Nekrotronic first look review TIFF 2018: soul-sucking demons go online

Monica Bellucci is coming for our souls in demon-slaying blast Nektrotronic

In this riotous second feature from Australian director Kiah Roache-Turner (Wyrmwood), an age-old battle between soul-sucking demons and the Nekromancers hunting them reaches our present day — and adapts to it: the search for human souls to absorb goes online. The demons’ evil boss (played with lethal charm by Monica Bellucci) creates an app that brings human users directly into the hands of demons. With internet use so widespread, and considering humans’ mindless obsession with games, this could very well mark the end of humanity.

Our main protagonist is Howie (Ben O’Toole), a sanitation worker leading an uneventful life until one day, his naive coworker Rangi (Epine Bob Savea) begins playing with this new app. Howie has an odd reaction to it, and becomes the target of demons and Nekromancers alike: he is wanted for special powers he didn’t even know he possessed.

Teaming up with a gang of badass demon hunters — David Wenham plays the father of two daughters (Tess Haubrich and Caroline Ford) as beautiful as they are deadly — Howie quickly learns the tricks of the trade, through trial and error. The Nekromancers’ equipment for capturing then annihilating the demons is a direct homage to Ghostbusters, but the cinema of the 80s imbues the film’s very structure, way past the gimmick.

Ben O’Toole is a charismatic hero, and his wide-eyed performance as a man suddenly responsible for the whole human race recalls that of Michael J. Fox in Back To The Future — both films are propelled by a similarly raucous energy. With his every successes and mistakes, the film expertly plays with our expectations and keeps us entertained, sometimes to an exhausting degree.

Nekrotronic does get bogged down in complex explanations of the technology used to track, trap, and kill demons, and the romantic subplot between Howie and one of the Nekromancers falls a little flat. But all the jokes land, and for most of its runtime, this is a slick and self-assured romp.

Nekrotronic was seen and reviewed at the Toronto International Film Festival 2018.