Director Kiah Roache-Turner and his co-writer/brother Tristan first exploded into the genre scene with their feature debut Wyrmwood (2014), which fuel-injected the putrescent zombie genre with some Mad Max-style motorheadedness and outrageous post-apocalyptic ass-kicking. Now they are back with Nekrotronic, this time giving the well-worn tropes of demonology a much needed update to the online age.
“Right,” says the voiceover at the beginning of Nekrotronic. “You wouldn’t believe the amount of shit that’s about to go down, we don’t have time to fuck around, so I’m going to make this really, really simple.” Our profane narrator, to the accompaniment of luridly animated illustrations, tells of a timeless war between extra-dimensional devils here to possess or devour human souls, and ‘necromancers’, essentially ‘badass demon hunters’ who use their inherited talents and amped-up weaponry to reduce the numbers of their Satanic foes – and whose battle has recently shifted to the arena of the internet.
Cut to present-day Sydney, and we see the shit going down already, as sanitation worker Howard North (Ben O’Toole) is literally showered in the stuff while his hapless buddy Rangi (Epine Bob Savea) is distracted by his smartphone. The serially fostered Howard has a long way to travel from zero to hero, but he will have to do so fast – for while Nekrotronic begins as a buddy pic, complete with fart jokes and stoner comedy, it will not be long before our proletarian protagonist runs into an axe-wielding monster as well as the father-and-daughters team of necromancers Luther (David Wenham), Molly (Caroline Ford) and Torquel (Tess Haubrich), and learns of the noble pedigree coursing through his own veins.
Corrupted by her excess time spent hunting the ethernet for demons, Howard’s real mother Finnegan (Monica Bellucci) has become a ‘soul eater’, and has been building both an addictive Pokémon-like phone game and a pentagram-shaped network to help her feed on the souls of the entire global community – and now only a reluctant Howard, the two fearless necromancer sisters, and a ghostly (but still dumb-assed) Rangi are all that is left to save the world. Fortunately they are armed with trap-boxes, plasma guns, combustible 3D printouts, and whatever mixed, indeed conflicting, powers that Howard has inherited from his parents.
Colour-coded in gaudy neon pinks and blues, Nekrotronic may feature exploding heads, zombie-like possessed and CGI wraiths, but it offers as much comedy and action as horror, and comes liberally splattered in a sense of fun. Falling tonally somewhere between Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters (1984) and the Wachowskis’ The Matrix (1999), it follows a man’s journey from down-trodden drone to miracle-working(-class) messiah, while always allowing this mamma’s boy to be outgunned and outclassed by the two women babysitting him. The Roache-Turner brothers’ film may lightly satirise our soul-sucking fixation on handheld digital technology, and the way it makes us unwittingly susceptible to outside influence – but for the most part, Nekrotronic just races from one set-piece to another, while being as inventive, funny and gory as possible.
“It’s going go take me years and years and years to clean up all this shit,” the wonderfully wicked (but Christmas-loving) Finnegan tells her son, to which Howard replies, with a playful reference to his pre-necromantic profession: “I know what that’s like.” It is Nekrotronic in a nutshell – all too knowing that it is far removed from the fragrant heights of ‘respectable’ cinema, but also aware that shit comes in many layers (including the good stuff).
© Anton Bitel