REVIEW: SUMMER OF 84 (2018)

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SUMMER OF 84 (2018)

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80s set flick is from Turbo Kid makers François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell and takes place in the small town of Ipswich, Oregon where normally nothing happens. The area, however, has been plagued with the disappearances of some teenage boys and now a killer dubbed The Cape May Slayer is taking credit. Ipswich teen Davey (Graham Verchere) is convinced his cop neighbor, Officer Mackey (Rich Sommer) is responsible. Determined to save themselves and their neighborhood, Davey and friends Tommy (Judah Lewis), Curtis (Cory Gruter-Andrew) and Woody (Caleb Emery) decide to gather enough evidence to bring him down.

Simard and the Whissells direct from a well-written script by Stephen J. Smith and Matt Leslie and give this mystery/thriller loads of atmosphere, aside from it’s wonderfully nostalgic 80s feel. It’s like one of those teen-centric buddy movies from the 80s like Stand By Me, but with the brooding atmosphere and last act right out of an 80s slasher. While Turbo Kid paid homage to the low budget Road Warrior rip-offs that permeated much of the decade, this one recreates an 80s coming of age movie that’s been cross-bred with a slasher flick and the mix works perfectly. The tropes are all present, including our young hero Davey crushing on his former babysitter, Nikki (Tiera Skovbye) and finding she likes him back and a climax that leaves us unsettled long after the credits roll. This trio knows their 80s and they also know how to deftly create a homage while still making their own film. By the very nature of being a homage we’ve seen a lot before, but it is the love and respect given the recreation of the beloved elements that makes it work so well. It also knows our familiarity with these scenarios and is not afraid to play a little with our expectations, too. We get a likable group of young guys to get behind and the makers are not afraid to put them…and the audience…through the ringer once the last act kicks into intense gear. Add to that some nice nostalgic cinematography by Jean-Philippe Bernier and a great electronic score by Le Matos and you have not only return to a style of filmmaking that inspired many of today’s talent, but a successful mystery/thriller in it’s own right.

The cast of relative unknowns are really effective. Graham Verchere is a very likable, yet realistic teen. He has an overactive imagination and a crush on the slightly older girl-next-door and an obsession that his neighbor is a killer. A classic character, but one given enough of his own personality to avoid being a cliché. Lewis, Gruter-Andrew and Emery also accomplish the same with their characters taking the classic delinquent, geek and “fat kid”, respectively and making them more than the stereotype characters they represent. Rich Sommer is also good as Officer Mackey. The actor makes him nice enough to have us doubt Davey one moment, yet also gives him a subtle creepiness that makes you think that maybe Davey is right after all. Rounding out the main cast is pretty Tiera Skovbye as sassy girl-next-door Nikki, a character also given enough emotional depth from the actress and script to transcend the cliché she could have been. The flick’s script gives each character some emotional resonance and thus a good cast a solid base to work with.

Overall, this was a really good homage to a unique age of movies that was the 80s. It had all the tropes very well recreated, yet as a mystery and thriller was quite effective on it’s own, aside from the nostalgic 80s setting. The script gives the characters some dimension and depth while putting them through the paces of a coming of age movie intertwined with a slasher. If you are a fan of 80s flicks or are old enough to have seen a lot of these flicks during that era, this movie is both a nostalgic treat and a chilling and intense thriller, that’s not afraid to play with your expectations at times.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3and 1/2 80s style walkie talkies.

 

 

 

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REVIEW: TURBO KID (2015)

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TURBO KID (2015)

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Turbo Kid is a delightfully fun homage to the low budget, post-apocalyptic flicks that were abundant in the 80s after the success of The Road Warrior. The film is set, a la a film from the 80s, in 1997 where the world has been turned into a wasteland and now people must struggle everyday to survive. Lone teen ‘The Kid’ (Munro Chambers) is a scavenger who, when not trading junk for water or food, is dreaming of being a superhero like in the Turbo Rider comics he’s found. Soon he may get his wish, as his pretty new friend Apple (Laurence Leboeuf) is taken by ruthless warlord Zeus (Michael Ironside) and Kid sets off to rescue her. With the discovery of some familiar looking battle armor on the way, a superhero may just have been born in the wasteland…Turbo Kid!

Fun homage is written and directed by François Simard with Anouk and Yoann-Karl Whissell and shows these three know their source material well. The film is given the same cheap looking sets and costumes to match the films it pays tribute to, including the old-fashioned looking animation effects and a cast of eccentric and colorful characters. The film also hilariously showers the screen with blood and body parts to the point of blasting right past disgust and straight to chuckles and grins. It’s quite giddy in it’s gore. It has a good time with it’s comic book style violence, as it does with spoofing all the tropes of the post-apocalyptic sub-genre. It doesn’t make a joke out of it, but plays it straight and lets the fun come out of the nostalgia and the over-the-top proceedings in it’s purposely bargain basement setting. We get comic book style characters that use everything at hand as a weapon…the gnome stick being a favorite…robots, mechanical limbs and the fight to control a natural resource, which is water here. Add to that a wonderfully 80s electronic score by Jean-Philippe Bernier, who also did the cinematography and Jean-Nicolas Leupi. It’s a playful reminder of a cheesy sub-genre that also succeeds as being it’s own midnight movie with it’s own identity.

The cast are good and know to play their over-the-top parts straight, but with a wink. Munro Chambers makes a charming and very likable hero as Kid. He’s a noble young man who knows how to survive and bravely steps up to fight the bad guys. Laurence Leboeuf is enchanting as the girl, Apple (a homage to Cannon Picture’s awful futuristic 80s musical, perhaps?), who comes out of nowhere to steal Kid’s heart. She’s feisty, spirited and charmingly eccentric…and has a very interesting secret that Kid soon finds out. Ironside does what he does best and chews the scenery appropriately as the tyrannical, one-eyed villain Zeus. Having been a quintessential 80s bad guy, he is perfect in the part and pays homage to some of his own roles. Also stars Aaron Jeffery as Frederic, an arm-wrestling cowboy who align’s himself with Turbo Kid to take on Zeus.

Turbo Kid is a really fun and nostalgic good time. It pays homage to a sub-genre that was inspired by a classic and was proliferated by low budget film studios such as Cannon Pictures and Charles Band’s Empire. Even more-so, the Italian film studios made dozens of them during the 80s along with a batch of Escape From New York clones. The filmmakers have giddily decided not to pay tribute to The Road Warrior itself, but the cheesy rip-offs it inspired…and the film is all the more fun for it. Would make a great double feature with the recent and equally fun Road Warrior/Dawn Of The Dead mash-up Wyrmwood.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 VHS cover style Turbo Kids.

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