Most agree that style without substance is a losing formula in the world of movies, but sometimes, style goes a long way. In the case of Kiah Roache-Turner’s Nekrotronic, a charming but ultimately vapid sci-fi/horror hodgepodge, it can’t be denied that looking cool and feeling fun can outweigh being unoriginal and emotionally bankrupt.

Yes, the movie is really called Nekrotronic and its premise is exactly as goofy as its title. The film follows Howard North (Ben O’Toole), an unassuming everyman with a horrible job. Just so the audience doesn’t get confused about his ascent from random nobody to Joseph Campbell chosen-one status, he works in sewage and the movie opens with him getting covered in raw shit like a winner at Nickelodeon’s Kid’s Choice Awards getting slimed. But Howard isn’t just a shit scraper! He’s the last of a long line of demon hunters destined to help wage war on ghosts and monsters and stuff.

Only in the world of Nekrotronic, demons now live in the internet? And travel through fiber optic cables? So instead of a run-of-the-mill Hellboy or Blade pastiche, the dicey mythology of this world is wrapped up in a heavy video game/anime aesthetic, spiking the Lovecraftian horror with striking touches of cyberpunk. This should be obvious from the outset with the animated prologue introducing the film’s narrative rules, but once we meet the film’s Big Bad, a demon wrangler played by Monica Belluci, she’s sacrificing an opponent and a goat in a room fresh out of Tron, with serrated guitar on the score and neon lightning mixing with all the blood.

It’s that headbutt of a scene that cemented this central thesis about Nekrotronic. Roache-Turner may not be the world’s most inventive screenwriter, but as a director, the man knows how to maximize a small budget and make an adventurous ride of a film. His devil may care attitude and relentless sense of bombast calls to mind the innovative camera work of early Sam Raimi flicks and the Original Recipe 4Loko stylings of the Crank films. Every scene is crackling with raw energy in a supremely watchable way. Whether or not the immediately forgettable plot tickles the viewer’s fancy, it’s difficult to imagine not having a good time watching the ridiculousness on display.

Roache-Turner’s last film, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, treaded similar territory with even less financial backing, so it’s clear this guy has the passion and vision necessary to helm experimental genre pictures tailor made for the Drafthouse Films set. His failings as a writer notwithstanding, he even finds a way for bigger names like Belluci and David Wenham to chew some scenery and leverage their individual bits of gravitas towards giving the picture some semblance of dramatic weight.

If all these big budget superhero movies are going to keep hiring no-name indie auteurs for the studio to push around, shouldn’t at least one of those damn things get helmed by a guy like this, who can find the fun in seemingly any subject? Even if Roache-Turner’s next film isn’t a monstrous summer blockbuster, let’s hope he’s given a little more money to play with, and a better collaborator at the script stage.

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