This is the future. Bicycles remain the only mode of transport and they scream down rubble road decorated with human skulls, past junk yards littered with bits and bobs of discarded robots and towards the odd outskirts ripe for plundering. The land is overrun with masked miscreants of a steam-punk Road Warrior meets Jason Voorhees variety picking through the remains of a scrapyard Earth. The leader of the bicycled clan, a nefarious crime boss known as Zeus (Michael Ironside), has concocted a way to transform humans into water – now the world’s most precious resource. This is 1997.
Everyone in Turbo Kid looks like the ’80s puked on them. From the cheap rubber suits to a barrel of throwback practical effects, Turbo Kid aims to be the product of a past generation. “We always wanted Turbo Kid to be like some lost crazy kids movie from an alternate 1980s that’s somehow has just been rediscovered,” says directing team Anouk Whissell, François Simard & Yoann-Karl Whissell (a.k.a. The RKSS Collective). They note that their film was inspired by the landscapes of The Road Warrior, the splatter-happy gore of Braindead, the cheeky cheese of Cherry 2000 and the costumery and, uh, bikes of BMX Bandits and their affinity for such palpably dated material couldn’t have been translated to the screen in brighter streaks. A blu-ray release would be injustice. Turbo Kid was made for VHS.
In this decadently dated film, a young mop of brown curls known only as “The Kid”, played by Munro Chambers, is a loner forced to live a life of restless solitude in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. He kicks in in his underground scrap-metal hovel, dividing his time between hunting for a new water source and making trips to the trading post to barter the odd ROTC for a ration of increasingly tainted agua. When his path – oft drawn on maps with crayon – crosses with an eccentric and impossibly bright-eyed lass called Apple (Laurence Laboeuf), the Kid must embark on a hero’s quest to save what is left from the scourge of the one-eyed Zeus.
From A to Z, Turbo Kid aims to capitalize on a deep-rooted nostalgia for a bygone era. RKSS attempt to corner the “so bad, it’s good” market and make the sci-fi equivalent of fantasy’s The Princess Bride. The characters are little more than cheesy riffs, chewing scenery to the point of choking on it while the plot is hardly designed in such a way that it warrants being repeated. But like The Princess Bride before it, Turbo Kid zips from one campy chortle to the next, leaving little time for you to pick at all its many seams. And like its production design that showcases sharp primary colors standing out against drab backdrops, Turbo Kid stands out from the field when it’s willing to turn the violence levels to turbo.
Those familiar with the ABCs of Death may find themselves in the loving arms of déjà vu as Turbo Kid itself is an expanded segment of the anthology’s “T is for Turbo”. Much of the same “heavy-spray” practical effects are employed here but they’re ratcheted up to a wonderfully tasteless degree. Heads are cracked in two, appendages soar and bodies literally pile up on one another.
In fact, Turbo Kid features so much practical effects-driven gore that on any given day, the crew included a “stunt team, a blood team, a prosthetics team and a doctor.” Though eye-poppingly fun in those big set pieces, Turbo Kid fails to really engage on any level beyond camp and nostalgia. For this particular case though, that’s almost all I needed.