Stephen King has been a household name for decades. Breaking into the horror genre with many published short stories in different magazine companies before finally breaking through as a recognized author with his debut novel ‘Carrie,’ he is a man whose reputation precedes him. From the late 70s into the 80s, there were many presentations of his literary work being translated on film. While some are largely heralded by the public (“Carrie”, “The Shining”, & “Pet Sematary” to name a few), some are more cult-like in their followings. Hovering over all of them though, there was one piece that stands out for many different reasons.
“Maximum Overdrive” is Stephen King’s one and only self-directed movie based on his short story ‘Trucks’ from his “Night Shift” collection. He took a very potent, short idea and blew it up into a massive world.
When the auric trail of a comet named Rhea-M passes by Earth and casts a bright green glow in the atmosphere, most-all electronic devices begin to show sentience and a massive bloodlust. The film begins with the epic scene where a drawbridge begins to rise on it’s own while traffic is still passing over it, and this is only the beginning as we witness multiple scenes of mayhem occur. A youth baseball team is annihilated by speed-shooting vending machines & a steamroller (resulting in what is still considered one of the most shocking deaths ever put on film), a boy rolls through a village on his bicycle and sees dead bodies and chaos all over the yards, and it all leads up to our main location which is the Dixie Boy Truck Stop, where the gas pumps and resting trucker’s rigs all begin to operate on their own. We spend a large majority of the film trapped inside the truck stop as we meet the typical Stephen King typed characters who try to understand the world and find a way to survive. From religious zealots to blue collared workers, you get the usual array of people to be trapped inside with.
For being Stephen King’s one and only directing credit, and therefore being one of his more faithful screenplays, this film certainly has a lot of fun. While he was infamously on cocaine for the entire duration of the shoot, it only adds that manic energy into the piece which is practically contagious. It’s very violent, silly, and creative. There’s one scene involving an electric knife which still haunts me to this day – when my grandmother would use one every Thanksgiving to carve the turkey, I had to leave the house, haha.
Especially now during the internet age, the film has garnered an almost meme-worthy reputation – thanks in no part to the teaser trailer that premiered on TV and was revitalized thanks to YouTube where Stephen King points at the screen moaning ‘I’m going to scare the Hell out of you!’ This exact promo is proof of the silly, chaotic nature this film withholds.
It also features a soundtrack entirely provided by AC/DC, and stars some familiar faces like Emilio Esteves. It is absolutely not a perfect film, and in fact, there are a lot of horror fans who insult and hate on it regularly, but I grew up watching this and it has always been one of my favorites. It’s just so FUN! This & ‘Creepshow’ were the 2 films that made me a hardcore Stephen King fan at a young age (even though, admittedly, I was so young that I thought every movie based on his work was ALSO directed by him.. but that’s another story.)
If you want creative, violent, chaotic fun to entrance you for a solid 90 minutes, then this a perfect choice. You really can’t go wrong with watching this unless you take it too seriously. But the AC/DC soundtrack & the intro cameo from Stephen King himself where an ATM machine calls him an asshole are early advisors that this film is meant to be fun. Let it wash over you and enjoy this anomaly that we may never see again.
I wish he would make another movie so badly – and I especially wish we would get to see the X-Rated unreleased cut – but alas, this is a perfectly wonderful experience all the same.
5/5 – admittedly a biased rating since I’ve seen this movie atleast twice a year since I was 3 years old.
“Maximum Overdrive” is currently available to stream on Vudu, YouTube, Amazon Prime, & Apple TV.
‘Til Next Time,
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