Turbo Kid, 2015
Written and directed by François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Starring Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, Michael Ironside, Edwin Wright. Aaron Jeffery, Romano Orzri, Orphée Ladouceur
In a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a comic book fan dons the persona of his favourite hero to save his enthusiastic friend and fight a tyrannical overlord.
To paraphrase the producer of the movie, Turbo Kid is a fake movie from the 1980s made in 2015 and set in a post-apocalyptic 1997. Simply put, this is your new favourite cult film. It takes all the best elements of Mad Mad, BMX Bandits and Braindead for an 80s style gorefest that packs a major punch, but also a lot of heart.
Turbo Kid started out live in a similar vein to Hobo With a Shotgun, and the two are pretty comparable. The movie was originally submitted as a short for The ABCs of Death as “T for Turbo” (which eventually became “T for Toilet”), but the producers thought the idea was so good that they helped directing trio François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell get funding to make a feature-length version. So what is the movie about? Well it’s set in a post-apocalyptic landscape where everyone is searching for clean water and rides BMXs. Our protagonist, The Kid, is a survivor and comic book fan who befriends a quirky little number called Apple. But when Apple is captured by the evil Zeus, The Kid must become Turbo Kid, an emulation of his favourite comic book character in order to save her.
It’s that late-night VHS rental you loved as from the 80s brought to life in a bold new way. What makes Turbo Kid so enjoyable is that it’s incredibly genuine. I mentioned Hobo With a Shotgun earlier in the review, but Turbo Kid does something that movies like that, Death Proof, Planet Terror and Run! Bitch, Run! all failed to do: feel real. Fake Grindhouse movies always suffer from trying too hard to be “grindhouse” to the point where they often become parody, but Turbo Kid never suffers from this issue. Apart from its glossy sheen from the HD cameras its shot on, Turbo Kid genuinely feels like it was made 30 years ago. It doesn’t go overboard with highlighting things from the decade (like a lot of period movies do) which only furthers the movie immersive nature. Even its logo, a take on G.I. Joe: Real American Hero is subtle in its execution and its synth soundtrack is sublime along with a tremendous Stan Bush-style opening number.
This is helped by the fact Turbo Kid has a wonderful cast of characters, all of whom are perfectly pitched. The Kid is incredibly sweet and likeable and Zeus (played by Total Recall‘s Michael Ironside) is a fantastic hammy villain, who has the most ingenious plan of providing water for his followers. Frederic the Arm Wrestler is a great cowboy-type character who acts as a friend and compadre to The Kid and even Zeus’ muscle – a brilliantly designed Mad Max-esque Skeletron and terrifying apocalyptic punk female known simply as Female Guard – are superb folly to our heroes. Skeletron in particular, highlighted on the movie’s poster, is bound to become a new Halloween costume favourite for horror fans. But it’s Laurence Leboeuf’s Apple who really steals the show. A tremendous creation, Apple is so endearing, funny, sweet and just right amount of quirky so she’s never annoying or trite.
But at the centre of Turbo Kid, and the movie’s real strength, is its heart. Again, unlike movies like Hobo With a Shotgun, Turbo Kid works because it feels genuine. Even if the movie wasn’t “made in the 80s” or set in 1997, Turbo Kid would still be a thrilling BMX ride because its so heart-warming and fun. The movie never takes itself too seriously, but has a real emotional core that raises it up a couple more notches. You really want to see The Kid beat the bad guy, and you really can’t wait for Zeus to get his comeuppance. And aside from all that, Turbo Kid boasts an impressive amount of gore that will please the most blood-thirsty of fans. There really is a Peter Jackson Braindead vibe to Turbo Kid as it demonstrates ludicrous moments of violence that will have you laughing out loud and applauding at the screen. And again, it’s just the right level of over-the-top that it never devolves into parody. Each spray of blood is note-perfect and important to the story and emotion its telling. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, Turbo Kid has something new up its sleeve.
Turbo Kid needs sequels, it needs comic books, it needs action figures and it needs to be seen. It should be studied by other filmmakers on how to make a love letter to the VHS era of movies because it gets everything right. There is an argument to be made that the film often tries too hard to be funny when its genuinely hilarious enough, but that is a minor quibbles. If you grew up in an age where going to rent a VHS was the most exciting part of your week and discovering your new favourite movie was a tremendous moment, then Turbo Kid is for you. Funny, heart-warming and gory as hell, Turbo Kid is Turbo-tastic.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.