FrightFest 2015: 80's-infused post-apocalyptic fun, with Michael Ironside
Scavenging influences from far and wide, this dystopian-adventure is also a coming-of-ager and an exuberantly violent comedy-horror. An endearing cinematic collage of kid-friendly and playfully macabre miscellany, which will delight audiences of a certain age, Turbo Kid is primarily indebted to the Mad Max films but references everything from BMX Bandits to Braindead via The Goonies and Indiana Jones, with its shameless randomness working for and against it.
It takes place in a post-apocalyptic 1997, where corpses old and new litter the otherwise barren landscape. The setting provides a legitimate excuse to go big on 80's music and fashion, with the era presumably representing the last vestige of civilisation. Munro Chambers plays The Kid, a teenage orphan living in the perilous Wasteland, whose gawkiness and mop of hair recalls Jesse Eisenberg's similarly improbable survivor in Zombieland. When he meets an excitable girl called Apple (Laurence Leboeuf) he reluctantly surrenders his lonely existence, before becoming the eponymous bad-ass.
In this low budget production the cast provide terrific value for money with Chambers a likeable hero and Leboeuf nailing the comedy as the adorable Apple. Michael Ironside gives good mwa-ha-ha as the evil, people-pulping overlord Zeus, while Aaron Jeffery has a whale of a time in what is effectively the Bruce Campbell role, playing the hilariously unflappable and wonderfully rude Frederic the Arm-Wrestler, an adversary of Zeus and ally of The Kid.
The production and costume design are cheeringly ingenious (as are the kills), and the adoption of push bikes as the way of getting around for heroes and villains alike is a hoot. Yet what Turbo Kid lacks is a dynamic directorial voice; it might nod to them but it isn't a patch on George Miller and Peter Jackson's early efforts. The three-strong writer-director team (of François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell) pen some solid quips but, though their film seldom fails to charm, it lacks pace, panache and a strong, coherent identity. Nevertheless, Turbo Kid remains lovingly assembled, fist-pumping fun – a treat for big kids who like their triumph-over-adversity drenched in buckets of blood.
Screened on Thu 27 Aug as part of FrightFest 2015. Available on digital download from Mon 28 Sep, and on DVD & Blu-ray from Mon 5 Oct.