Despite its blasts of gore and streaks of profanity, Nekrotronic has a pure straight-to-cable energy. Its central conceit of demons attempting to use an app game to infect all the world’s souls is cute and novel, the sort of idea that networks could run commercials on--like a shark attack, but at Jersey Shore! In action, though, the concept is just shiny paper wrapped around a pretty standard package. It gives that familiar comfort that’s fine if you just want to have something on, passively glancing at the screen while you do more productive things. It’s a paint-by-numbers hero’s journey sprinkled with shticky jokes that will work best on those watching it without paying all that close of attention.
Director: Kiah Roache-Turner
Release Date: August 9, 2019 (Limited, VOD)
Howard North (Dave Beamish) is a septic tank worker with a secret history: He’s an orphan, abandoned by his parents and haunted by his ability to see apparitions (I think. There’s a bit in the middle where he suggests he’s spent his life taking pills to stop what he thought were hallucinations, but it’s all pretty well glossed over and not mentioned before or after.), living a life of servitude to his foster family emptying tanks and getting sprayed with fountains of fecal water. Little does he know, however, that he has a magical power. You see, he’s actually from a long line of necromancers--and I’m sure that at this point you can guess that this means he has to rediscover his gifts, cope with the responsibilities thrust upon him, and then rise to the occasion and become the hero the world needs. It’s the oldest story ever told, and Nekrotronic doesn’t deviate from it for a second.
Howard’s mother, Finnigan (Monica Bellucci) has become a demon-infested monster with near-unlimited power while still hunting for ever more. She releases an app game that allows users to capture monsters in an AR setup similar to Pokemon GO. When users capture these ghosts into their phones this allows Finnigan to access their souls, because demons are--electricity?--I don’t know. This is the type of movie with ideas that get muddied into meaninglessness thanks to a script crammed full of jargon, lore, and nonsense. Good stretches of Nekrotronic are eaten away by characters explaining the unexplainable and creating dozens more questions along the way. Its so top-heavy with explanation and backstory that it doesn’t leave any room for plotpoints beyond your standard action beats.
That action does look pretty decent, however. The plasma weapons have stylish neon colors and a sense of weight within the world. Shots are impactful, and bodies explode into gleeful globs of gore. A weird choice in the second act has the necromancers switch out their future weapons for regular bullets, which is less fun to watch and also I imagine less effective against demons, though I don’t know that for sure. I’m not an expert.
The comedy amounts to little more than characters loudly announcing what’s happened to them in a peevish tone. There are a few smirks when Beamish surprises with some genuine delivery that breaks away from the stilted setups, but mostly it’s cringey one-liners and uninspired gags.
Though we’re told the world is at stake, Nekrotronic doesn’t rouse much in the way of tension or drama. Death is easily undone with magical or technological shenanigans. It’s the sort of film that promises early that only bad guys will get hurt, which eliminates any sense of jeopardy. It’s a romp, a diversion without any risks--or much else to hold your attention.
If Nekrotronic does somehow end up on your TV screen, go ahead and grab that laundry. It needs to be folded, anyway.