Us horror and sci-fi fans, eh. What are we like? We’ve really only got ourselves to blame. With our love of great gore gags, our nostalgia for the halcyon days of the VHS boom and our partiality to a fun synth score we’re now at a time and place when anything retro seems to be received with open arms. Which is all well and good when you get things as fantastic as The Guest and Kung Fury, but a bit disappointing when you get something like Turbo Kid.
The basics are all there. That synth score is in place, we have a desolate future (1997), characters who travel around on BMX bikes, and plenty of bloodshed. There are robots, masked killers, a world in need of plentiful fresh water, and mighty Michael Ironside.
The simple plot sees our young hero (Munro Chambers) develop into the titular Turbo Kid after he finds the deceased form of the legendary Turbo Rider. Which is just as well, because he has to then save his new friend (Laurence Laboeuf), along with a tough stranger (Aaron Jeffery), from the clutches of the evil Zeus (Mighty Michael Ironside).
If you’ve seen either Le bagman – Profession: Meurtrier or Demonitron: The Sixth Dimension (both shorts, with the latter being one of the best fake trailers I have ever seen – check it out NOW on YouTube) then you’ll already have some idea of what to expect from Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell. Those are the three people responsible for putting this together, which means they can take an equal share of the praise and the blame.
What comes across most obviously is the fact that these guys love their gore. When the blood starts spraying it’s in brilliantly over the top ways. Heads and limbs are lopped off with gay abandon, and there’s even an enjoyably nasty moment showing someone with their guts attached to the back of a bicycle/death machine. You certainly can’t accuse these folks of skimping on the red stuff. But while horror and gore are their forte, the rest of the film feels strangely as if it’s from someone who doesn’t understand the material being affectionately homaged/parodied.
The acting is in line with the type of movie on display, with Ironside being the inevitable standout (although Laboeuf is enjoyably bonkers), but the editing and pacing of the film just feels slightly off. What should have been a rip-roaring 80-90 minute movie feels like something much longer, despite it only clocking in at the 95-minute mark. I think this relates directly to the way in which the movie world is presented to us. It’s just a bit too silly, a bit too slipshod and lazily thrown together, which makes it hard to stay interested when you’re also not heavily invested in the deliberately cliched, cardboard characters or impressed by the (admittedly nicely-executed) backstory that is lifted from so many of these movies from the 1980s. None of these things alone would stand as a mark against the film, and most of them are even positives, but put them all together and the end result is like hearing a small child recite an adult joke for your benefit. You can tell how it is supposed to work, you can even chuckle, but it’s not the same as it would be coming from someone who understood what they were telling you.
Turbo Kid is screening at EIFF 2015 on 21st and 23rd June.
DIRECTOR: FRANCOIS SIMARD, ANOUK WHISSELL, YOANN-KARL WHISSELL
WRITER: FRANCOIS SIMARD, ANOUK WHISSELL, YOANN-KARL WHISSELL
STARS: MUNRO CHAMBERS, LAURENCE LABOEUF, EDWIN WRIGHT, AARON JEFFERY, MICHAEL IRONSIDE
RUNTIME: 95 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: NEW ZEALAND/CANADA