Directed By: Stephen King
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle, Laura Harrington
Tag line: "Who Made Who?"
Trivia: The film was nominated for two Golden Raspberry Awards including worst director for Stephen King and worst actor for Emilio Estevez
Directed by author Stephen King (who wrote the short story that inspired it), 1986’s Maximum Overdrive has been savaged by critics ever since it first hit movie screens, and was even nominated for two Golden Raspberry Awards, for Worst Actor (Emilio Esteves) and Worst Director (King). While I’ll agree it’s far from a good movie, I gotta admit I had some serious fun watching it.
As the result of a comet that’s passing overhead, all of the world’s machines, from soda dispensers to construction vehicles, spring suddenly to life. What’s more, they seem pissed off at humanity, and are doing everything they can to wipe us off the face of the earth. To escape the killer vehicles roaming the highway, a group of people take cover inside the Dixie Boy Truck Stop, including former convict Bill (Emelio Esteves); the facility’s owner, Bubba (Pat Hingle); a pretty runaway named Brett (Laura Harrington); and a pair of newlyweds (John Short and Yeardley Smith). With a number of big rigs lurking outside their door, the survivors must find a way out before the murderous trucks break the walls down.
The single most ridiculous aspect of Maximum Overdrive is its central story; not only does it fail as a horror film (As I mentioned a while back in my write-up of Christine, which was also based on a Stephen King tale, I don’t find killer vehicles the least bit scary), but there are sequences so ridiculous you can’t stop laughing (several times throughout the movie, the victims of the killer trucks just stand there, allowing the vehicle, which they easily could have avoided, to roll over them). Sure, the performances leave a lot to be desired (Pat Hingle goes way over-the-top in his portrayal of Bubba), but when the story itself is this bad, the actors are the least of your worries.
That said, the movie does have a definite ‘80s vibe that I found hard to resist (the film’s soundtrack featured the music of AC/DC , including my all-time favorite song of theirs, "You Shook Me All Night Long"), and had a few moments that brought a smile to my face (an early scene, where a drawbridge goes up on its own while dozens of cars are sitting on it, actually generates some real thrills). I also enjoyed the scenes set at the Dixie Boy, especially those in which Hingle’s Bubba grabbed the illegal firearms he kept in the basement and started blasting the trucks. And who wouldn’t love the film’s opening, where a guy (played by director King himself) walks up to an ATM machine, only to have it call him an “asshole”?
In the end, I can’t really recommend Maximum Overdrive (it’s just not a good movie), but I won’t completely dismiss it, either.