The Horror Honeys: SXSW Review: TURBO KID


A Head Honey SXSW Review by Kat

Turbo Kid (2015)

I have no aspirations to be a filmmaker. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I put my heart and soul into words and not into celluloid, and I have a great amount of respect for those who choose to create their art in the kind of public setting that is the film and television medium. The indie film arena is not for the faint of heart either. Flying below the radar of the majority of the movie watching audience, indie filmmakers are fighters. They have to be. 

Turbo Kid began as a short film: specifically as an entry into the ABC’s of Death filmmaker competition with T is for Turbo. Created by a trio of Canadian filmmakers, T is for Turbo caught the attention of the producers of the anthology series, and their result of that support is Turbo Kid

What initially drew me to this film is a little shallow, as any surface scan of a film listing usually is. A post-apocalyptic theme with superhero leanings, a 90s timeframe (squee!) and the fact that it was a Canadian and New Zealand collaboration (another weakness) had me locked in and eager to check it out. 

I was NOT disappointed.

The story: In a post-apocalyptic future, a young solitary scavenger (The Kid) ekes out a living in the desolate world and is obsessed with comic books featuring his favorite superhero - Turbo Man. The Kid must face his fears and become a reluctant hero when he meets a mysterious girl named Apple. Turbo Kid is brought to us by horror masterminds (which here means producers) Ant Timpson (The ABCs Of Death 1 & 2, Housebound) and Jason Eisener (Hobo With A Shotgun), and co-directed/co-written by Fran├žois Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell.

With true 90s flair, the entirety of Turbo Kid is endearingly overdramatic. With special attention paid to color and detail, there was something interesting to look at in every scene, from The Kid’s jam packed lair of 90s awesomeness to the details of the clothing, armor, vehicles, and locations. Some locations, like the park, are postcards from the apocalypse, and they’re beautifully poignant. 

The Kid (Munro Chambers), our wannabe hero, is an unlikely one. He’s doing his best to survive on his own, and through tie-in flashbacks we experience not so much the pain and subsequent fear he felt after losing his parents to villain Zeus, but more importantly his anger, confusion, and his need to see justice done for them and all of the oppressed. The Kid’s even more unlikely friend is Apple (Laurence LeBoeuf), with her Luna Lovegood simplicity and adorably off-putting offers of friendship. I love Apple. Like Luna, she sees the world a little differently, but also sees it in such a way that highlights a truth that might have been missed by a casual observer. She’s also a straight up badass with her teal jumpsuit and candy pink hair, and gives some of the best advice in the film: “Strike first, strike hard, show no mercy.” I think I’ve officially adopted that as a new Horror Honey motto. 

I love you, Luna/Apple
With the destruction of society, there is no order, and the self-appointed overlord of this apocalyptic world is the terrifyingly positioned (and titled) Zeus (Michael Ironside). Zeus runs this town, and does it with an iron fist, a bicycle gang of armored thugs, and a fight to the death gladiator ring. However, this is where things start to tread on familiar ground. Comparisons and homages to other films are hard to avoid, but the one detail that irked me a little was this: there’s a water shortage. Zeus offers us an expositionary monologue about the water content of the human body, and my brain immediately shut down. I had a major and immediate itch to watch Tank Girl. While Zeus’ methods of extracting water from the body are not nearly as elegant as Kesslee’s, the result is the same, as was my disappointment in that plot turn. Post-apocalyptic conflicts generally go one of two ways: too much water and too much Kevin Costner, or not enough water, and a lot of trying to figure out how to get water/kill for water/die for water.

That detail aside, which I'm sure will only be noticed by those of us completely obsessed with Lori Petty's 90s film career, I appreciated the generous peppering of comedy throughout the film. From awkward conversations between The Kid and Apple, to pointed lines of injury based comedy. I’d like to watch Turbo Kid again and count the recurring “give you a hand” and “eye for an eye” occurrences, as they were many, and didn’t hinder the flow of the dialogue, which was refreshing. Comedic moments were supplied by Zeus and opportunistic “cowboy” drifter, Fredrick the Arm Wrestler (Aaron Jeffrey). I liked Fredrick immediately (but I blame the accent for that), and he supplied a Clint Eastwood-style coolness to the operation, as well as some strong arm (heh) muscle for the fight scenes.
BMX Badguys - Scary or not? 
Another detraction for me probably isn't an issue most people would have: physical comedy doesn’t “do it” for me. I find that physical comedy in horror films becomes slapstick very quickly, and I rarely find this entertaining. Jokes that were original when they were used in other films are lame and get old quickly when overused. When Mr. Bean got a turkey stuck on his head, it was hilarious watching him dance around his apartment trying to get it off. Watching a henchman with half a corpse stuck on his head flailing about is funny for a minute, until another corpse is stacked on top and he’s still flailing as if human bodies don’t weigh a shit ton and it’s just beyond him to lean forward slightly and let them slide off. 

Gore and FX played a huge role in Turbo Kid, and there is plenty of blood to go around. Quentin Tarantino-style fountains of it. And it's fabulous. The Kid’s discovery and use of his hero suit and blaster make for some high quality entertainment, and while CGI blood isn’t my favourite thing, it’s not used to excess (or wasn’t as obvious as in some indie blood baths). 

Overly dramatic in a surreal and endearing way, Turbo Kid, to me, was the happy result of what would happen if a 90s cartoon came to life and mated with Beyond Thunderdome. The peppy techno-keyboard soundtrack was on point, and I caught myself tapping my fingers in time to the beat more than a few times. With very few missteps and some great cameos (and deaths) from the filmmakers themselves, Turbo Kid is an early entry on my “Best of 2015” list.   

Head Honey verdict: 4 Gnomesticks out of 5