The Wyrmwood brothers – Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner – are back, conjuring evil from the internet in the insane sci-fi/horror flick Nekrotronic.
When STACK spoke with producer and co-writer Tristan Roache-Turner some four years ago about the brothers’ debut feature Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, he told us that their next film would be a scary and demented version of Ghostbusters.
Fast-forward to 2019 and we’re now talking about that very movie. Nekrotronic is an insane plunge into a world of demon hunters, ghosts and evil smartphone apps, and every bit as energetic and inventive as the Roache-Turners’ first feature. Only this time, the journey to the screen involved considerably less DIY.
“Wyrmwood we put on credit card and essentially got free work from friends and family – we pretty much got that made on the smell of an oily rag,” says Tristan. “We had a much more substantial budget [for Nekrotronic], which was one of the great things about teaming up with Hopscotch Films.”
After shooting in backyards and building sets the size of the average lounge room, walking onto the Nekrotronic set at Sydney’s Fox Studios was definitely a surreal experience for director and co-writer Kiah. “I turned to my production designer and said, ‘are you sure this isn’t a Ridley Scott set?’ And he was like, ‘no dude, this is your set.’ It was so much bigger than I thought it would be and that was kind of the mantra of the film. Everything was bigger, the props, the sets, the cameras… My ego was bigger,” he laughs. “It was fantastic.”
If Wyrmwood is zombies meet Mad Max, then Nekrotronic is Ghostbusters and Evil Dead II in the world of The Matrix.
“We looked at The Matrix a bunch of times and thought, ‘What do we like about that?’” says Kiah. “We started using characters and structural elements, because that film is very much a hero’s journey, very mythological. Looking at The Matrix, you start to think about computers and the internet and we thought, ‘Well let’s just weave the internet and ghosts together and see what happens with the plot.
“During the time of the rewrite, the Pokémon Go craze was happening, so I think it was Tristan who had the idea of doing a Pokémon Go app with ghosts. That’s kind of funny, so we elbowed that in there.”
Conceptually, demons possessing people through their smartphones isn’t such a stretch, given society’s addiction to devices. “It’s so what’s going on at the moment,” agrees Tristan. “You look around and everyone is spellbound by what’s on their phone.
“Kiah came up with the initial idea for a film that was about using a resonator engine to amplify the signal of ghosts and make them appear. And then throughout the development process it kept changing, and before we knew it we had demons possessing people through mobile phones, catching demons in Ghostbusters-esque trap boxes and then 3D-printing them up.”
Nekrotronic stars Ben O’Toole as a hapless sanitation worker turned reluctant demon buster, alongside Caroline Ford, Kiwi actor Epine Bob Savea and local hero David Wenham, with Italian superstar Monica Bellucci (The Matrix Reloaded, Spectre) as the film’s demonic villain. According to Tristan, Bellucci’s involvement was instrumental in the film receiving the green light.
“We actually wrote her a letter and neither Kiah nor I thought in a thousand years that she would ever even respond to it, or say yes. But she loved the screenplay – she’s always wanted to play an out and out villain. And she was so cool to work with, really supportive on set and up for whatever we wanted to shoot with her.”
“She was one of the only people who actually said that the script was intelligent,” adds Kiah. “Usually we got ‘interesting’, ‘exciting’ and ‘adrenaline-infused’, but never ‘intelligent’. She came in and she’s like, ‘this is so smart and intelligent – the souls, the mobile phones, how you use the internet. Anything that can get my daughter off the phone is a good movie!’ And I thought, ‘so you’re doing this to get your daughter off the phone?’ That’s classic!”
When asked how they collaborate on the writing process, Tristan says the kitchen is a focal point for creativity. “All the best conversations seem to happen around food. Once we’ve got a bit of an idea and a couple of cool scenes, we start to structure it and fill up a whiteboard with notes.”
Kiah, however, spells it out in simpler terms: “All you need is two brothers, a camera, a bucket of blood and two weird brains, and we get a project.
“We don’t tend to make Sense and Sensibility type films,” he adds. “You’re not going to come to one of our films and be reminded of Ingmar Bergman. We like to make films where audiences scream and jump up and down.”
As for what we can expect next from the bothers, there are a slew of projects in various stages of development, including a Wyrmwood TV script and feature film sequel. The guys are also excited about Crimehouse, which Tristan describes as “a low budget, intensely edited, scary as f–k serial killer thriller”. There’s also a giant spider movie in the works, a vampire film, and a VR experience for both Nekrotronic and Wyrmwood.
That’s a lot of time in the kitchen!