Maximum Overdrive (1986) – Stephen King

So while I’ve been re-reading a lot of Stephen King, I thought it would be fun to revisit his only directing credit, an adaptation of his short story “Trucks” into the funhouse ride that is Maximum Overdrive.

This is a movie you either like or hate, and while it is fun, there are tons of plot holes, and just some mis-steps in characterization.

For just over a week in 1986, the planet Earth passed through the tail of a rogue comet, Rhea-M, and wouldn’t you know, it caused a lot of electronics to go wacky, take on a life of their own, and do their best to wipe humanity off the face of the planet.

A group of folk find themselves stuck at the Dixie Boy truck stop, struggling to survive as the massive 18-wheelers surrounding them keep them prisoner.

Leading this group is Billy (Emilio Estevez) and his newly acquired sweetie (the sexy)Brett (Laura Harrington – who reminds of someone I know). Amongst the group are some very familiar faces, such as Yeardly Smith, Pat Hingle, Frankie Faison and Leon Rippy.

Also watch for King’s cameo at the beginning of the film.

The trucks have a leader of their own, a giant Happy Toyz truck, with the face of the Green Goblin on the grill, and a painting of a clown on the back of the rig, a clown which could easily be interpreted as Pennywise. I’m just saying.

emilioThere are some pretty wicked kills as the machines begin to take over, and King isn’t afraid to have some of them be kids, as shown in a sequence when a vending machine starts to rapid-fire cans at a little league team, before the stragglers are run over by a steam roller.

How and why the machines get taken over is never really explained, nor how some items can interact with one another, like the M-60 machine gun on a mobile platform… But it’s all in good fun.

It’s obvious though that while King can undeniably write, his directorial skills may need a little polishing. But as I said, it’s undeniably fun, and plays like a 50s Saturday afternoon matinée but with more blood and language.

One of the real highlights of the film is the music. King has always been a huge AC/DC fan, so there is only one group he would want to do the music for the film…

So long before Tony Stark was rocking out to AC/DC on the big screen… King was using those same tunes to usher in an apocalypse.

It works for both.

kingI think to increase the reality of the event, they should have colour corrected the film a bit to highlight the green luminescent trail of the comet that was supposedly bathing the planet. Instead all we ever see is a pulsing green cloud matted in over the action.

There’s a suggestion by Billy about 3/4s of the way through the film, that perhaps there’s something else behind all this, as if to serve as a catch-all excuse for any plot holes or lapses in logic… Aliens did it.

Like I said though, it lends itself to a Saturday matinée kind of vibe, so if you find yourself in that frame of mind, it will no doubt delight, if not pass the time.

For now, I think I’ll stick to King’s books, I’m currently reading Full Dark, No Stars, to be followed up by the two Talisman books and then I think it’s time to revisit The Stand!

What did you think of it?

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Mario Ciampa says:

    Well, considering the “Large UFO” destroyed by the russian “weather satellite” in the ending credits, it was really aliens’ doing!

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