Thursday, October 15, 2015

Horror Thoughts ‘15—Maximum Overdrive (1986) *

R, 97 min.
Director/Writer: Stephen King (also short story “Trucks”)
Starring: Emilio Esteves, Pat Hingle, Laura Harrington, Yeardley Smith, John Short, Ellen McElduff, J.C. Quinn, Christopher Murney, Holter Graham, Frankie Faison, Pat Miller, Jack Canon, Barry Bell, John Brasington, J. Don Ferguson, Leon Rippy, Bob Gooden, Giancarlo Esposito, Stephen King

It is well past time I began posting for this year’s Horrorfest, which I began over two weeks ago and already includes five titles (posts for each coming soon?). Anyway, I started this year’s Horrorfest off with a fizzle, for a change. I usually try to kick off each Horrorfest with one of the year’s better horror flicks. This year I said, “Screw that!” I literally did. I said, “Screw that. I’m going to kick this year’s festivities with a piece of crap.” And, there are few horror flicks that are as big a piece of crap as Stephen King’s directorial debut—and luckily only feature length directorial effort—“Maximum Overdrive”.

Taken from one of his own short stories, “Trucks”, King—later self-confessed to be coked out of his gourd—had had enough of cinematic nobodies like Stanley Kubrick, Brian de Palma and David Cronenberg ruining his genius source material with their short-sighted, uninventive visions. So here is King’s definitive vision of Stephen King, an illogical joke of a film in which King himself appears in a Hitchcockian cameo to add to its ultimate lameness.

The story involves an alien comet that enters into Earth’s atmosphere that somehow imbues all things mechanical with life. Once sentient, the machines that humans had engineered and built rise up against their creators causing bloodshed and mayhem. Despite the fact that this supposedly happens throughout the world with all machines everywhere, this story focuses on a rogues gallery of losers riding out the terror in a gas station stalked mostly by 18 wheeler trucks.

I recall when the movie was released theatrically. I was approaching 15 years on the planet and my older brother was totally obsessed with both Stephen King and AC/DC, the hard rock group King taped to write and produce the soundtrack for the film. So, this was a highly anticipated movie in our household. AC/DC’s accompanying “Who Made Who” world tour would eventually become my first rock concert. Despite the horridness of opening band Loudness, it was a pretty good way to kick off a lifetime of great music outings. I’m almost surprised we bothered, however, considering the disappointment of “Maximum Overdrive”. Yes, even at age 15, when everything was defined more by personal passions that a knowledge of what is actually good and bad, I couldn’t deny the horrid nature of King’s movie.

So why would I revisit a film I hated so much when I was younger? Well, I’ve been listening to a podcast called “How Did This Get Made?” recently and it was one of the movies they examined just before October. The HDTGM crew nails it with this movie and allowed me to find the pleasure within its badness. The logic of the film is remarkably broken. The performances and dialogue are equally terrible. And it stars the incomparable Emilio Esteves, who was always a favorite of my childhood. My friends and I liked to imagine how ridiculous it would’ve been if it were Emilio who changed his name to Esteves rather than his father and brother changing theirs’ to Sheen.

Anyway, “Maximum Overdrive” proves it is not necessary for a horror movie to be good for one to enjoy it. One must merely accept what they are seeing for what it is. There is a degree of greatness to be found in a paranoid cokehead’s crazy ranting that is completely absent in the work of a great filmmaker. And really, doesn’t a story about trucks coming to life and trying to destroy the human race deserve coked out craziness more so than the master class? I guess that’s what Michael Bay has been going for with all these zany Transformers flicks.

Please enjoy the trailer, which really highlights the horridness of the film. 

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