Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rare Flix: Maximum Overdrive

There's a reason that novelists don't usually become directors.  As Alan Moore will tell you if you can dig him out of his bunker, the printed word is a completely different medium than the visual one.  Most of them just don't have the initiative or skills to do it.  Michael Crichton is pretty much the exception that proves the rule, since he made about a dozen films and one of them was Westworld.  One of the most adapted-to-screen writers of all time is Stephen King, but how many films did he direct?  One.  He decided to make a full-length adaptation of one of his short stories called 'Trucks.'  Why?  According to an interview from 2002, he was "coked out of my mind all through it's production..."  Needless to say, this film is a weird, violent mess.  On the plus side, it's entire soundtrack is done by AC/DC which kicks serious ass.  How does the movie fare?  Find out in my review of...
The film begins with a silly explanation for the plot.  Apparently, 'a comet is passing by the Earth and has the Earth stuck in its tail until we pass it.'  Yes, according to the movie, Earth is moving through space and comets stand still.  Since I've already lost Stephen Hawking, we can get to the silly humor.  The credits sequence shows a bunch of technology wreaking havoc.  Our director has a cameo as a man that uses an ATM, only to have it insult him.  Feh, you were better as a drunken idiot watching jousting in Knightriders.  The technical anarchy continues as a bridge control goes crazy and tosses people off.  If you're getting a Happening vibe here, you should just get used to it.  The story tries to focus on a set group of characters in one location: a gas station.  I guess we couldn't get a place that smelled like something other than diesel, huh?  Our hero is Emilio Estevez, playing a gritty loner with a heart of gold.  Yeah, he played that a lot.  He has a tough-time with the owner before the whole thing goes down and things don't get better later.  Some truckers show up to fill up their vehicles, but hang around when the technological revolt hits them.  The gas pump fails, but it's all just a trick to get him to look at an idiot.  The trucks finally revolt and smash up the place, leaving our heroes huddled inside.
Unfortunately, the movie has all of the focus of a coked-up author making his first film.  We get a Little League team stopping for soda, only to have the machine kill a bunch of them with flying cans.  The poor coach gets a Riki-Oh style hole in his skill.  Some more kids die, including one kid who flips his bike for no reason and gets steamrolled.  We also get a newlywed couple who get tormented by a truck and random technology.  Fun fact: the annoying wife is played by Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa on The Simpsons.  Not so fun fact: she's annoying as hell!  Seriously, you can't listen to her voice and imagine that she now gets paid $400,000 an episode to use that thing!  Eventually, all of our stories coincide as the kid ends up at the gas station, as do the couple.  The trucks surround the place, but run into some resistance from the owner (Pat Tingle).  He pulls out a rocket launcher and blows up two of the cars.  For some reason, he just leaves after doing this.  Um, there's like three left- finish the job.  Hey Stephen, I know this had to have been hard for you at the time, but focus!
Our heroes sense of safety is short-lived, but they make the most of it.  Our hero and heroine even have some off-camera sex, leading to a line that could only be written by a master author: 'You even make love like a hero.'  Eventually, more vehicle show up, including a military car with a mounted machine gun on it.  After killing a few people that are dumb enough to stand up during a hail of gunfire, it sends a Morse Code message out.  The humans follow its message and appease the vehicles by 'feeding' them with gasoline.  During all of this, they plan their escape.  Eventually, our hero drops a grenade on the gun-cart and runs.  All of the survivors book it through a sewer tunnel and make it to a boat.  They head off towards an island that apparently has a rule that doesn't allow cars there.  On the way, of course, they run into some resistance.  The baseball-playing kid blows away a lighted sign saying 'Humans are here!' with a machine gun.  One jerk tries to take the ring off of a dead woman in a car and gets run over by the Green Goblin truck.  Moments later, Estevez blows it up with a rocket launcher.  They work so well...but you keep taking your time using them, why?  In the text epilogue, we learn that a UFO was blown up by a Russian spy satellite and that things returned to normal in six days.  Um, why didn't you show that first part, movie?!?  The End.
This movie is loud, boisterous and...well, dumb.  Don't get me wrong- you can have a lot of fun with this movie.  It has dark humor, big explosions and crazy kill scenes.  The acting is pretty bad across the board, but what do you expect from a movie's whose first-time director was mainlining blow the whole time?  Much like those poor guys in Troll 2, not having a good director to give you input is a recipe for disaster.  Fortunately, everyone is playing such broad characters that you can just ignore it.  The car stunts are the real star of the show here as they deliver big.  Just imagine a modern remake of this and how many CG cars they would throw at you!  Ultimately though, this film has no real substance to it...much like The Happening.  It's just a serious of ridiculous events that are centered around a ludicrous premise and uninteresting characters.  Unlike that film, they at least deliver on the kill effects.  If you can turn your brain off and you love AC/DC, check this thing out.  It's hard to find these days...but that's no real big loss.
Up next, a film about the future that takes place 11 years ago?  That sounds like my kind of movie.  Stay tuned...


  1. MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE is a sweet little piece of nostalgia pie for me, I love it despite its dated ridiculousness! Ive been afraid of electric knives ever since...

  2. This is WAY better than the happening, aside from the pukey love story they throw in. "You sure make love like a hero."

  3. Any film directed by a famous author while he was constantly doing 'blow' is better than 'The Happening.' All M. Night was high on was his own ego.

    'I made The Sixth Sense, so I can make a film about killer pollen!'