aka: 8 Days of Terror
Director: Stephen King
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle, Laura Harrington, Yeardley Smith, John Short
Who made who?
A strange comet called Rea-M is passing through earth and it is affecting all machines on earth during the eight days of passing through. All machines, including cars and trucks are starting to act on their own and they act very violently towards humans.
A group of people, including the ex-con Bill Robinson, is kept trapped by a bunch of trucks at a truck stop. The trucks keep circulating the diner to keep them trapped and when a military truck comes along and communicates with morse code, the people inside have to decide if they want to cooperate with the vehicles or find a plan to destroy them and get away.
Maximum Overdrive is the first and only project that Stephen King has taken the directors chair on. It made sense to give him this assignment I guess, considering that he had become the horror king at that point with the majority of movie adaptations from his books becoming successful. As King himself would say later on though, making a movie and writing a book is two totally different entities. And it surely didn’t help that King was using and abusing cocaine at the time of filming this either.
The film was badly received by the critics at the time and it is easy to see why. The story is told very straight forward, the plot is silly and it is also not a technically brilliant film. However, as a straight b-movie it is a lot of fun. The tone is set with the AC/DC, a favorite band of King at the time, soundtrack that they released called Who Made Who. It features such classic songs as the title track and You Shook Me All Night Long. I guess people expected King to deliver a horror premise at the time and was disappointed when they got this fun action film instead.
It is first during the third part that King’s inexperience shows when it starts to drag a little bit too much, bringing down the level of fun for a bit. It is kind of interesting how the ending and their escape from the vehicles can remind you of something that would happen on a zombie movie, but it also feels a bit lackluster. The final twist with the before credits text didn’t add anything to it either and rather just raised some questions about the plot, for those few that care about it.
The performances aren’t that great, the actors are more or less just in the film. Almost like they have all been left on their own to figure out what they are supposed to do. Emilio Estevez is the star as Bill and he is sort of just… Emilio Estevez here. I don’t mind him as an actor, so it wasn’t a big deal for me. Laura Harrington is cute as his love interest Brett and the most fun performance comes from experienced actor Pat Hingle as Bubba Hendershot. It should also be mentioned that the trucks themselves seemed to have their own character, especially the iconic main truck which had the Green Goblin face from the Spiderman saga mounted on the grill.
Maximum Overdrive is a great b-movie. It goes for fun and delivers enough of it to make it a fun film to watch with a few beers in the system. People can criticize the direction by Stephen King all they want, but at least he understood that this material couldn’t be done serious and it is a hell of a lot better movie than the 1997 TV remake Trucks. Fans of 80’s b-movies should enjoy this, while those who want a more serious Stephen King horror movie should pick out something else to watch.