In a year that’s already gifted us with the pure, adrenaline-soaked perfection of Mad Max: Fury Road, it’s hard to believe another similarly-themed film could make its mark in much the same way – even less so an indie horror movie from three Québécois filmmakers known as Roadkill Superstar (RKSS).
However, the fact that Turbo Kid, an enjoyably mental, Canadian-New Zealand co-production from the increasingly prolific Epic Pictures, is executive-produced by Hobo With A Shotgun director Jason Eisener should give you some indication as to its tone. Fury Road it ain’t.
Turbo Kid charts the misadventures of a young lad known only as The Kid. Played with wide-eyed charm by newcomer Munro Chambers, he serves as our entry into the dystopian, water-starved, post-apocalyptic nightmare world of…1997. Suffice to say, Turbo Kid doesn’t take itself quite as seriously as Fury Road, or even, for that matter Beyond Thunderdome.
The jokes come hard and fast, the gore is over-the-top, practically-realised and delightfully crunchy but, at its core, this is a very sweet film about family, friendship and the difficulty of trying to find one’s place in the world. Into Kid’s tiny, very controlled little head-space blasts Apple, a perpetually happy, slightly dizzy young girl who, when he first stumbles upon her, is bidding goodbye to the decaying corpse of her ex-best friend.An interesting introduction, that reveals more about her character than is at first obvious, it sets the scene for The Kid’s inevitable understanding of his necessity for a buddy in the horrifying, godforsaken world in which he lives–a world that is ruled with an iron fist by, who else, Michael Ironside’s (interview) Zeus. The eighties legend devours the scenery with relish, but it’s the two young Canadian leads who form the movie’s beating heart, and who make Turbo Kid an unexpectedly moving affair.
Chambers’ downtrodden, pessimistic orphan is the perfect foil for Apple’s relentlessly sunny outlook (even when certain death is moments away, this girl is smiling and waving happily). They’re easy to root for and the two actors, considering they only have a handful of roles under their belts (Chambers is a Degrassi graduate), do a remarkable job of keeping the story grounded amid the increasingly insane carnage.
There are a number of clever sight gags scattered throughout the movie, a couple of which nod to the most beloved genre flicks. But RKKS wisely pave their own path with the nutty premise, and even crazier location, cementing Turbo Kid‘s position as a cult hit in the making. In fact, the best jokes often involve the never-gonna-get-old practice of chasing people on bikes.
Naturally, Ironside gets the best lines, alongside Frederic, a moody drifter who’s highly concerned about people invading his personal space. Like Kid, he has to learn how to let others in sometimes, the message being that it’s okay to be vulnerable and scared once you’re surrounded by your friends (doubly so if they’ve got gnomes on sticks as makeshift, bad-ass weapons).
The dusty, expansive landscapes are shot with a keen eye, presenting them as both awe-inspiring and dread-inducing. And there’s a certain charm to the colourful gore that makes the final, bloody battle, in particular, a thing of beauty.
The amount of time and effort that went into creating this world (to ensure it doesn’t look like the back of someone’s garage as is often the case) is obvious, and it makes Turbo Kid even more touching as a result.
The idea that this movie was made at all, that it found a home for itself, and that it has been so well received thus far (deafening cheers greeted it at Frightfest) is something to be celebrated. It’s particularly gratifying when you consider the flick was originally envisioned as the T entry in The ABCs Of Death.
Boasting the best soundtrack since The Guest (in fact, Apple is a bit like Maika Monroe’s sullen Anna on a load of E), the craziest practical gore since Hatchet and the sweetest love story this side of Richard Curtis, Turbo Kid is simultaneously unique and a loving nod to a million familiar pop culture items at once. It feels, at times, like an eighties direct-to-video schlockfest, but in the best possible way.
Simply put, Turbo Kid isn’t as good as you’ve heard. It’s better.
WICKED RATING: (8/10)
Director(s): François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Writer(s): François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Stars: Michael Ironside, Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, Aaron Jeffrey
Studio/ Production Co: Epic Pictures
Length: 92 minutes