Directed by Kiah Roache-Turner.
Starring Monica Bellucci, David Wenham, Ben O’Toole, Caroline Ford, Tess Haubrich, Bob Savea, and Benedict Hardie.
A man who discovers that he is part of a secret sect of magical beings who hunt down and destroy demons in the internet.
Given Kiah Roache-Turner’s statement debut Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead, Nekrotronic’s disappointing vapidness comes unexpected. A Pokémon Go riff turned demonic roasting of internet obsessions? Heavy Ghostbusters vibes? Monica Bellucci in synthetic Satan mode? Everything about Roache-Turner’s The Matrix meets Doom midnighter tickles my exploitation fancy, but alas, drollness wins outright. An impossible fate to ponder given the film’s eye-catching trailer, yet here we are. About to argue how Belluci is somehow miscast despite my ravenous desire to see her engage in devilishly wicked roles.
Ben O’Toole plays sanitation worker Howie, unknowingly the last in a prolific bloodline of Necromancers. Monica Bellucci’s underworld big-wig isn’t pleased by his “second coming” situation, leading Howie into the protective arms of a rogue Necromancer family. Sisters Molly (Caroline Ford) and Torquel (Tess Haubrich) follow daddy’s orders (played by David Wenham) in a war against digital demons who hijack hapless souls glued to their smartphones. Can Howie stay alive long enough to fulfill his lifesaving prophecy, or will evils infect until every device accepts the beast’s digits.
Knowing Nekrotronic is based on Roache-Turner’s short film DaemonRunner, my comment of “Nekrotronic feels like a bang-up short that can’t sustain feature lengths” is not without influence. Still, the association stands. Kiah, along with brother Tristan, executes one bonkers idea with maximum Blade Runner colorization and minimal warfare damnation. Influences spill like an overstuffed horror piñata, down to Bob Savea as a friendly “Wraith” à la An American Werewolf In London. You’ll want to adore Howie’s existential wrestling with his savior significance, or Torquel’s gum-chewin’ badassery, but genre unconventionality is disappointingly braindead.
The brothers Roache-Turner create a world, visually and conceptually, littered with dismembered corpses and beaming neon-bright heretic symbols. Alleyways are, ever so forcefully, warmed by pinkish Blade Runner 2049 hues, while Belluci’s lair drips guts from exploded goats and hellish red saturation. Gnarly demons are 3D printed, summoned from a pool of what might repurpose as Nickelodeon slime, before execution by monster-slaying firepower. Even down to Howie and Molly’s possession-prevention armor, sensational aesthetic details of Nekrotronic stand to impress.
Performances, unfortunately, are rigid and skeletal. Bellucci’s brand of menace aims for seduction and sadism as she decapitates host bodies or zaps malevolent spirits into unsuspecting app users. Disappointingly, her straight-reading delivery downplays genre embellishment that, say, Paz de la Huerta might contend, which amounts to those Danny Trejo performances where even he doesn’t seem to care about scripted material. It’s no better from O’Toole to Ford to Haubrich, who are either stammering punchlines or ass-kickers with little more definition. Savea impresses most as Howie’s slapstick undead bro – the least important role contextually, but necessary as a few laughs are permitted.
Nekrotronic’s journey is plotted without tension or climax, lumbering through scripted motions for the sake of splattering Ghoulish Agent Smith lookalike henchmen. Major happenings conclude with nary a reason except to provide Howie’s squad with an easy victory, recalling how a character’s combustible flesh is never explained yet defeats a mini-boss. Or what about how one of the film’s most thrilling moments boils down to blipping dots on a television monitor darting around a pentagram shape? Pac-Man of the Damned? Roache-Turner struggles with what should and shouldn’t be shown, defaulting to action-comedy cliches when all else fails. Seventeen thousand ideas you witnessed before trapped within a pulsating containment unit far more elaborately designed than filled.
After, Wyrmwood, I’ll see anything Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner churn out – but Nekrotronic extinguishes the sparks of ingenuity with a catastrophically bland sci-fi-paranormal-video-game-demon-hunter misfire. That’s the last sentence I want to write, trust me. Try for yourself, because there’s a reason TIFF Midnight Madness programmed such a flick. It’ll have its audiences, but those slobbering hordes will be slim. Maybe inject an IV of booze into your system before tackling this binary beast, best enjoyed with a serious buzz raging.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Matt spends his after-work hours posting nonsense on the internet instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don’t feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged). Follow him on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd (@DoNatoBomb).