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I've been threatening to do this for a while now and I suppose it is time. Despite me swearing that I'd never force myself to sit th...

Monday, October 24, 2022

Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Maximum Overdrive is the single director credit for legendary writer Stephen King and is based on his short story Trucks. The action takes place at a truck stop inhabited by a motley crew of truck drivers, ex-con employees, and their sketchy boss. As things progress we add a bible salesman, a hitchhiker, and some newlyweds to the mix. They all must deal with machines coming to life with homicide on their minds. Soda machines, ATMs, lawnmowers, construction equipment, small planes, electric knives, video games, and yes big eighteen wheelers (aka. semi-trucks) go on the attack. The rest of the plot is our characters dodging the threats, arguing with each other, and eventually planning an escape to an island where there aren’t any roads or vehicles. People live and people die, some in awesome ways! 

This movie is a prime example of my philosophy of “not everything has to be art”. This story is very simple and to the point. There is a crawl at the beginning talking about an asteroid and radiation followed by a character talking about how it would be a good plan if you wanted to invade to “clean house”. This is followed up by another crawl talking about how a Russian weather satellite, which was armed with lasers and nukes, destroyed a UFO. I guess we are supposed to believe that this was some alien invasion, but none of that really matters. What does matter is we meet a bunch of likeable characters and watch them get picked off in horrible ways. King as director and writer executes this perfectly and it results in an entertaining experience.

There is a decent amount of gore as the machinery goes wild. A waitress has an electric knife tear into her arm, a soda can dents in a man’s head in a gruesome way, people are gunned down with an overabundance of bullet hits, several people are sent flying by trucks, and we see a kid get run over by a steam roller! That last one is my favorite. What I have the most fun with is how creative they had to get with the kills. This isn’t as simple as a zombie or slasher going after someone. Nope they had to find creative ways to put the characters in harms way so that the, sometimes immobile, machines can kill. That goes back to the script and writing, which of course is great as it is Stephen King after all. 

The cast is filled with lots of character actors that are good at their jobs and bring the characters to the screen. Pat Hingle, Yeardley Smith, and Leon Rippy are probably the most recognizable and best. The lead is Emilio Estevez who Hollywood tried to make into a leading man/action hero but is best in quirky projects like Maximum Overdrive. Everyone seems to be having fun and there is some scenery chewing, I’m looking at you Pat Hingle, but it all works. 

In the end this is the sort of movie that you shut your brain off for ninety minutes and enjoy. Don’t over think it and have fun with rocket launchers blowing stuff up, and cars running people over. Embrace the nutty chaos and you will have fun. If you think that you are able to do this then grab a copy and get to watching. 


© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

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