Turbo Kid

Turbo Kid: Gory Post-Apocalyptic Nostalgia

Turbo KidI saw the 2015 film Turbo Kid the other day. It’s a post-apocalyptic gore fest designed to appeal to people of my age. Really! The film takes place in 1997, but the apocalypse happened in the mid-1980s. It features cool things from earlier times like a Rubik’s Cube and a View-Master (invented in 1939, but still big when I was in school). But there is one in situ song in the film, from 1986.[1] But I suspect that filmmakers mean to date it a few years earlier than that. And that kind of crap rock was certainly around earlier.

The story circles around The Kid, who I think is supposed to be a teen, but seems older as played by 25-year-old Munro Chambers. In this world, water is a scarce commodity — controlled by a warlord sort of character named Zeus, played with calm villainy by Michael Ironside. So The Kid scavenges in exchange for water, as he tries to avoid Zeus and his minions. One day, while reading a Turbo Rider comic he is introduced to the bizarre Apple, who is played by Laurence Leboeuf. (Yes, Laurence is a woman.) They eventually hook up with Frederic (Aaron Jeffery), who is kind of like the Marlboro Man, but without the cancer. And together they take on Zeus.

A Revue More Than a Movie

None of what I just told you much matters. The film is more like a revue than a narrative. But instead of song and dance, Turbo Kid features gore and silliness. A surprising amount of screen time is taken up with The Kid and Apple playing tag. So we are treated to alternative scenes of childlike idealism and scenes of more blood shooting out of a body than any body actually has.

I can’t say I liked Turbo Kid, especially. I get that the gore is done for humor’s sake. And it did make me laugh a number of times. And Apple is an irresistible character. But I generally like films with more heft — something more like Don Coscarelli directs. But what else do you expect from a romp? I am glad I watched it — twice.

So I definitely don’t think this was a bad film. It worked remarkably well. And the cast was great. They certainly take the sting out of what is mostly an uninspired script. But even bad acting wouldn’t have killed this film. It’s so much what it intends to be. The directors (François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell) and cinematographer (Jean-Philippe Bernier) have a good visual sense. The film looks great. It’s cut fast (in some cases too fast, I’m afraid). Above all, it works.

You Might Like Turbo Kid

Whether any given person will like the film is hard to say. If you think that excessive gore is funny, then it’s a no-brainer: see it at once. And if you like film as film and appreciate craftsmanship, it’s worth checking out. Sadly, if the gore is a problem for you, the sweet relationship between The Kid and Apple probably won’t overcome it. But if you are able to meet this film on its own terms, you can’t help but be happy to have spent an hour and a half with it.


[1] The song is “Thunder in Your Heart” by John Farnham. The rest of the soundtract is by the band Le Matos (made up crew members, I think), which does an excellent job of maintaining that mid-80s techno-pop feel. They manage to wrap the entire film in a blanket of the worst period in music history without making me wretch. Of course, it helps that it goes along with the kitschy charm of the film.

–Frank Moraes (22 December 2016)

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