FILM REVIEW: NEKROTRONIC
NEKROTRONIC is a film, that on paper, may sound a little ridiculous. When I first received the screener describing a film about demons possessing people via the internet, we’ll just say that I was skeptical. Now having seen the film, I’ll be the first to admit that this film nearly exceeded every preconceived notion I may have had about it, and well…it’s just a helluva lot of fun! It’s one of those rare examples of a passion project coming to fruition and laughing in the face of any hurdle it may have encountered, budget or otherwise.
NEKROTRONIC is a story of two working class “average Joes”, thrust into a battle to save humanity as we know it. Howie (Ben O’Toole) and Rangi (Epine Bob Savea) work as septic tank cleaners, and the job is pretty shitty (pun intended) to say the least. In fact our first introduction to Howie and Rangi has a pipe exploding all over Howie, which gives a new meaning to taking your work home with you. The film wastes almost no time, throwing us into the high stakes battle between humans and demons. Rangi downloads a game onto his phone, similar to the POKEMON GO! craze from a few years ago. You remember…throngs of brainless morons running out into oncoming traffic, or crashing their vehicles because they were playing while driving. But hey… “gotta catch ‘em all” right?! In this version, you need to catch ghosts and demons as they appear in the app. Howie is less than enthusiastic about Rangi’s newest distraction, but it seems that this app has a little something extra going on.
Once Rangi points the app at Howie, it shocks the living hell out of him, and puts him on the radar of demons and necromancers alike. You see, the opening of the film gives us some insight into a battle that has been raging for eons. It’s a cool animated piece, describing the battle between the forces of good and evil culminating in demonic forces entering the internet in a search for new souls to devour. Sound ridiculous? It is, but NEKROTRONIC is a movie that absolutely OWNS its absurdity, and then swings for the fences. Howie and Rangi are tracked down by Molly (Caroline Ford), Torquel (Tess Haubrich), and their father Luther (David Wenham) who inform Howie that he descends from an extremely powerful family of necromancers. This information comes just in the nick of time too, because this new phone app has already been downloaded billions of times, and the demons are coming to wreak havoc on everyone who has got the app on their phone.
The demons are led by an evil head mistress named Finnegan. Finnegan is played by the incomparable Monica Bellucci, and I’m still scratching my head as to why and how she accepted the role, but we’ll get into that later. What follows is the journey that Howie embarks on to learn about his powers, and how to use them. In addition to his powers, Molly and her family have heaps of outrageous tech that Howie is also going to need to learn how to use to battle the forces of evil before they take over the world.
The film massively exceeds its budget in terms of special effects and execution. It’s the dance between low budget and high concept where NEKROTRONIC really excels. We know that some of the props and sets are homemade, but they look so damn good that you forget that it’s a master class in DIY. It’s actually quite remarkable how good everything looks. The film wears its influences on its sleeves, and borrows from the best the genre has to offer like BLADE, JOHN CARPENTER’S VAMPIRES, GHOSTBUSTERS, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, JOHN WICK and the list goes on and on. It’s a soup that could’ve gotten watered down in the hands of a lesser filmmaker, but this soup tastes good! It never feels derivative, and manages to hold its own as its own entity. The film takes itself just seriously enough, while also acknowledging its silliness.
The story suffers from some minor pacing issues, but my biggest complaint is with Monica Bellucci’s performance. She appears to be the only one NOT having fun, and I found her casting to be somewhat puzzling. I know that her marquee name was meant to elevate the film, but her stilted delivery and just boorish demeanor actually dragged the story down for me. Everyone else is selling the absurdity at the highest level, while her performance seems phoned in and like it was a chore for her. I’ve been a fan of hers for years, and this just seemed like a bad fit for her particular skill set. Maybe demonic robo-fantasy is a genre she should avoid in the future.
Director Kiah Roache-Turner is a clear talent to watch out for. I saw his MAD MAX meets zombie-fantasy-epic WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD at a film festival several years ago, and that film is an absolute banger if you’ve not seen it. If you compare the cover art of WYRMWOOD and MADMAX it’s again clear where the influence lies. NEKROTRONIC is yet another amalgamation of various genre films put through this Aussie directors unique lens. I enjoyed the film far more than I expected, and it goes to show that borrowing from your favorite films can lead to something original. Just ask Quentin Tarantino about that. You can make a career out of borrowing from other films, if you borrow in the right way and in the right places.
“NEKROTRONIC is a movie that absolutely OWNS its absurdity, and then swings for the fences.”
3 Tombstones out of 5…