Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Director: Stephen King
A comet circling earthâ€™s orbit turns all of our machines (especially trucks) into â€śself-thinkingâ€ť, murderous entities. Will the fine folks at â€śDixieâ€™s Truck Stopâ€ť survive the mechanical nightmare?
This very fun hunk of junk was horror writer extraordinaire Stephen Kingâ€™s directorial debut. The film got spit on by every critic in the book upon its release and King hasnâ€™t directed anything since. Well call me an a-hole (or an asshole) but I dug it.
First off, the premise of this film is way nifty. Having machines come to life to murder us without pity and turning us into tools for their own benefit is a good idea. Donâ€™t get me wrong, you donâ€™t watch this flick looking for an existential study of humanityâ€™s relationship/dependency with machines, you watch it to see people get rammed by trucks (fun stuff!) and see shit blow up real good. The film definitely delivers on that front and I really didnâ€™t need much else to be entertained.
I can think of two scenes that have been engraved in my mind ever since I first saw the flick back in 1986. The insane car pile up on the opening bridge in the beginning of the flick and the very violent soda machine attack on a group of kids playing baseball (you donâ€™t see a soda machine whack people every day). Those two scenes kick some serious booty and for me to remember them after all of these years can only mean one thing: the scenes are the fucking money. Thanks King.
Now if you want to be a jerk-off, you can bitch and moan about the plot holes (like why do the trucks insist on circling the truckstop instead of staying still and saving gas...then again who said the trucks were smart?) but if you actually stop for a second and think: THIS IS A MOVIE ABOUT KILLER TRUCKS THAT DRIVE BY THEMSELVES AND SQUASH PEOPLE, then maybe youâ€™ll do the smart thing and let that shit go! Where else can you see a kid riding his bike in an empty suburb filled with dead bodies (reminded me of "The Stand") and then eventually get chased by a lawnmower? Or a murderous truck with the face of the â€śGreen Goblinâ€ť going ape shit? Or an electric kitchen knife slicing a poor waitress by itself? Nowhere else.
I do however, have some complaints about the film. First of all, the mid-section of the movie doesnâ€™t fully live up to its slick set-up. Itâ€™s actually somewhat uneventful (but still watchable). Watching people wander in sewers or fill up trucks with gas for ten minutes arenâ€™t the most exciting things in the world. On the flip side, the gas filling sequence had a kickass AC/DC song playing in the background ("Hells Bells"), which did help me digest it better. I also didnâ€™t appreciate some of the characters. For instance, the horny bible salesman was very annoying and so was cigar-chomping Hendershot (Hingle). But the one character that I really couldnâ€™t stand was Connie (Smith) whose high-pitched voice and constant complaining made my ears bleed. Man, did that broad get to me! I was praying for her to encounter a â€śMack Truckâ€ť at a certain point but my prayers were never answered (damn!).
Overall, "Maximum Overdrive" is an amusing kitschy film. It has some good ideas, some occasional corny dialogue (that elevate the fun tacky level of the film), some really nice explosions (everything blows upâ€¦yippee!) and some nasty gory moments (when trucks hit humans, they go SPLAT!). Itâ€™s not the smartest film ever made but then again: ITâ€™S ABOUT KILLER TRUCKS! What did people expect? An Oscar worthy monologue about technology and its pitfalls? FUCK THAT! Give me my Estevez and my â€śGreen Goblinâ€ť rig over that any day! Who made who anyhow?
Oh yeah! Blood flows in this puppy! When trucks squash people, people explode with all kinds of blood flying! The film is also filled with dead bodies lying around; we even get a dead dog with a toy car rammed in its mouth. The film quenched my blood thirst.
Emilio Estevez (Bill) comes through as the â€śheroâ€ť of the film and sports a wonderful tan. Pat Hingle (Hendershot) plays the a-hole redneck wellâ€¦a bit too well. Laura Harrington (Brett) is the weakest thespian here; her delivery is far from convincing and feels half-assed. Yeardley Smith (Connie) really got to me in a negative way but her acting is fine; itâ€™s the part that I despised. John Short (Curt) has a sympathetic aura about him and I dug his performance. Holter Graham (Deke) looks confident as the surviving kid and underplays it nicely. Ellen McElduff (Wanda) is credible as the white trash waitress but her drunken â€śwe made youâ€ť fit was a bit over-the-top in my opinion.
T & A
King handles himself very well with some nice wide shots, kool pans/travellings and some groovy shot compositions. The pace of the film isnâ€™t always as tight as it could've been, but overall, he does great.
We get lots of gnarly AC/DC songs, a sombre bass score and a kickarse high-pitched score when the trucks attack (reminded me of "Psycho"). The score is also by AC/DC. King is a big fan of theirs and their music fit the film like two lesbians at a stag party.
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Image: Anamorphic widescreen transfer in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0
Extras: A funny trailer with King talking to the audience and an interesting written biography about the King.
Maybe it's nostalgia talking but "Maximum Overdrive" has a feel to it that really appeals to me. They donâ€™t make films like this anymore, thatâ€™s fer sure! The movie delivers 85% of what it promises early on and thatâ€™s more than enough for me. Itâ€™s not a film that should be taken with a straight face and for the last time: ITâ€™S ABOUT PSYCHO TRUCKS YA'LL! Itâ€™s a fun time, carnage filled, demolition derby. If you canâ€™t appreciate that, then rent â€śGirl Interruptedâ€ť instead. Sometimes I think people should lighten up and enjoy a film for what it is, not for what they would like it to be. EMILIO!!!!!!!!!
The film was based on the short story â€śTrucksâ€ť from Kingâ€™s Night Shift.
â€śTrucksâ€ť was remade for TV in 1997.
The "Dixie Boy" truck stop set was built near Wilmington, North Carolina. It was so convincing that truckers would try to stop in. Eventually the producers had to put announcements in local papers saying that the "Dixie Boy" wasnâ€™t a REAL truck stop, just a movie set.
Stephen King has a cameo in the opening of the film.
Did you spot the van with the AC/DC logo in the bridge carnage? Did you hear the guy say â€śHells Bellsâ€ť (an AC/DC song that also plays in the film)?
Yeardley Smith (Connie) does the voice of Lisa on "The Simpsons" (she annoys me there as well).