Maximum Overdrive

Imagine your worst nightmare... machines take over the world!

Year of Release: 1986
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Rated: R
Running Time: 98 minutes (1:38)
Director: Stephen King


Emilio Estevez ... Bill Robinson
Pat Hingle ... Bubba Hendershot
Laura Harrington ... Brett
Yeardley Smith ... Connie
John Short ... Curtis
Ellen McElduff ... Wanda June
J.C. Quinn ... Duncan Keller
Christopher Murney ... Camp Loman
Holter Graham ... Deke Keller
Frankie Faison ... Handy
Pat Miller ... Joe
Marla Maples ... 2nd Woman
Stephen King ... Man at Bank ATM (uncredited)


When a seemingly charmless comet, Rhea M, circles the earth, machines begin to behave in bizarre ways. At first, the problems seem minor: the gas pumps suddenly stop pumping fuel, video games flash and beep uncontrollably, and soda machines spit change and cans of soda pop wildly. Soon, the attacks become more serious. No place is safe, including the "Dixie Boy" truck stop where patrons and employees try to out-maneuver a convoy of terror.

Armed with a secret cache of weapons hidden in the basement of the Dixie Boy truck stop, Bill Robinson leads an escape to the open sea in a last-ditch effort to save himself, his group, and the entire human race.


Maximum Overdrive, remindin' us that once the melons slip their earthly bonds, sooner or later we'll all be made to suffer. I mean, seriously, you ever been hit in the nose when one of those suckers gets launched out of its protective housin' at escape velocity? Farmers an strip club owners, two professions where the guys in charge just don't seem to understand that with great melons comes great responsibility. They should all be required to watch either Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Deadly Weapons so that everybody's got a healthy respect for the produce they're hockin', cause these're not the kinda things you wanna take lightly. Course, Chesty Morgan can't be taken anywhere without a forklift for those things, but... where was I goin' with this... the heck with it, alls I'm tryin' to say is let's just stay safe out there, okay? I wanna see safety glasses on everybody receivin' a lap dance, an anybody in the front row at a Gallagher set from here on out. An speakin' of people without a shred of dignity, when I got home from work Wednesday night I found Shankles stuck to the plastic flap on Apollo's doggie door, completely soaked with oil. Poor guy looked like the before pictures of one of those gunked up seagulls that all the liberals quit their jobs to go scrub clean after the Valdez oil spill, only a whole lot less receptive to the idea of help. I know exactly what happened to 'im, cause on the way home I saw the dry, possum shaped outline up the road where the county's been layin' down oil to help with the dust abatement, so I guess he musta got caught in the crossfire. I tried everything to get that crap outta his fur; dish soap, talcum powder, vinegar, WD-40, an every home remedy I could pry outta the old ladies at Mom & Poop's Senility Acres Hospice Care, but there was just nothin' doin'. Whoever came up with the adage that oil an water don't mix obviously never hadda try scrubbin' it out of a possum with a toothbrush before. Eventually I ended up fillin' Apollo's wadin' pool with turpentine, which cost me mosta the money outta my pop can emergency fund. That sorta worked, except that possums don't really utilize the backstroke so much when swimmin', an so there's still this big black stripe runnin' down his back an now he looks like a reverse Pepe Le Pew. He's still gettin' things stuck to 'im too, woke me up in the middle of the night after fallin' offa the shower rod an into the waste basket, an by the time I got in there he was just covered in snot rags an one of Sadie Bonebreak's maxi pads. The vet says he'll eventually just sweat it out, but I've been keepin' 'im inside mosta the time cause I'm afraid he'll fall asleep next to a chunka plexiglass somewhere an ignite like an ant under a magnifyin' glass.

But this week's events seem like pretty small potatoes once you dive into Stephen King's directorial debut an coke-addled tour de force; Maximum Overdrive. Steve's since gone on the record regardin' all the unusual snow flurries plaguin' his nasal region durin' that hot summer shoot, so if ever there was a cinematic learnin' opportunity it's gotta be right here in this one. Steve's actually said that he'd like to direct again someday, so if there's any movie out there that legitimately needs a remake it'd probably be this one, cause I'd love to see what Steve comes up with sober so we can all compare and contrast the two versions. Ya know, on a scientific level. First thing I discovered watchin' this one is just how soft we've become as a nation, considerin' we pretty well get our butts handed to us by an alien force that hails from a comet that won't even come to us. What kinda half-assed alien civilization is this anyway? Makin' the Earth go all the way to them when they've got a mass approximately one brazillianth the size of our planet? What a crock. Second, puttin' distinguishin' marks on the time cards of your employees with criminal histories is a great way to help reintegrate 'em back into society. Cept when it isn't an they end up blowin' away a buncha semi trucks with the cache of Taliban assault rifles an RPGs you've been storin' up in the basement of your truck stop to fight the "inevitable" Mexican invasion. An third, I had no idea that it was even possible to make a movie featurin' terrorists who'd have a need to demand petroleum products. It was kinda refreshin'. We should all thank Steve for takin' one for the team an ingestin' all those mind alterin' substances just to show us what it looks like when a man who's high on drugs commandeers the director's chair. It's also kinda interesting to know that, even a drugged out Stephen King can easily make a better movie than a sober Uwe Boll.

But somethin' that musta happened for about the eight billionth time since the advent of cinema happened to me while I was checkin' this one out with Billy Hilliard an Sadie Bonebreak, an I'm sure you've all either supplied it or listened to somebody issue it; appalled viewer commentary on historical gas prices. There's always SOMEBODY watchin' with you that hasta point out how cheap the gas was. Course, nobody seems to realize that other'n a coupla brief periods under Richard "Slick Dick" Nixon, Jimmy "thoroughly rustled" Carter, an Bush II: Epileptic Boogaloo, our gas prices in this country've remained pretty steady when you factor in inflation. Take Maximum Overdrive for instance, where the diesel runs $1.08 a gallon. Hardly anybody who looks at that price seems to realize that, even though the Reagan dollar an the Obama dollar look exactly the same, an will ultimately both end up in the pockets of either Warren Buffet or one of the Walton kids, the 1986 dollar could buy a heck of a lot more'n a Ted Cruz colorin' book. These days you ain't gettin' so much as a pair of fuzzy dice to hang on the rear view mirror for a buck, but people still look at the Exxon sign an marvel at it like it's the stone monolith from 2001 or somethin'. Course, when you ask 'em if they'd also like to go back to the $3.35 an hour they were gettin' paid for dislodgin' the condom clogs in the toilets over at the Motel 5, they look atchu like you just pulled a mason jar outta the freezer an unleashed a fart that you'd flash frozen durin' the Super Bowl XIX halftime show. It's like they've never heard about Einstein's theory of relativity, which states that what you can buy in 2015 with a dollar is relative to the various economic conditions we currently find ourselves in, an that you can't compare modern currency to historical currency without accountin' for inflation an the fact that the economy was only so good in the 1980s because they had all kinda awesome novelty items slathered in neon paint. But I didn't mean to get that deep into the perils of economic policy that can't safely rely on a steady stream of tax revenues from the sales of ALF figurines, I simply wanted to point out what a Fluffernutter you hafta be to spend an entire movie bargain shoppin' for long expired sales an waxin' nostalgic for acid washed jeans. "Nostalgic" is essentially just a term used to describe people who left the past behind 'em an lived to regret it. Some of us had the good sense to hang onto it, an are easily recognizable as the ones gloatin' smugly from our '87 Iroc Z's, with Judas Priest proudly blastin' outta the cassette decks.

The movie begins with an uppity ATM tellin' Steve King his credit ratin's been downgraded to "Russia," an callin' 'im some of the nastiest names he's heard since his hardcore horror audience was subjected to Stand by Me. But that ain't nearly the worst of it, cause a few miles away this draw bridge gets tired of bein' run roughshod over an decides to raise itself up an make all the cars roll backwards down the ramp like a hamster ball down the basement steps, til this melon truck kills one of Donald Trump's ex-wives. Elsewhere, the Insane Clown Posse's tour bus pulls into a truck stop to fuel up, only pretty quick the gas stops pumpin' an doesn't start workin' again until the attendant holds it up to his face an tries peekin' inside it to see if somebody stuffed an aggie in there. While that's goin' on, Emilio Estevez's inside fryin' up some fillet 'o squish that the highway patrol spatula'd up offa the road that mornin', til his boss (Bubba) calls 'im into his office an tells 'im he's gonna need 'im to work for free from here on out cause he knows that if Emilio refuses he'll get tossed back in the Crossbar Hotel an hafta go back to sharin' bunk beds with Charlie Sheen. Then this electric cuttin' knife goes apeshit an saws the cook's wrist into Beef Stroganarm an Emilio hasta bash it with a claw hammer while it whines about not bein' disassembled. But before he can even get a minute to digest what just happened, some dork gets electrocuted in the arcade by the Ms. Pac-Man cabinet an Emilio gets this look on his face like Rush Limbaugh when the TSA asks to look through his luggage. Then we pan over to this little league game where the coach of the winnin' team's tryin' to buy some pop for everybody, cept the machine don't like his attitude an starts firin' cans of Jolt cola into his Dr. Pecker region before imbeddin' the can return pricin' info into his forehead, an pretty quick this steamroller shows up an turns the center fielder into Silly Putty. But we got even bigger problems back at the truck stop, cause while all that's happenin' this sleazeball bible salesman pulls in with a hitchhiker (Brett) an starts invokin' his rights to ass, grass, or cash, til the ICP party bus roars to life an tries turnin' 'em both into Faygo fountains. Then we gotta head back out on the highway again cause the movie ain't jumped around for purt'near two, three minutes now, an this time we got the voice of Lisa Simpson an 'er Dana Carvey lookin' husband (Curtis) over at this other gas station gettin' accosted by a semi cause Yeardley Smith's voice is enough to crack an engine block an it's kill or be killed for the Peterbilt.

Meanwhile, one of the little leaguers (Deke) is peddlin' his pre-teen posterior as fast as it'll go tryin' to get home, cept things're lookin' pretty bleak on account of every yard he passes bein' occupied by one or more corpses that've been subject to some form of vehicular manslaughter. Back at the truck stop, the little leaguer's Dad (Duncan) remembers he's supposed to be watchin' Deke's baseball game an goes to try makin' up for his deadbeat Daddery, only he's still got enough diesel in his eyes to drive from Topeka to Des Moines, an when he steps out into the parkin' lot he gets greased like a casserole pan an everybody runs inside to give the "how's my drivin'?" phone operator a stern talkin' to. Then the truck T-bones Jimmy Shaggart's consecrated caddy an he ends up gettin' so mad that he goes outside an demands the semi put up its deuce an a half dukes an fight 'im man to manifold, ultimately resultin' in Jimmy gettin' grilled an spilled before flyin' into a nearby sewage swamp. Elsewhere, Yeardley an Curtis're drivin' around lookin' for a rest stop that don't have those air powered hand dryers so their paws won't get poached after they tinkle, cept before they can find one this truck comes outta nowhere an they just about get Mack Pattied before they lure it to the edge of the road an run it over the embankment, causin' it to explode like a brain aneurism at an Italian opera house. Eventually they make it to the truck stop, where Curtis hasta try shootin' the gap between all the semis that're circlin' the place like buzzards over a cow carcass, only his little tuna can ain't got enough muster in its thruster an they end up gettin' clipped an flipped like a flame broiled Whopper. So now Emilio hasta drag 'em outta there while Bubba fires heat seekin' missiles out of his potato gun an thins out the catalytically converted convoy, an by the time it's all over he's blown a load of Charmin sky high an scattered so much toilet paper around that the place looks like an evicted Occupy Wallstreet camp. Then Emilio an Brett head down into Bubba's bunker where he's stockpiled enough semi-automatic weapons to arm most of Houston against the Jade Helm invasion, an Bubba gets P.O'd an tells Brett about how Emilio once held up a Piggly Wiggly, cause he figures a high class drifter like 'erself'll be thoroughly put off by that. Course, that only makes 'er fall for Emilio like a jug of Guatemalan wine offa the top shelf at Walmart, an they spend the resta the afternoon makin' little Estevi in the storage room. But eventually night falls, an Brett starts waxin' hypothetical about what's goin' on an determines that it must be the comet passin' by cause the sky's lit up like a punch bowl fulla Mountain Dew, cept before Emilio can present his rebuttal, they start hearin' the crooked Christian out in the poo poo pond screamin' about how all the stool samples cloggin' his wounds're puttin' a real damper on his ability to fight off infection.

So now Emilio an Curtis hafta go play some high stakes Frogger before crawlin' through a culvert pipe like Andy Dufresne, til they come to the end of the tunnel an find Jimmy expired an bearin' an uncanny resemblance to a deep fried Oreo. But it wasn't a completely wasted trip, cause by this time Deke's made his way out there just to see the look on his Dad's face when he realizes he left his only son to die back at Shankee Stadium. Unfortunately, Emilio don't have time to tell Deke about his Dad, cause right about then they're spotted by a reefer truck an hafta dive back into the pipe just before it gets circumcised by the truck's front fender. So they crawl back through the slopola while you try to block out Morgan Freeman's narration in your head, an once they get back to the truck stop Bubba goes an tells Deke that his Dad got mashed into road pizza an that the only way there's gonna be any remains for the funeral is if he can get ahold of the radials offa the truck an pick 'im outta the tread. Bubba could stand to go on a little tact finding expedition sometime, maybe take Donald Trump along with 'im too. But anyway, the next mornin' this bulldozer shows up while everybody's dozin' an starts pushin' cars through the wall an parkin' 'em in the smokin' section, til Bubba gets real P.O.'d an starts firin' rockets into it an it breaks down like Steven Seagal's girdle durin' his Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast. Then this scalped golf cart with a .50 cal attached to it rolls in an eviscerates Bubba an half the unnamed supportin' cast cause they're too stupid to stay down durin' a gunfight, til the cook (Wanda) snaps an starts givin' this big human rights speech on the front porch. Once Wanda's been turned into a human strainer, the golf cart starts honkin' its horn in Morse code, an after Deke deciphers the message Emilio decides to cave to its demands an spend the next 12 hours fuelin' up every big rig from here to Nashville with unleaded so the trucks aren't late pickin' up their backhauls. Eventually, Emilio's brain starts sizzlin' like a sausage patty at the Old Country Buffet an he hasta be relieved, but it's only after sufferin' heat stroke an inhalin' diesel fumes all day that Emilio's finally able to understand an explain the plot to Brett, which begins like this: "imagine you're a race of aliens..." I'm gonna cut it off here cause we already know the plot, but I love the idea that it takes Emilio experiencin' partial brain damage for the events to finally start makin' sense to somebody, so I figured I'd toss that in there.

Alrighty, well, Maximum Overdrive's one of those movies that I like quite a bit, even though it's just not really all that good. I mean, you could drive that magnificent Green Goblin semi-truck through the plot holes in this baby, but it's still entertaining as all get out. Plot holes like; if these aliens have control over everything mechanical on the planet, why don't they just disable the gas on Yeardley Smith's car and let her get run over like a bicyclist in Fort Worth? And while it's pretty funny to read "FUCK YOU" in bright lights at the bank where the daily interest rates oughta be posted, is that the kinda thing you'd really expect an alien invasion force to do? Not only does that mean the aliens took the time to learn the language(s) of the planet they plan to take over (including the naughty words just for the purpose of taunting us), but it also pretty much puts them on par intellectually with the cast of Animal House, don't it? Maybe these aliens are all drunk frat boys or something, I dunno. Makes me wonder how much of this was in Stephen King's original story and how much he changed for the movie because it seemed like a good idea after 23 consecutive lines of cocaine. The only other real problem with it, aside from the plot, is that it just flat refuses to use a segue for anything. You never get a transition from one scene to another, it's like Steve's afraid that we'll get bored if he's not throwin' something new at us every two or three minutes. Which, I guess if your mind's amped up like a Red Bull addict at a techno concert kinda makes sense, since you're literally incapable of slowing down. You've gotta give him this much though, this thing NEVER drags, even in the middle where you normally get character development and exposition scenes. I mean, Steve has an exposition scene in here, but it literally lasts about 30 seconds, and the character development is almost non existent. Which isn't that big of a deal for this kinda movie, but imagine how different it would have been if all these characters had all been at the truck stop right from the beginning, and weren't introduced one or two at a time as they attempt to find a safe haven. Might have come out better, because if you begin that way (leaving in the scene on the drawbridge as a nice opening jolt) you've got lots of time to develop some kind of attachment to the characters. A good comparison would be to imagine if, in Day of the Dead, half the characters come filtering in one by one every few minutes. You'd lose not just all the character development, but also the tension that exists between the rival factions. That's just my opinion of course, and really, what do I know? Steve's a millionaire and I'm sittin' here behind a screen talking about his exploits, most of which have turned out pretty well. But anyhow, all that said, it's still a really fun movie that's paced exceptionally well, even if it gets a little bit goofy from time to time and suffers from a moderate case of attention deficit disorder.

Okay, let's take a look at this thing on a scientific level and figure out if we'd be better off just takin' a face fulla diesel like ole Duncan did. The plot is nothing short of a mess, and the worst thing about it is that not only does it make about as much sense as a guy tryin' to pick up chicks at a lesbian bar, but the movie doesn't even follow its own rules. That's something I really take issue with in a movie. I can deal with the rules not makin' a lick of sense, but when they aren't even adhering to their own standards, well, that's when you've got problems. I mean, we've got two different cars in this movie that decide to behave themselves at least long enough for the characters inside to make it to the truck stop, even though all the other cars in the world are out runnin' over those jerks who try to cross rush hour traffic against a do not walk signal. I'm not gonna nitpick every little thing, but we've got a few serious plot conflicts goin' on here. The acting, as much as the script will allow, is pretty good. Ultimately though, the machines are really the stars of the movie, which is just as well, because there's virtually no character development. But Yeardley Smith's great as the obnoxious newlywed married to the guy that looks like Dana Carvey, and you can tell Steve made her character obnoxious because we were pretty much gonna hate her no matter what just cause of that crazy voice of hers. Pat Hingle's also really good as the Y2K preppin' jerkoff truck stop owner who wants Emilio Estevez to work for free cause he's from one of those southern states that didn't get the memo about slavery bein' abolished. Emilio's there too and he's okay, but at the time he was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood and those guys just have no place in horror flicks, with a few rare exceptions. Still, kudos to Emilio for agreeing to even DO this movie, since you can kinda assume he probably had a lot of better prospects available, but big stars in horror movies just kinda ruin them for me most of the time. The horror genre was meant for character actors.

So besides Emilio, Steve King, and Yeardley Smith (cause you mighta heard of them), here's who matters and why: Pat Hingle (Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo, Nightmare Honeymoon), Laura Harrington (The Devil's Advocate), Ellen McElduff (Christmas Evil), J.C. Quinn (The Abyss, Buried Alive II, The Prophecy, All-American Murder, Megaville, Twisted, C.H.U.D.), Holter Graham (Offspring 2009, The Curse 1999, Two Evil Eyes), Frankie Faison (The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon, Manhunter, C.H.U.D., Cat People 1982), Jack Canon (Axe, Scanners), Barry Bell (Target Earth, Trick or Treat), John Brasington (Scanners), J. Don Ferguson (I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Return of Swamp Thing), Leon Rippy (Stargate, Universal Soldier, Eight Legged Freaks, The Thirteenth Floor, The Arrival, King Kong Lives, Hyperspace, Firestarter, Tales of the Third Dimension), Robert Gooden (Night of the Lepus, Brainstorm), Giancarlo Esposito (Chupacabra Terror, Creature 1998, The Brother from Another Planet, The Changeling 1980), Martin Tucker (Death Screams), Richard Chapman Jr. (Scanners), Bob Gunter (Pumpkinhead 3 & 4), Phil Adams (Shanks), Christine Anne Baur (They Live, Meteor 1979), Jock Brandis (Scanners, Death Bed), Chris Britton (Silent Hill, Carrie 2013, The Final Cut, Scanners, The Brood), Hal Fishman (Spider-Man 3), Julius LaFlore (Hell Comes to Frogtown, The Monster Squad, Vamp, Silver Bullet, Return of the Jedi), Denver Mattson (The Monster Squad, The House by the Lake), Gary McLarty (The Beastmaster), Elizabeth Mulfaxe (Dead Alive), Bernie Pock (Class of 1999 II, Maniac Cop). I'm sad to report that a whole lot of these people got stuck up on us and decided to move into the kinds of cinematic/television offerings you wouldn't be ashamed to take a first date to, so here's that list as well. There're so many that I'm not even gonna try to make snarky comments about every one of them: Pat Hingle (Commissioner Gordon in the 90s Batman series, the narrator in The Land Before Time, Chief Jennings in Sudden Impact, Judge Fenton in Hang 'Em High, and of course, Edward Roundtable in Brewster's Millions), Laura Harrington (Amy Grape in What's Eating Gilbert Grape), J.C. Quinn (Jim in Barfly), Christopher Murney (Eddie Arkadian in The Last Dragon, Barney Rattigan in The Secret to My Success, and Mackie Bloom on Remember WENN) Holter Graham (Barry Strickland in Fly Away Home), Leon Rippy (Earl on Saving Grace, Tom Nuttall on Deadwood), Giancarlo Esposito (Tom Neville on Revolution, Gus Fring on Breaking Bad, Agent Mike Giardello on Homicide: Life on the Street, Buggin' Out in Do the Right Thing, and he also sang the theme song for The Electric Company. So yeah, if at any point you begin to question the acting skill of the cast, you might change gears and question what the actors are being asked to do, and why, instead.

The special effects are excellent, despite the MPAA makin' Steve remove the scene where that steam roller mashes the little leaguer and they'd placed a blood bag on the dummy. Apparently, it made it look like the kid's head had exploded, so they weren't havin' that. Still, very good gun shot wounds, sawed up hand, squashed little leaguer, pop can skull battery, and about a half dozen dead bodies laying around the various lawns and porches of Main Street U.S.A. Not to mention a whole lotta twisted metal, with at least six exploding vehicles. So I think it's pretty obvious that the top honors go to the special effects on this one. The shooting locations are alright, with the best and only major location being the truck stop. It was built about 10 miles outside of Wilmington, North Carolina, and was apparently convincing enough that the crew had to stop filming periodically to explain to people that it wasn't real and that they were shooting a movie. Eventually they took out an ad in the newspaper to try explaining this, although I'd imagine that probably caused a whole slew of new problems. The truck stop really is a good set though, which is kinda important considering 90% of the movie takes place there. Pretty authentic, I liked it. The soundtrack, well, what's to say? The entire soundtrack was performed by AC/DC, so if you're into soundtracks that prominently feature full length songs by bands rather than composed instrumental scores, you might be inclined to say that a movie with this kind of story, made in 1986, couldn't possibly get a better band to do its soundtrack than AC/DC, cause they were huge at the time. I personally prefer composed, instrumental soundtracks for horror flicks, but when you consider how goofy this movie is, and how difficult it is to take serious at times, I think that what they did with the AC/DC tracks actually works better than something instrumental that takes itself seriously would have. I mean, can you imagine having Jerry Goldsmith or Howard Shore try to compose something for this that doesn't crank the goofiness up to eleven? Richard Band might've been able to do something with it, but yeah, the AC/DC tracks are good driving music, and that's pretty much what this movie's about, even though most of the things driving don't actually have drivers. Overall, not Stephen King's proudest moment, but still a lot of fun. Check it out if you're not the kinda person that sends their steak back to the kitchen claiming you asked for "medium" and were appalled to find it cooked to "medium well."

Rating: 65%