A List of Essential Eighties Psychotronic Horror Comedy, Plus One

August 26, 2019
To celebrate the release of Nekrotronic, we give you the films that undoubtedly influenced its filmmakers.

The Roache-Turner brothers are back, baby! Having carved out a niche in the cult firmament for themselves back in 2014 with the raucous zombie action comedy Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, Tristan (writer, producer) and Kiah (co-writer, director) have returned to the big screen with Nekrotronic, a bigger, bolder and ballsier effort on all fronts.

Nektrotronic follows the (mostly ill) fortunes of sewerage workers Howie (Ben O’Toole) and Rangi (Epine Bob Savea), who find themselves dealing with a different kind of shit entirely, when they uncover a hidden world of tech-savvy demons (including the great Monica Bellucci) and the family of necromancers (David Wenham, Caroline Ford, Tess Haubrich) who battle them. Cue non-stop loud ‘n’ proud action, comedy, and horror in roughly equal measure.

The Roache-Turners have prior form for this kind of thing and, indeed are following in a long tradition of similar cinematic fare: movies that combine great gore gags; earthy, working class comedy; and the odd high-tech gadget or two for good measure.

Want to get yourself in the right head space for Nekrotronic? Cue up a few of these on the screen of your choice… and strap in for the Psychotronic Horror Comedy of Nekrotronic.

Ghostbusters (1984)

Well, it goes without saying, doesn’t it? Ivan Reitman’s subgenre-defining blockbuster supernatural comedy pits Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson’s workaday “paranormal investigators and eliminators” against the Sumerian god Gozer and the apocalypse that attends its arrival on this plane of existence. Funny as hell, thrilling, and tinged with the off kilter strangeness that only genuine occult nut Aykroyd could bring to the table, Ghostbusters is such a gamechanger that it feels like it even influenced movies which came out before it – surely the biggest interdimensional cross rip since the Tunguska Blast of 1909.

 

Bad Taste (1987)

Before he started monkeying around in Middle Earth and Skull Island, Kiwi cine-king Peter Jackson cut his teeth on low budget, gleefully offensive schlock cinema like this, his feature debut. When Astro Investigation and Defence Service (AIDS) agents, Derek (Jackson himself), Frank (Mike Minnet), Ozzy (Terry Potter), and Barry (Peter O’Herne) investigate the disappearance of the entire population in the sleepy New Zealand village of Kaihoro, they uncover an alien plot to harvest humans for an extraterrestrial fast food chain. Much gross-out carnage ensues, including the infamous “vomit banquet” scene. Bad Taste goes out of its way to live up to its name, and should prove a useful corrective for those who are sick up to the back teeth with bloody hobbits.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension (1984)

Peter Weller is the titular Dr. Buckaroo Banzai, physicist, neurosurgeon, test pilot, and rock star, who leads his band/science team, The Hong Kong Cavaliers, on a mission to save Earth from an interdimensional invasion by Red Lectroids led by the villainous Dr. Emilio Lizardo (John Lithgow). Featuring a fantastic cast of “that guy!” actors, including Jeff Goldblum, Clancy Brown, Christopher Lloyd, Vincent Schiavelli, Dan Hedaya, and more, this truly bizarre pulp curio throws everything into the mix and expects the audience to keep up, thrusting us into a world of weird science, warring aliens, rock shows, mysterious twins, and more. It’s a genuine headscratcher, which is probably why audiences were left nonplused (the confidently promised sequel never eventuated). It’s certainly a singular slice of high weirdness, though.

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014)

Well, it kind of goes without saying, doesn’t it? The Roache-Turners’ low-budget first feature mashes together Dawn of the Dead and Mad Max, resulting in a high-octane, hugely gory, and frequently hilarious horror/comedy romp. During a zombie apocalypse brought about by an airborne pathogen, bush mechanic Barry (Jay Gallagher) sets off to rescue his sister, Brooke (Bianca Bradey) with the help of fellow survivor Benny (Leon Burchill). Their secret weapon? A truck that runs on zombie blood – just go with it. Built from scratch with nothing but a high concept and a shedload of Aussie filmmaking ingenuity, Wyrmwood is an absolute ball-tearer of a movie and seems to have set the mould for the brothers’ future careers nicely.

Repo Man (1984)

White suburban punk Otto (Emilio Estevez) teams up with jaded car repossesser Bud (the great Harry Dean Stanton) to track down a Chevy Malibu with a $20,000 bounty on it. Why so lucrative? There’s something in the boot – maybe a time machine, maybe a UFO engine, maybe a neutron bomb. Whatever, a repo man spends his life getting into tense situations, okay. Alex Cox’s never-bettered surreal slide through LA hardcore culture and late-stage capitalism is a truly unique film: an angry-as-hell political screed, an arch tour through the ever-looming apocalypse, a tribute to the DIY attitude and ethos of the LA punk scene, and a great sci-fi-comedy. Plus, the soundtrack, filled with the likes of Iggy Pop, Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, Fear, and more, kicks every arse in reach.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Brawling, blowhard trucker Jack Burton (Kurt Russell having the time of his life) gets caught up in a secret war between rival Chinese magicians in John Carpenter’s freewheeling tribute to Hong Kong wuxia fantasy cinema. Audiences didn’t really know what to make of it on release – while kung fu had headed West thanks to Bruce Lee and the Shaw Brothers, Chinese fantasy was an unknown quantity for multiplex mobs – but Big Trouble’s winning combo of weird monsters, malevolent spirits, blistering action, crackling dialogue, and sly humour struck a chord with the cult crowd, and it’s been a perennial favourite ever since. No horse shit, Wang.

Evil Dead 2 (1987)

Sam Raimi’s sequel/remake of 1982’s Evil Dead basically puts Bruce Campbell in a cabin and unleashes hell on him, forcing the big-chinned everyman to resort to more and more extreme methods to battle the Kandarian Demons and Deadites besieging the joint – up to and including severing his possessed hand and strapping a chainsaw to the stump for the big action finale. Is this Sam Raimi’s best film? Well, yes – that’s unarguable. Is it Bruce Campbell’s? Also, yes – although we have a soft spot for Bubba Ho-Tep. Do we feel like watching it right now? Again, yes – Evil Dead 2 never gets old.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

If not the greatest horror-comedy of all time, John Landis’s lupine laugh riot is certainly the Opener of the Way for the modern age of guts ‘n’ guffaws filmic fare – it’s hard to imagine anything else on the list even existing if it wasn’t for David Naughton’s hapless American tourist encountering a ravening lycanthrope on the moors near the less-than-friendly Slaughtered Lamb pub. It’s not like he doesn’t have plenty of warning before things get hairy – best mate Griffin Dunne even goes to the effort of coming back from the dead to advise him. Still, our hero doesn’t listen, and soon he’s eating his way up and down the London social ladder while romancing nurse Jenny Agutter. Still renowned today for Rick Baker’s groundbreaking makeup effects, An American Werewolf in London remains a… wait for it… howling good time.

My Science Project (1985)

Essentially Back to the Future’s cooler, more punk rock cousin, this ‘80s obscurity sees future Blue Crush director John Stockwell’s petrol-head high school student swipe an engine from an aircraft graveyard in order to hand it in as his final assignment for science teacher Dennis Hopper. Turns out it’s the engine from the 1947 Roswell UFO, and when it’s plugged in it opens a vortex in time and space, forcing Stockwell and his mouthy best bud (Fisher Stevens) to battle all sorts of time-tossed terrors – a Roman gladiator, a caveman, mutants from the future and a freakin’ tyrannosaurus rex – as they try and shut down the gizmo before it envelopes the world. If you can track this one down, you’re in for a blast – it’s a forgotten gem of weird cinema.

Comments

  1. Colin Smith

    Just one correction: in Wormwood the (heroes’) truck runs on zombie breath, not blood, iirc. Both the blood and breath are combustible – which begs the question: what happens if you light a zombie fart?!

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