★★★ out of ★★★★★
This crazy mash-up cyberpunk-comedy-horror really shouldn’t have worked. Surprisingly, it did. A movie that should have felt derivative comes out feeling like it has fresh ideas and has you on board for this Australian comic-bookish Satanic techno ride.
Directed by Kiah Roache-Turner
- 4 lbs goat loin (Satanic Cult cursed)
- 1 cup Ghostbusters, diced
- 1 cup The Matrix sauce (Neuromancer brand)
- 1 tbsp The Frighteners powder
- 2 tbsp distilled Highlander
- 1 tsp Iron Man extract
- 1/2 cup vegemite
Stir Ghostbusters with the Matrix in a mixer and slowly add in the Frighteners powder until a smooth paste. Blend with vegemite, and spread over goat and put into hot pot and stew at 666 degrees for 13 minutes. Season with Iron Man (lightly) and let rest. Eat with your bare hands.
The rest of the critics are WRONG… OK, maybe partly wrong. This movie was a hoot! I will admit that I have been bingeing 2019 movies, and looking in the cracks and crevises of the feature landscape to see if I missed an entertaining stinker. I ran across Nekrotronic on Shudder, and noticed a Metacritic of 25. This MUST be awful, I thought, so I rented it, bracing for the bad. And you know what? I had a blast!
It is insanely derivative of many, many tropes, but somehow it still entertained. It’s a hell of a lot better (pun intended) than the Ryan Reynolds effort R.I.P.D. from a few years back, which is how NOT to do a derivative horror thriller. The new Hellboy wishes it was this much fun. It’s definitely better than Ghostbusters 2. Granted, those are some pretty low thresholds to clear, and I’m not saying this reaches the heights of Ghostbusters or The Matrix, but I would put it up with say… Blade.
The story is a hero’s journey, that follows Howard North (Ben O’Toole), a sewage pumper in Sydney. His co-worker and buddy Rangi (Epine “Bob” Savea) is a slacker who won’t get off his cellphone, and ends up signing up to play a new game on his phone (while at work, of course). The game is a Pokemon Go-like augmented reality game that encourages people to hunt for ghosts that appear on their phones. It turns out, the ghosts are real. This game is connected to a network of communication terminals that transfer souls of the dupes who play the game and channels them to a woman named Finnegan (Monica Belluci, The Matrix), a demon witch who is going to use the souls for WORLD DOMINATION.
Howard and Ragni discover a bit of the truth about their game when they get attacked by some digitally transformed ghouls, and Ben shows up on the Ragni’s phone like a Vegas billboard. Enter Luther (David Wenham, The Lord of the Rings) and his daughters Molly (Caroline Ford) and Torquel (Tess Haubrich) who are the last of a group of demon-slaying Nekromancers. Ben, as it turns out is a legacy Nekromancer, and his mother just so happens to be Finnegan.
And so the quest begins! Ben must stop his mother from uploading all of the souls in Sydney. Sacrifices are made. Ragni is killed and becomes a spectre, and the daughters escort Howard to a demon busting laboratory, where they utilize devices that look like Hellraiser cubes, or maybe Jedi Holocrons that capture demon souls and they can raise demons and blow them up with laser cannons. Fun! Howard is a reluctant hero at first, so of course, he’s going to have to overcome his rookie fears and literally defeat his inner demons.
OK… some caveats.
The acting is pretty wooden at times, but the characters are fun and charming. Think of Highlander level acting. Monica Belluci is coldly captivating as a villain, though, like Christopher Lambert, her accent leads to some occasionally choppy dialogue. But, she owns the screen every time she’s on. I thought Ben O’Toole met the needs of the role, though when he dons his demon-hunting suit, he has an uncanny junior varsity Tony Stark look about him. Savea was off and on annoying as Ragni, the comic blundering buddy. Sometimes endearing, sometimes grating, but that was how the character was written.
Recognize that this is not a big Hollywood production, but it is aiming to look like one. It does a fairly good semblance of one at a fraction of the price. It resembles a superhero movie in the cadence and tropes. The training montage. The big plan exposition. The acceptance of new powers. The action-adventure missions with a big count-down timer. This is no Indie darling. It’s a mini-budget blockbuster wannabe.
On that level, it succeeds. It’s light. It’s colorful. It’s silly. It’s bloody. And it has surprisingly good production values that have no business in a movie like this. Can a movie that feels so much like an assemblage of other films still come out feeling fresh? I think so. Or, perhaps that I enjoy the familiarity of the tropes, and it just slips so easily into them that you’re on board for the ride. This is a movie that I think very few Americans have seen yet, and I think it deserves a better shot than previous critiques have offered up. If you enjoy campy horror fare like They Live or Army of Darkness, I think you’ll have a good time with it.
Apparently, this is a reboot of Roache-Turner’s movie from just two years ago, DaemonRunner. Since that movie is not available for streaming, I’m guessing it was a proof of concept film, and they got a bigger budget for this one. Nekrotronic is available streaming on Shudder for free if you have the service. It is rated R for some comical gore and a bunch of F-Bombs.
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