TIFF Journal: Nekrotronic


Movie Rating:


Decapitations, possessions, exploding everything, splatstick humor, and Monica Bellucci as the queen of the underworld… Nekrotronic seems like the sort of nerdy horror show guaranteed to please anyone who enjoys such things. Unfortunately, the second feature by Aussie director Kiah Roache-Turner (Wyrmwood) doesn’t quite manage to deliver the adrenaline shot of genre goodness that it strives for.

The biggest problem is the convoluted mess of a plot. Steeped in self-appointed mythology, Kiah and his screenwriting brother Tristan Roache-Turner deliver a tangled web of ideas desperately masquerading as a sequel-baiting universe. The film takes place in a world where humans have been battling demons for millennia. Under the leadership of Monica Bellucci’s slithering demon queen, the evil beasts of hell have decided to take the battle for Earth’s souls online. Now she has apps that can possess humans through any device with Wi-Fi access. Because, you see, internet addiction is evil and blah-blah-blah…

It’s all dopey nonsense, and even though Nekrotronic is intended to be a horror comedy, it treats that stuff deadly seriously (including a device that 3D prints demon souls for shotgun extinction…because that tech is new and cool, right?). The protagonist is a lowly sanitation worker (Ben O’Toole) who finds himself caught up in a battle to save humanity alongside a couple of badass leading ladies (Caroline Ford and Tess Haubrich), who are inevitably always dressed in skin-tight outfits to emphasize their status as strong independent women to pubescent boys.

There’s nothing wrong with this sort of comic book horror comedy hokum. In fact, it’s probably a wise career move for any independent filmmaker hoping to land a comic book blockbuster directing gig some day. However, Nekrotronic is never as cool or cutting edge as it desperately wants to be. The slapstick humor and parade of one-liners consistently land with dull thuds. The mythology is somehow dumb-dumb simplistic and impossible to follow. The bulk of the acting is cringe-worthy. The pacing is both fast and dull. This is the sort of movie that appears so suddenly on a streaming service that you wonder how you missed it, only to realize within seconds of hitting play that the obscurity is earned. How it ended up premiering at a major film festival would be a mystery worth investigating if the flick were worth caring about that much.

Actually, that’s unfair. Nekrotronic has a few elements worth admiring. Much like in his low-budget zombie debut, Kiah Roache-Turner shows that he has a knack for designing comic book sci-fi worlds, delivering damn fine visual effects on a shoestring, and splattering blood all over the screen. The movie has enough fun gore gags to get a midnight audience giggling, and if they’re tired enough, that may be enough to forgive everything else. Roache-Turner continues to prove that he does at least have promise as a geek-friendly director and slapstick gore practitioner. Maybe it’s time that he started working with someone else’s scripts, though.

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