Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Films from the Crypt: Episode 13 - Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Films from the Crypt: Episode 13 - Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Director: Stephen King
Starring: Emilio Estevez
Tagline: "Who Made Who?"

Warning, here there be spoilers:

The poster tag "...masterpiece of terror directed by the master himself" may be a little bit of an overstatement. In reality, Maximum Overdrive is one of the campiest, most fun horror flicks of the eighties. And, it's pretty easy to see that it was intentional when the first scene has an ATM calling Stephen King an asshole.

The plot is pretty simple. The earth passes through the tail of a comet and, without warning, all of earth's machines take on a life of their own. Oh, and they are murderous. Can't forget that part. We never actually come into any realization as to why the machines are rebelling, I guess it's technically possible that there are invisible aliens that are driving the trucks around. The main story follows a group of people that are surrounded by circling semi-trucks inside a gas station. These include a pervy Bible salesman, newly wed couple, and a badass ex-con played by the Mighty Duckman himself, Emilio Estevez.

Just look at the poster to get a sense of the overall awesomeness of the film. Yeah, I think it's a picture of a well-bearded Steve King breaking through a trailer holding strings attached to semi-trucks like he was the puppet master of so many marionettes. Then you've got Gordon Bombay holding an M16 like he's gone commando while standing next to the female lead.

The characters are underdeveloped, the plot is so full of holes it's ridiculous, and the gore is fairly light, but dammit, this movie just works for me. It's such a ridiculous premise and the leads play it completely straight, ostensibly to give the terror some legitimacy. But the cheese that spews forth from Emilio playing a hard nosed ex-con taking on both shitty boss Pat Hingle (who is excellent by the way) and an onslaught of nefarious, sentient trucks is just amazing beyond words. If somebody pitched that movie to me, I would green light it faster than you can say Another Stakeout.

At this point, let me go back and address the gore, and say that I have only seen the cut version - word is there is another print of the film that has all the kills in tact. I'm holding out hope that the infamous "little kid run over by a steamroller" kill gets even more awesome in the uncut version.

I also want to discuss a little bit about, at least what I see as, the major plotholes. For instance, why are some machines controlled by the alien force, and some are not. Why does the force not just take over the newly weds car instead of trying to use a dump truck to squash them? It seems like it would be easier. We also know that the force is capable of taking over simpler machines, like guns (as is seen when the rolling machine gun acts as a sentry at the gas station), but in the final act all of our protagonists use guns in an attack against the truck menace. It boggles my mind! I'm assuming that someone of King's caliber recognized this and either didn't feel the need to address it, addressed it and it was cut, or just didn't give a damn.

But, the fact of the matter is that none of these flaws make me like the film any less. In fact, I think they are kind of endearing. In reality, I should think that this movie is pretty shitty, and maybe it is, but I happen to think it's awesome.



AllHallowSteve said...


I know it's bad, but I LOVE this movie. This is at the top of my guilty pleasure horror movies list.

It's usually something I watch once a year at the beginning of summer. I don't know why I choose summer, maybe because of the scenes of the killer ice cream truck and the hot day of them pumping gas for all the trucks.

And the ALL AC/DC soundtrack! I've always wanted someone like Ti West or Adam Green to do a throw-back horror film using all AC/DC music.
Then I found out that Iron Man 2 is doing something similar and went DRAT! Now I have to wait another 20 years for it to be an original remake idea again.

Am I still typing?........

The Warfreak said...

Haha. I didn't know that Iron Man 2 was doing that. I'm glad to find someone else with a passion for Maximum Overdrive.

BTW; did you ever see the made for TV remake, Trucks? Not so good.

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