RKSS on subverting expectations in Summer Of 84, toying with the 80s and Turbo Kid

We talk to the makers of Turbo Kid about blending The Goonies and Goosebumps for their dark throwback Summer Of 84

François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell, better known as film collective RKSS describe themselves as a ‘family business.’ Anouk met Francois eighteen years ago at animation school and they have been together ever since and Yoann is Anouk’s brother. Their first feature film, Turbo Kid was released in 2015 and it showed at FrightFest the same year, but sadly they couldn’t make it to the festival. A post-apocalyptic homage to 1980s action movies like Mad Max 2, its DIY aesthetic, gonzo style and charming performances are utterly endearing and went down well with festival audiences. This year their new feature, Summer Of 84 played the opening night of this year’s FrightFest and also toys with eighties nostalgia.

Looking back now, what was your reaction to the positive response for Turbo Kid?

Yoann-Karl Whissell: It was completely overwhelming, we received so much love from the fans and we never expected to receive so much of it. The three of us are geeks ourselves and we go to Montreal Comic-Con every year, we collect comic books, we play video games. We’re hardcore geeks and to see people take the time to make cosplay of something you’ve made is absolutely surreal and it’s the most beautiful love letter you can receive.

François Simard: I would add not just cosplay but also tattoos! There are tattoos of Turbo Kid out there.

Anouk Whissell: That’s a commitment!

YKW: It’s so much love because they took the time, they decided which part of their body would have a permanent drawing of a character we created. And they took the time to sew and make costumes based on those characters. To us it’s humbling and it’s beautiful.

FS: We must have done something good, I guess. There’s a lot of pressure for the sequel. We want to do things right and make the best sequel possible. I think we owe them that.

YKW: They gave us so much love so we need to respect that and take care of this universe.

Turbo Kid

Oh yes, you’re making a sequel to Turbo Kid, can you tell me how that’s progressing?

YKW: We’re writing it now and we’re taking our time. We want everything to be perfect. We’re in the writing process. We have one version of the script done that we’re not 100% happy with so we’re going back to it. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves but it’s a good thing. We wanted to make the best film for the fans.

FS: As soon as the script is good for us and as soon as we have the right budget for it…we want a bigger budget this time…we will jump in for sure.

Can you tell me about how Summer Of 84 came together?

YKW: It was a little bit of a chance meeting. Matt [Leslie the screenwriter along with Stephen J. Smith] was a production assistant at one of the studios in LA. We were there to do some meetings and when we got there at the last minute his boss needed to leave because he had an emergency on another film. Matt said we could still meet. We love exactly the same things. By the end of the meeting he said he’s not supposed to do this, but me and my writing partner have a script that we want to write. We have a treatment and he started pitching it to us and we said that’s the sort of thing we want to do.

FS: That was in 2015 so it was pre-Stranger Things and IT era.

You took the question right out of my mouth…it’s certainly playing with 80s nostalgia and I got a The ‘Burbs vibe from it…

YKW: The ‘Burbs was a huge influence. Definitely Stand By Me, which is the greatest film of all time and Monster Squad!

FS: Also Fright Night, Goonies and the first two Halloween films for the mood.

YKW: When we read the script, it was connected to all the influences we mentioned. Turbo Kid is a weird hybrid of coming-of-age/gory adventure/love story. What attracted us to Summer of 84 is it’s a weird hybrid. It’s like The Goonies meets something darker…like Goosebumps! Life has real consequences and the Summer of 84 script was grounded in reality. I saw the script as a metaphor for going from childhood to adulthood, the four kids are at that weird age where they’re not really kids anymore really. When you’re 14 or 15 there’s that weird moment where you’re in two worlds and growing up sucks! It’s a great metaphor on why growing up sucks sometimes.

FS: I would add one thing we also really liked about the script was the false sense of security. When you watch the film, you think ‘I know that kind of movie’ and you don’t expect that ending. For us the ending – we needed to go there. Not all the producers were on board for that cold ending. There was some talk about toning it down.

AW: There was an alternate ending that was a little less harsh, but we fought to keep it that way.

Will you stick with making films that toy with the 1980s?

YKW: We don’t necessarily want to stay in the 80s it just happened that way because both films are set in the 80s. It’s more because Summer [of 84] got greenlit first of all the other projects. We don’t want to stay in the 80s, we want to explore. We want our films to always feel like one of our movies but at the same time be different. We don’t want to be stuck making the same film over and over again. Now we’ve done two in the 80s we don’t have any other set in the 80s… apart from Turbo Kid 2!!

Summer Of 84 played at Arrow Video FrightFest 2018 and is on release in the US now. Keep up with the latest genre news with the new issue of SciFiNow.