotronic, courtesy of Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner. That is all guilt and little pleasure in an enthusiastic but ultimately wearing mashup of low-brow stoner humor, gore-soaked visuals. The story elements borrowed from Ghostbusters and Tron and Blade and Blade Runner and whatever else besides.
Monica Bellucci is in this, which I thought you should know. She’s overacting a villain part, in charge of internet-invading demons in conflict with necromancers played by David Wenham, Caroline Ford, and Tess Haubrich. Who eventually find an ally in regular dude Howie (Ben O’Toole), who turns out to be an oblivious hero. It’s the usual stuff.
And from there Nekrotronic only gets wilder — but with its excess comes… nothing, really.
It’s wall-to-wall pastiche with no sense of novelty or craftmanship. The brothers Roache-Turner are enthusiastic and appreciative fans with a range of recognizable influences. But beyond an ability to isolate what other people find appealing about those things. They lack the chops to reassemble the borrowed parts into an interestingly new composition.
It won’t be a problem for some, but then again neither is all kinds of stuff that’s a major problem for everyone else. But it also wouldn’t be such a big deal if Nekrotronic wasn’t such a relentless barrage of stuff. All thrown at a blood-drenched wall in the hopes of it sticking — and most of it doesn’t.
There’s the odd stray idea that works, though nothing has the time or space to work for long, and there’s a bit of fun to be had in the film’s anarchic attitude. Though after a while it’s self-satisfaction just becomes a bit tedious. Anyone who likes this will likely know ahead of time, making it basically review-proof. But for the benefit of those on the fence, it’s worthing knowing that the only thing on the other side is a yard full of stolen goods.
“Someone, somewhere figured out how to do this,”
This is the explanation given in the opening sequence that tells the centuries long. The war filled history between the Nekromancers and demons, and how demons can now travel through the internet to possess people. That is followed by a modern day scene showing two guys working for a waste removal service with the company motto of ‘We Take Your Crap’ written proudly and largely on the tank of their truck.
This is the kind of film that Nekrotronic is: logic and meaningful back story be damned, we’re here to have fun! And it’s the full on embrace of such cartoonish, comic book material that is precisely why the film succeeds.
The film offers a lot of fast moving action as our unlikely hero, Howie, (Ben O’Toole). This is forced into a world of fighting demons alongside the other Nekromancers while he finds out his heritage. That is linked to this ongoing war in ways he could have never imagined.
The three actors have a strong chemistry that make this trio a complete joy to watch and makes the comedy hit more times than it misses, offering plenty of laughs throughout.
There’s a wonderful moment as a big fight scene approaches when all three characters talk to each other but towards the camera explaining and walking through their plan together in a fast moving, cut heavy, time hopping sequence.
It’s a fun breaking of the fourth wall that winks at the audience and boldly and rhetorically asks, “isn’t this bullshit fun?” And the answer is an enthusiastically agreeable and wide-eyed, head bobbing, “YES!”
Often practical with great gooey and infected looking detail, the demons appear to be smoothed out and embellished with CGI for a more slick appearance and charged up with fittingly digital characteristics. One scene has Howie fighting with a demon and the plagued, possessed look is coupled with quick, almost frame skipping motion that gives the digital traveling demon a video game movement style. This really amps up the action and the ferocity of the demons. They are out to possess and kill!
Nekrotronic doesn’t hide its many influences. It instead wears them proudly on its sleeve and is having fun doing so.
Rating: R (for bloody violence, and language throughout)
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: Kiah Roache-Turner
Stars: Ben O’Toole, Monica Bellucci, Caroline Ford
Written By: Kiah Roache-Turner, Tristan Roache-Turner
In Theaters: Aug 9, 2019 Limited
On Disc/Streaming: Aug 9, 2019
Runtime: 99 minutes
Studio: Momentum Pictures
“Nekrotronic” is “fun,” but often in an off-putting, aggressive way. The Roache-Turners have prioritized fleeting moments of gross-out humor and special-effects dazzle over a controlled pace, or careful world-building.
This bloodthirsty comic-book fantasy is let down by its infantile humor and derivative, incoherent plot.
The dialogue is wiseass yet witless, the action incessant minus any novelty of style, stunts, or ideas.
An awkward, painful mash-up of horror and comedy that induces all the wrong kind of squirms, Nekrotronic feels like a Z-grade SyFy Channel movie that escaped its basic-cable confines.