Tag Archives: Kiah Roache-Turner

Queen of Pain


by Hope Madden

Is there a more reliable source of terror than the spider?

Well, maybe clowns, but spiders are a close second. Australian filmmaker Kiah Roache-Turner is giddy to elicit shivers and gasps with his delightfully horrifying arachnid adventure, Sting.

Roache-Turner’s love for sci-fi horror bursts gleefully from the dollhouse-set opening credits, a scene that efficiently outlines our backstory. This snapshot playfully predicts the film, even as it homages genre classics.

The Wyrmwood director goes on to use the air ducts of an old Bronx apartment building to lay out the land, introduce us to tenants and their habits, and show our hero shimmying and crawling, all spider-like, through the building.

Who is our hero? Malcontent 12-year-old Charlotte (Alyla Browne). Her baby brother is loathsome, her parents are tedious, no one pays attention to her, her old witch of a great-aunt/land lady blames her for everything. Ugh!

But then Charlotte comes across a very cool little spider. And with so many cockroaches in Charlotte’s building, surely the newly monikered Sting will never need to look elsewhere for food!

Boy, that is lucky.

Browne channels Lulu Wilson’s Becky (maybe a little less angry). Her performance easily withstands the demands of a lead, but she does receive nice support from a variety of personalities living in the building: Nona Hazelhurt, Robyn Nevin, Danny Kim, Silvia Colloca and Jermaine Fowler.

Fiona Donovan’s production design stands out, emphasizing the film’s distinctly Joe Dante vibe. Although instead of perverting some idyllic burb, Sting ravages a storybook version of the Bronx.

But make no mistake, this movie gets nasty. The creature design and CGI are a bit campy, but the damage Sting does is convincing and pitiless. (Pet lovers be warned.)

If you missed Roache-Turner’s 2014 post-apocalyptic thrill ride Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, definitely check it out. With that film, his fondness for Mad Max flavored a delightful riff on the zombie movie. Here he channels affection for a wide range of creature features (he really loves Alien) but still manages to create something decidedly his own.

And I Feel Fine

Wyrmwood: Apocalypse

by Hope Madden

Back in 2014, co-writer/director/Aussie Kiah Roache-Turner brought new life to tired ideas. Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead took an old-school Australian road movie and littered it with some undead. The two went well together. The result was a novel, often funny, action-packed splatter fest.

The original braided ideas from Romero and others, but somehow the amalgamation felt fresh. Zombie movies are rarely fresh. Same can be said for sequels. Zombie sequels — very hard to say something new.

For his sequel, Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, Roach-Turner writes again with brother Tristan. They return to the post-apocalyptic Outback to catch up with zombie/human hybrid Brooke (Bianca Bradey), her scruffy brother Barry (Jay Gallagher), and whatever’s going on at those military outposts.

As this is a zombie movie, assume the worst about those outposts.

Roache-Turner leans a little more heavily on dark humor for this one. The previous installment was brighter with its laughs, while this go-round finds comedy mainly inside the viscous filth of the laboratories.

Nicholas Boshier, returning as The Surgeon, gets to even wink and nod toward the Evil Dead franchise.

Meanwhile, outside the barracks, brothers and sisters are duking it out with everyone and everything to save or avenge one another.

Bradey and Gallagher take a backseat this time to Rhys (Luke McKenzie), a skeptical soldier whose twin was slain in the last film. He teams up, somewhat reluctantly, with Maxi (Shantae Barnes-Cowan), whose sister is inside one of those nasty labs.

A couple of intriguing kills (or near-kills), a little loose-end tying, and a few laughs keep this one from disappearing completely from memory. The inspired lunacy of Roache-Turner’s original is gone, replaced with entertaining if forgettable fun.

Pokémon? No.


by Christie Robb

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a cute accent will make even the silliest sentiment 20 percent more charming. So, it’s fortunate that the dialogue in Kiah Roache-Turner’s action/comedy/horror is mostly delivered in appealing Australian accents. Otherwise it’s a bit of a mess.

A take on cell phone addiction, Nekrotronic asks the question, “What if demons got online and created a knock-off of Pokémon Go to steal our souls?”

Thankfully, Howard, a sanitation engineer/orphan, discovers he’s the descendant of generations of necromancers (nekromancers?) with demon-fighting superpowers, now upgraded with what look like coaxial cable ports in the backs of their heads. Years ago, his necromancer parents split up when mom, Finnegan, was turned to the dark side. Howard’s dad hid him with muggles before being murdered by his ex.

Ben O’Toole delivers a decent performance in Howard. He’s equally able to pull off his silly X-Men-style superhero suit and deliver the occasional bit of banter that reminds us that the movie is supposed to be part comedy. His chemistry with his tragically underused sidekick Rangi (Epine Bob Savea) is probably the best part of the film. Too bad it’s mostly in the first 18 minutes.

After the initial setup, Nekrotronic often seems to forget the comedic slant and leans heavily into the action. The special effects and fight sequences are acceptable. But there are no stakes. What is Finnegan going to do with the power of the souls she devours through the cell phone game? Use the power to get more souls. Why? To what purpose? Unclear. What does Howard stand to lose? Little. He already seems to hate his foster family and his job. He’s not invested in random strangers. His BF Rangi might take a hit, but Howard’s powers can sorta mitigate that.

The movie mashes up Matrix, Tron and Ghostbusters and sets it to a half-hearted attempt at a Tarantino soundtrack. But there’s no focus or originality in the result.

The weakest part of the movie is probably Monica Bellucci’s Finnegan. Possessing a gorgeous Italian accent, her delivery proves the exception to the accent-makes-it-better maxim. She struggles to enunciate the juvenile, expletive-laden dialogue that comes much more naturally from the other characters. It feels like when your manager researches slang on Urban Dictionary and pulls the results out in the conference room to seem relevant. It’s cringy and off-putting.

In the end, Nekrotronic delivers a little bit of everything, but it not enough of the right things.