SXSW Review: TURBO KID Delivers A Love Letter To The 80s In The Form Of Post Apocalyptic Ass Kicking

There must be something in the water up north in America’s Hat, because for the past few years Canadian film productions have churned out a number of titles that encapsulate the glory days of the VHS era. Starting with Hobo With A Shotgun, the Canadian B-Movie resurrgence has included the films Manborg, Father’s Day, Dead Hooker In A Trunk, Wolfcop and now Turbo Kid can be added to the list. all the listed titles feel rooted in the early days of cable television, where premium stations like Cinemax would run any low budget action, horror or science fiction title they could get the rights to as cheaply as possible in order to fill twenty four hours of programming.

TURBO KID takes place in an alternate reality where by 1997 the machines have turned Earth into a wasteland where most of the population is dead, civilization has been replaced by chaos and the scarcest resource is drinkable water. Ruling the hellish realm with an iron fist, Zeus (Michael Ironside) placates the denizens with bread and circuses that find kidnapped victims killed for sport and their remains liquified and turned into useable drinkable H2O. In order to keep his ironclad grip on the Wasteland, Zeus employs a gang of skull mask and spiked shoulder pad wearing killers that would look right at home at a Raiders game.

It’s in this post-apocalyptic nightmare that we meet The Kid (Munro Chambers). He survives by scavenging the surrounding areas and selling what he finds at the local black market. The Kid obsesses over a comic book about his hero: the fallen soldier Turbo Rider. His outfits, helmet even his trusty BMX serve as a homage to his hero. One day The Kid’s solitary existence is interrupted by a chance encounter with Apple (Laurence Lebouf), a robot programmed for friendship who is adamant about making The Kid her new best friend. As slavers and kidnappers roam the area, it’s only a matter of time before they cross paths with Zeus.

Turbo Kid serves as a love letter to the glory days of 80’s B-movie cinema while borrowing liberal doses from The Road Warrior, Soylent Green Terminator, and certain Peter Jackson film we’ll touch on shortly. That said, the film stands on its own artistic merits with a colorful collection of characters and a fully realized and lived in world in the form of the Wasteland. The film is the result of the collaboration of Canadian trio Francois Simard, Yoann Karl-Whissell and Anouk Whissell and the team fill the screen with a colorful assortment of nostalgia, action, humor and balls to the wall gore. As far as the Wateland goes, the team paid incredible attention to detail, making sure that every major set location from the black market, Zeus’ compound and the desolate Robot Graveyard had a lived in, dirty sheen. The world feels ragged and on its last legs and the sort of place where a stranger would cut your throat for a cup of precious water.

The spectre of Dead Alive looms large over Turbo Kid as the film contains some of the most shocking, hilarious and over the top kill sequences committed to screen. If you told me the kills were conceived in an all night drinking session where the trio had to constantly one up each other or chug a pint glass filled with whiskey I would not bat an eye. From intestines being sucked out by an exercise bike, severed torsos worn as hats to a particle accelerator that pummels and liquifies the human body, Turbo Kid delivers the goods when it comes to batshit crazy chaos and mayhem.

Yet the film accomplishes satisfying the gorehounds without sacrificing the human emotions. Lebouf is a revelation as the unflagging and upbeat robogirl while Chambers never lets you forget that The Kid is still just that. The Kid might be a survivor, but he’s still a boy forced into an extreme, frightening and lonely situation. Chambers and Lebouf do an admirable job creating a deep connection between Apple and the Kid in a short time, and as the stakes rise in the film, you feel invested in their outcome.

Turbo Kid could have been a pure nostalgia trip and that on its own would be enough for it to find an audience. It winds up being something far greater than that, offering audience an absolute thrill ride from the word go.

Mike Snoonian

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since 2009 Mike has written about independent horror, science fiction, cult and thrillers through his own blog All Things Horror along with various other spots on the web. Film Thrills marks his attempt to take things up a notch, expand his viewing and writing horizons and to entertain and engage his audience while doing so. When Mike's not writing or watching movies, you can find him reading to his little girl, or doing science experiments with her, or trying to convince her that the term "chicken butt" comes from people putting chicken nuggets down their underwear. at age five, she's too smart to believe most of what he says.

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