“I’m gonna scare the Hell outta you, and that’s a promise!” threatens Stephen King himself as he leers at you from the trailer for his directorial debut though an obvious coke haze that would stun a buffalo. Back in 1986, some bright spark figured that if Stephen King can write successful books and his books make successful films, then surely getting King to direct a King movie would equate to something special; they wasn’t wrong.
Based on his own short story Trucks, Maximum Overdrive tells what happens when earth passes through the tail of a comet which results in all the machines in the world coming to life and trying to kill their soft, pink, human overlords. As you can tell from those last 30 words or so the best you can hope for here is that it’s so bad it’s good, and King seems to agree, heaping on ludicrous, campy, set pieces of carnage so unsubtle you almost admire the gall.
King himself sets the tone, with one of the very first things we see being his face as it fills the screen as a cameo as a man who gets called an asshole by a cash point machine; buckle up folks, it gets weirder from here.
We focus mostly on a truck stop in North Carolina as various survivors from various machine attacks gather for shelter only to find out that a fleet of vicious vehicles are planning a siege in order to get topped up with gas. Lead by a big rig with a giant, plastic, cackling visage of The Green Gobin mounted on it’s grill (the only true iconic image in the film) they either want us puny, fleshy humans to be pump jockeys or they want us dead.
Among this motley crew of over acting refugees are Emilio Estevez (watching Emilio bloody Estevez getting into an argument with a semi and calling it “fuckface” has to count as career high, right?), an unbelievably hammy, bazooka wielding Pat Hingle and the woman who went on to voice Lisa Simpson and every one of them seem to be doing everything they can to turn in the most drawly, good ol’ boy accents they can while swearing and screaming as much as they can.
King obviously intended this to be some sort of broad, obnoxious, stupid comedy (he himself refers to it as a “moron movie”) and taken at face value, it’s fair to say he succeeded and you can’t claim it’s like anything else you’ve ever seen. I mean where else are you gonna see a film where a little league team are first beset by a murderous vending machine that fires coke cans like bullets and then a rampaging steamroller that crushes one poor kid flat – and all to the pounding score of wall to wall AC/DC.
The dialogue is terrible (“You sure make love like a hero.” is one such near-legendary clanger), the performances are worse (the “WE MADE YOU! scene is almost hypnotic) and the plotting is almost completely absent (the trucks come alive but a rescue boat DOESN’T? Bit convenient, that…) and yet it really should been seen at least once just to truly revel in it’s pure, unfettered honky-tonk psychosis.
It’s pure shit, yes. But it’s pure shit with seemingly relentless energy. Imagine that weird kid you’d find in every school when you were young, and then imagine him mainlining Red Bull directly into his eye socket, it’s stupidly adolescent in every conceivable way, fascinated by slo-mo explosions, rock music and tough talking babes with straight razors in their boot.
Trip balls for best results…