Nekrotronic is the second film from Australian brothers and writing team Kiah and Tristen Roache-Turner. Having found success with Wyrmwood, the brothers turned their attention to their next project. Nekrtotronic is the story of Necromancers trying to stop the demonic invasion of the earth via the internet. Roache-Turner tells me right away that video games have a big influence on his films.
“Video games are a massive inspiration,” he tells me before explaining that the way he and his brother create movies is almost based on the way video games work.
“If you see Wyrmwood, you’ll see we’re very video game inspired. We really like first-person shooters and we structure a lot of this stuff like moving from level-to-level,” he explains. Thinking of video games mechanically, you can see where he’s coming from.
When playing games, particularly those with an old-school design, the levels follow a predictable structure. Level up, fight enemies, fight a mini-boss and continue.
Kiah says of his movies, “You put somebody in a situation and then they’ve got to get up, get out of it and then they kill the boss in that section. Then they level up to the next boss.”
In Nekrotronic, the big boss is Finnegan, played by Monica Bellucci. Given that Nekrotronic is only the second feature directed by Roache-Turner, I had to know what it was like working with such a high profile performer.
“It was just as surreal and weird as you would imagine,” he told me. “Wyrmwood was made for literally no money and we shot a lot of it in our mum’s backyard.
So we went from that to ‘Monica Bellucci is flying in from France and she’s going to be here in five minutes.'” An actress known for her talent and beauty isn’t someone you’d expect to find in a small, Australian horror-comedy. Roache-Turner even had an incredible anecdote from his time on set.
In one scene, Bellucci’s character was scripted as being thrown to the ground by the force of an explosion. Roache-Turner told me that a producer took him aside and said that it wasn’t going to happen, that he couldn’t have Monica Bellucci thrown to the ground.
No way. No how.
“So I walk over to Monica and I’m like, okay. In this scene, there’s gonna be a big explosion and I guess you just rock back and forward,” he said.
“She looked at me, she said, ‘No, I would be thrown to the ground. In the script, it says I must be thrown to the ground.'”
“And she did. She smashed into the ground oh man, my respect for her just went through the roof.”
However, Bellucci’s reputation for beauty and poise is well-earned. Roache-Turner told me that on another occasion, he saw her walking around the set and there were cables and tripping hazards all over the place. Roache-Turner asked Bellucci if she’d be more comfortable wearing sneakers, rather than the heels she had on.
“Sneakers?” replied Bellucci, who walked off, confused.
Later, her makeup artist took the Director aside and told him, “Monica Bellucci does not wear sneakers.”
Belluci’s not the only star to feature in Nekrtotronic. Australia’s own David Wenham plays a major character in the film and Roache-Turner told me that he too was really giving of himself.
“He’s incredibly intelligent and incredibly detailed in his work,” he says. “And he’s one of those actors who just nails it 99% of the time, absolutely perfectly and accurately. And if you make the tiniest adjustment that he can do it within, you know, a fraction of a second.”
Being a horror-comedy, things on set obviously got messy and bloody. Both Bellucci and Wenham were covered in fake blood and made to perform under pretty tough conditions. However, Roache-Turner says that there were both absolute class-acts.
The plot in Nektrotronic revolves around using an app to steal the souls of mobile phone users for demons to devour. Roache-Turner told me core theme of the movie is the idea that our smartphones are sucking our souls.
We’re just all on our phones, like constantly all day, every day. And it was just interesting, we were sort of talking about demons and souls and possession and you know, if there’s just a beautiful metaphor that we’re all just completely possessed and, and almost ruled by our phones on a day-to-day basis.
Roache-Turner also told me that the author William Gibson and his novel Neuromancer were big influences.
“Gibson posits that within this internet, there are these programmes that have been existing for like 50 years inside the internet,” he explained “And they turned AI and they’ve gone rogue. And the programmes actually run around literally like demons or internet gods causing trouble.”
A lot of these ideas made it into Nekrotronic as did influences from Sam Raimi, Ridley Scott and John Carpenter.
One thing that Roache-Turner finds exciting in the world of videogames, is the ability for physical spaces to live on in a digital world. Both Nekrotronic and Wyrmwood have tie-in videogames that use VR.
Roache-Turner told me that in the game, “You wake up in these crazy necromancer tunnels and you sort of have to find your way through these tunnels.
“It’s very bizarre to put on that VR helmet and revisit sets that were destroyed a year ago. It looks exactly like the set, it’s phenomenal. So I talk about world-building, one of the great things about VR is, you know, you build these worlds, you know, take a year to write the script and then it takes a huge amount of manpower and money to build the sets and then you just tear them down and it’s done.
“Then you’ve got like a 95-minute movie and that’s it. The great thing about VR is it allows that world to kind of live on. So you can actually walk through the sets that you’ve built and really experience the film over and over again, like in three dimensions, which is pretty amazing.”
Nekrotronic VR is free and available on Steam.
Speaking with Roache-Turner, it’s clear that while a lot of his inspiration is taken from cult films like Evil Dead 2, Mad Max and Blade Runner, there’s a lot taken from videogames too. It’s refreshing to speak to someone who admits to being inspired by videogame design and storytelling rather than deride the medium as inferior.
Nekrotronic is a film that looks at our society’s obsession with technology, the internet and our phones through the lens of comedy-horror.
It will be screened at the 2019 SciFi Film Festival at Event Cinemas George
Street, Sydney on Friday, 6 September. There will also be screenings in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.
Thanks to Kiah Roache-Turner for his time.