A group of people hole up in a truck stop when
machines start to come to life and attack people.
Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Written and Directed by Stephen King
Starring Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle, Laura Harrington,
Yeardley Smith, John Short, Ellen McElduff, J.C. Quinn,
Christopher Murney, Holter Graham, Frankie Faison
Based on the short story "Trucks" by Stephen King
Maximum Overdrive is not a great film by any stretch of the imagination. I'd even be hard-pressed to call it a good film. However, it has since achieved cult status, and that's because this cocaine-fueled nightmare is so over-the-top and ridiculous, that it's worth the watch just to enjoy yourself for the wrong reasons. I found this movie very entertaining, mostly due to AC/DC's killer soundtrack and the wacky premise that just keeps on giving.
When Earth ends up in the tail of a comet, the resulting alien radiation causes machines around the world to come to life and try to kill people. This film focuses on a group of hicks at a truck stop diner who are trapped after the big rigs come to life and mow down anyone who tries to escape. When Emilio Estevez holds the most acting talent in your cast, you're gonna have a bad time. But everyone involved, except for Stephen King himself, seemed to know this was a goofy, weird movie that was never gonna fly with a mainstream crowd, so they just ham it up. And the result is hilarious and mesmerizing.
I've read "Trucks" and it's a decent, serious short story that would never in a million years work as a movie. Yet, King, in all his coked-up wisdom, decided to write and direct his own version anyway. Maximum Overdrive is not gonna make any top 10 lists, but it's a wild ride that makes for a fun watch because it's so awesomely stupid. So, treat yourself to a little mindless entertainment.
Stephen King is a fantastic writer. There’s a reason he is considered a master of horror. He has written some of horror literature’s most iconic works and some have been turned into iconic films of horror cinema. At the height of his fame in the 80's, and also cocaine addiction, King decided he wanted to write and direct his own movie. That’s where Maximum Overdrive comes in. The only movie King would ever write and direct. While not exactly great, I can’t deny that I enjoyed this movie a whole lot more upon rewatch and can’t deny its amazing amount of fun.
Stephen King novels are well known for nail-biting terror and great character development. He spends pages getting into the mindset of the main character(s) before going into horrific detail about the terror happening to them. You’re probably thinking this would translate to his first, and only, movie. But, it doesn’t. Like, at all. The terror just isn’t there. Not when kids are killed by flying soda cans. Not when a character is brutally run over. Not even when the hysterical female character is gunned down. But there has to be some character development, right? Also, no. I honestly couldn’t tell you any of the characters’ names or motivations. Now, why do I still find this an enjoyment to watch? Two things, AC/DC and fun. Stephen King is a massive fan of the legendary rock band and it is a constant joy to hear their music throughout the film. As for the fun. King directed this film during his infamous cocaine heyday (check out the trailer for proof) and it’s evident across the board. The numerous filmmaking mistakes, or decisions if you will, make for a fun time with Maximum Overdrive. There are so many times you’ll spend either scratching your head at what’s happening onscreen or laughing.
Let’s be honest, who really thought this film would go on to become a cult classic? I certainly didn’t think much about it upon my first watch. But now, I ended up enjoying it a whole lot more. Almost everything King attempts to do just doesn’t work. But, that in turn is what makes it so much fun to watch. Also, AC/DC! Do I really need to go into detail there? So, if you’re a King fan and want to have a good time with his only directed movie, you can’t go wrong with Maximum Overdrive. Just bring some friends along for the fun.