Stephen King’s 1986 Maximum Overdrive22 Feb 2020
Why is it all the movies I love are gawd awful movies of Hollywood? For example, I love Tremors telefon. Talk about a DUMBass movie - Tremors tops the charts. Bad acting, totally unbelievable story line, no boob shots or blood (although the graphics used to create the grab-oids was pretty cool.) And I gotta tell ya’, I have watched that damned movie more than 20 times and have loved each and every viewing.
But Tremors is not what I want to talk about today. No, today is reserved for another one of my ridiculous B pleasures….. Maximum Overdrive. Oh yehhhhhhhhhh!
For whatever reason Stephen King’s books have never been able to capture the same mood on screen as they do on paper. While his books leave you frighteningly chilled and speculating the “what ifs,” the more recent movie versions always come across rather comical, silly, and most decidedly B. Rarely do you see his movie adaptations deliver the same effect as his earlier works such as Carrie or The Shinning. It’s too bad really as his books can be amazingly disturbing.
Though not billed as a comedic horror film, Maximum Overdrive certainly has the feel of one. The basic premise of the film is that the earth passes through the tail of a comet at which point most all mechanical things seem to spring to life. Electric carving knives, blenders, remote control cars, trucks, semis - you get the picture. And for what ever reason, these mechanical things all seem to be rather angry and begin attacking humans indiscriminately.
I think one of my favorite scenes is where a mailman is delivering mail (on foot no less. You don’t see that anymore) when out of no where a remote control truck begins to follow him. In a matter of minutes the toy knocks the mailman to the ground and proceeds to bash his brains in by repeatedly running into his head.
Now I can understand why some of you might find this frightening but keep in mind that this remote control truck is no taller than 10 inches so there is no reason why this mailman could not have just stomped on the blasted thing when it first ran into his ankle. Instead however he becomes a giant sally to the point the that truck is literally taking him down at the ankles (the term ankle-biter comes to mind.) And if that wasn’t enough, instead of grabbing the truck with one or (here’s a thought) BOTH hands, he instead cowers in a feeble attempt to use his arms as a shield against the attacking toy.
Ok, so I realize these numb-nuts are necessary in order to create a movie such as this; after all, had the mailman done what I suggested the movie would have taken a dramatically different turn and not been anywhere near as entertaining. So I suspend disbelief and find the humor in its delivery….
….which makes this next scene hysterical! It’s when a soda machine decides to get even with some kid who was a little less than gentle in trying to enjoy a beverage…. and who wouldn’t want a steam roller for backup?? Classic stuff!
So in a nutshell, Maximum Overdrive is the story of Billy (played by Emilio Estevez) who appears to be the “brains” behind a small group of humans that are trapped at the Dixie Boy Truck Stop where the possessed vehicles decide to “stock up” as it is right off the interstate. Billy quickly surmises that the trucks will allow them to live in exchange for pumping the life sustaining gas the trucks so desperately need. The only problem is that the gas will only last for so long, and the comet was to pass over their little world for a total of eight days. To survive those eight days while trucks and rigs have thought processes, can read the minds of humans, and exhibit homicidal tendencies proves to be an uneasy task for sure…. and if the gas does run out, what will become of them all?
What was curious about Maximum Overdrive was that cars, boats, and motorcycles never came to life, yet carving knives, blenders, and toy autos did. I can’t help but think this is some type of prejudice on the part of the writer/director, Stephen King. What does he have against boats and motorcycles? Do muscle cars intimidate him? I find it hard to imagine Stephen King would overlook such an important detail; he loves detail!
Ah well, I guess it’s a good thing I don’t obsess about these things. If I begin to, I’ll just pop in the soundtrack for this baby cuz every last song on it is performed by AC/DC, and that alone makes this movie worthwhile. Of course, so does the campy humor, blood (dare I say “gore”?) effects, and classic B dialogue. Yes, Maximum Overdrive is definitely a keeper for any true B movie lover.