Nekrotronic puts Ghostbusters, Evil Dead, and Pokemon GO in a blender for one crazy smoothie.
Our final look at Ben O’Toole’s filmography brings us 2018’s demon-fest, Nekrotronic. Much like Bloody Hell, it features some slick style and an utterly gonzo watching experience. Unlike that film, it doesn’t quite rise to the level of cult classic…but it puts in enough effort to consistently entertain.
Down-on-his-luck sewage worker, Howard North (Ben O’Toole), discovers he is a part of a secret sect of magical demon hunters called the Nekromancers. A trio of hardened nekromancers recruit Howard to stop evil demoness Finnegan (Monica Bellucci), who plans to steal a million souls through a monster-hunting phone app.
Off to a Bright Start.
I got on board Nekrotronic’s bandwagon early. A great animated sequence opens the film, getting us up to speed with the story while clearly communicating the irreverent style we should expect. The opening third of the film felt like you smuggled Shaun of the Dead‘s quirkiness and dialogue into Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. Ben O’Toole really shines as an average schmuck who is constantly getting the crap end of the stick. He has a nice rapport with Epine Bob Savea, who plays his laid-back wing-man. The two manage to keep things light and ridiculous when the story starts to get a little too serious. The first act also really slaps with its music cues.
The film suffers a bit in the second act. The family of necromancers, sorry Nekromancers, feel coherent as an ensemble, helped by immensely by the unpretentious performance of journeyman David Wenham (300, Lord of the Rings)…but they don’t quite jibe with the tone of the first act. Caroline Ford (Carnival Row) and Tess Haubrich (Bleeding Steel) are both fine actresses, but they are hedging way closer to The Matrix style badasses than the “gonzo horror movie” tone warrants.
The film’s sudden change in tenor robs it of the fun of the first act. O’Toole goes from exasperated to helpless, with a touch of puppy dog smitten towards Ford’s character that never feels earned. Indie movies in general have a problem with deploying super rough and tough action heroes. It rarely comes off as more than cosplay power fantasy.
Barrel Towards the Finish.
The film rarely recovers the delightfully warped brioche of the first act, but it remains engaging. Ford and O’Toole do eventually find an equilibrium despite the script trying to smash their mouth-holes together. The story allows Haubrich to go full whoop-ass, and while the choreography is lacking, she really throws herself into the action with aplomb.
Where the story is a bit thin or over-heated, Monica Bellucci (who may really be a demoness; seriously how does she remain perpetually ageless!?) steps up and shows why she’s been a movie icon for thirty years. She really sinks her teeth into the role of Finnegan, riding the line of dominating the camera but never crossing over into camp.
Nekrotronic is this close to being a cult phenom. It has amazing practical effects, great camera work, and a level of visual polish that belies its ten million dollar budget. It has the pieces, with solid casting choices in O’Toole, Wenham, and Bellucci. It just doesn’t quite match up the tone between acts in a way that renders it a complete package.
A lot of recent films have used the popularity of graphic novels to ape the conventions of comic books. I actually think Nekrotronic is one of those odd films where I would love to see it go the other way. It has the lore, the roster, and the oddball sensibility to pull of a Hellboy or The Boys style series. It’s a fun outing, but it left me feeling that there were certainly a few souls left in the well for this property to devour.