maximum overdrive | stephen king | emilio estevez | pat hingle | laura harrington | action | comedy | sci-fi | sci fi | united states | alien | aliens | yeardley smith | j.c. quinn | frankie faison | ellen mcelduff | christopher murney | based on | short story | novel
Film: Maximum Overdrive
Director: Stephen King
Writer: Stephen King
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle and Laura Harrington
This film begins telling us about a rogue comet coming close to Earth and that for a few days we are covered by its tail. We then see weird things are happening. First is a digital sign that changes to a rude message. A man comes to an ATM and it calls him an ‘asshole’. We then see the first deaths; a drawbridge goes up on its own. The light stays green and the arms didn’t come down.
We then see inside of a roadside truck stop. The owner of this place is played by Pat Hingle. His cook is played by Emilio Estevez. Hingle calls him into the office while he has Ellen McElduff, the waitress take over for the grill while he does. We learn that Estevez is on parole and that Hingle is forcing him to work 9 hours, but only make it down as 8. A racket he does with a lot of his workers. A trucker comes in with his rig having a goblin head on the front; this trucker is played by Frankie Faison. Things in the game room goes haywire, killing a man played by Giancarlo Esposito. Also a mechanic played by J.C. Quinn gets injured when the gas pump stops working and he looks into it, being almost blinded by diesel fuel.
The film then shifts to a boy, played by Holter Graham, who just won his team a baseball game. The coach goes to buy them all a pop, but the machine isn’t working. It then goes crazy, shooting out cans of pop at high speeds. It kills the coach and two players. Graham stares at it and flees. He watches as a steamroller breaks on to the field and kills another of his teammates. Graham continues on, seeing the wake of other machines with their human owners.
We then meet a young woman, played by Laura Harrington, riding in a car with Christopher Murney. He is a bible salesman that can’t keep his hands to himself. He keeps touching her leg. She allows it to an extent, needing to continue heading south. She picks up a faint report on the radio about getting off the highway and forces his car into a parking lot of the truck stop. Murney is almost run over by a truck, but he is pulled away at the last second.
Then we meet a newly married couple, played by Yeardley Smith and John Short. They need to get gas. They pass by a few things that light up, but then turn off. Short thinks he sees it, but can’t be sure. They pull into a gas station and see that a man is dead. A tow truck then starts up and tries to run them down. It fails and they get back on the road.
At the truck stop, Quinn decides that he needs to go after his son, who is Graham. He can’t see very well and he gets run down by a semi-truck. This truck then runs into Murney’s car. He is irate and comes out yelling at it and he is hit by another. The impact throws him into a nearby ditch. Soon after this happens, Smith and Short make it past the trucks into the truck stop as well. Hingle reveals that he has some hidden, illegal weapons. One of which is a rocket launcher and it is runs to blow up one of the trucks.
Harrington and Estevez take a liking to each other and they are trying to find a way to get out and survive. Estevez has an idea of going to an island where there are no motor vehicles, an island called Haven. They butt heads with Hingle though, who is a corrupt man.
That night, Murney isn’t dead and they hear him calling from the ditch across the street. It is decided to go save him. They use a tunnel under a nearby building with showers to get across the road. He is dead by the time they get there, but they find Graham is there. They take him back with them.
The next day, a bulldozer pulls up and pushes a car into the diner. A military jeep with a mounted assault weapon joins it. Hingle fires a rocket into the bulldozer and then he is shot by the jeep. Another man is taken out with this and McElduff freaks out. She charges out with the rocket launcher where she is shot down as well. The jeep then starts to do Morse code, which Graham deciphers.
The trucks want them to fill up their gas tanks. They agree while they plot on how to get away. The problem is there are miles of trucks waiting to be filled up. Can they get away? They have the weapons, but can they make it to marina? Is it the comet or something else?
I want to lead off stating that I first watched this film as a kid and I loved it. It is a scary idea that trucks and machines would come to life, because even back when this film was made, we were starting to rely on way too much. It is even scarier to think about this happening now, as I type this on my laptop and have my television, DVD player and my cell phone in front of me. This is also Stephen King’s directorial, and to this point only, film. I liked that he incorporated a lot from his short story Trucks into this film. That would be the semis coming to life and that they want us to fill up the gas tanks for them. I loved that he had the semi as well with the goblin on the front, because it gives a menacing face to a faceless group of villains. I also really enjoyed the soundtrack that was mostly done by the band AC/DC as well.
This film does have a lot of issues. King took on directing this, because he was upset with some of the adaptations of his work. The issue I read with this film was that he was addicted to cocaine at the time and was not in the right state of mind. This film has a lot of plot-holes. Not all machines attack us, but he kind of picks and chooses. Examples of this are why doesn’t Murney or Smith and Short’s car attack them? Also some of the machines couldn’t do what the film has them doing. Like the pop machine wouldn’t have enough pressure to fire the cans like it does. The video game couldn’t electrocute the man like it does either. I don’t know I would believe that Hingle would have the cache of weapons like he does, but he is pretty corrupt, so that isn’t too farfetched. I will say that the acting is very cheesy, but I come to expect that from many films from the 1980s.
Now with that said, I would recommend this film, because it is fun. I wouldn’t tell you to come in expecting it to be great, but it is an action packed 80’s horror film that gets right into it. The concept is scary, even more in today’s world. The acting is mediocre and some of the things that happen are unreal. It is just a fun horror film that you can watch with friends for a laugh or see loose adaptation of a King short story. If you want a serious, good horror film, I would tell you to probably avoid this one then.
My Rating: 5 out of 10