In the best scene in Nekrotronic, Torquel (Tess Haubrich) dual wields pistols, shooting through an army of unnamed demons to the sound of Morten Harket covering “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” The clash between the violence and the easy listening classic captures everything Nekrotronic is going for: unabashed violent fantasy mixed with whimsy. Especially in that moment, it worked.
Australian brothers Kiah Roach-Turner (director and co-writer) and Tristan Roach Turner (co-writer) have created a unique world. A profanity laced voice over lays out the basics during the credits: goat sacrifices accidentally summoned demons into our world. A family of necromancers “with big f***-off weapons in their hands” have been fighting them since. The movie starts when, “some evil son of a b**** found a way to blast demons into the internet.” More accurately, Finnegan (Monica Belluci) and her minions have found a way to blast demons through a PokémonGo style phone game. If she has her way, she’ll absorb the souls of the 1.3 million people who’ve downloaded her app.
The world’s only hope is Howie (Ben O’Toole), who starts the movie working for a company that drains septic systems, something that becomes a running joke. He didn’t know demons existed before today, but because of his bloodline, he’s the world’s best—and maybe only—chance. As he describes it, “I thought I was Oliver Twist but I’m Merlin the f***ing Magician.” If the plot sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a traditional hero’s journey seen again and again, though this rendition seems to call to The Matrix (which featured Monica Belluci in its sequels) more than others.
What separates this story from so many other hero’s journeys is the world that the Roache-Turner brother’s have built. Some of it is set in modern-day Australia, but the characters open secret passages to futuristic bases. The set design really puts across how different this world is. The hoses and grates feel like something out of Alien or Power Rangers in the best way possible. Howie’s sanitation partner Rangi (Epine “Bob” Savea) describes the good base as “their own Bat Cave.”
There are other parallels to superhero movies. Much like the reboot of Hellboy, Nekrotronic calls back to Deadpool with it’s near constant cursing and irreverent attitude. Those things are working, but the Roache-Turners also borrowed comic book’s tendency to bring characters back to life. When that happens, death is cheapened, and left me feeling frustrated rather than relieved as characters came back.
The other problem with Nekrotronic was that the fight scenes were hard to see. For a movie about what the main character describes as an “anti-Satanic superhero club,” the combat needed to be better. With all the quick cuts, it’s hard to tell who’s punching—or kicking or stabbing or shooting—who. That kind of disorientation can work in films that are aiming to capture the hectic nature of violence, but Nekrotronic wants to be a power-fantasy, as demonstrated by aforementioned dual-wielding-pistols-to-easy-listening scene. Mixing those aesthetics makes both worse.
The fantasy violence is also implied by the pulpy vibe. It’s hard to tell whether some decisions were mistakes or intentional send backs to B-movies. For example, Belluci’s Finnegan has a French accent despite being an Australian. The film never addresses where that accent came from, but it feels like a classic Bond villain affectation..
Belluci, who was in Bond’s Spectre, puts in a strong performance by leaning into that pulpy feel. She’s a highlight, as is Epine “Bob” Savea. He’s got great comic timing and helps an already funny movie be even funnier.
Nekrotronic is a comic book movie without a comic book. That is to say, it’s a lot of fun.
WICKED RATING: 6/10
Director: Kiah Roache-Turner
Written by: Kiah Roache-Turner, Tristan Roache-Turner
Stars: Ben O’Toole, Monica Belluci, Epine “Bob” Savea, Tess Haubrich, Caroline Ford
Release Date: August 9, 2019
Studio/Production Co: Guerilla Films, Hopscotch Features
Sub-genre: Possession, Sci-fi, Comic book