Sunday, May 25, 2014

Maximum Overdrive (1986)

In 1987, a horrible event happened that changed the course of human history. Machines came to life and slaughtered everybody for no reason. It happened so fast nobody could predict it or tell what the Hell was going on. If it hadn’t been for a bunch of idiots at a random gas station in the middle of nowhere, people today would still be enslaved to a bunch of 18-wheeler trucks. Oh the horror! Let us recount the terrifying events of that day in the Stephen King directed vessel Maximum Overdrive…

Director: Stephen King
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Laura Harrington, Pat Hingle

We start off this movie with the King himself flabbergasted that a bunch of machines and electric signs at the bank are saying some rather rude things to him when he tries to withdraw money:

Well I mean obviously THAT already happens at the bank every time we use it. It's just delivered in a more direct manner here.

We then get what probably took up most of the special effects budget for this as a bunch of cars and trucks crash on a bridge that won’t go down like it’s supposed to, causing a horrible accident. Some people fall off the bridge. May their sacrifice be remembered … let us bow our heads for a moment of silence for these fallen brothers and sisters, the first casualties of the Great Truck War of 1987.

Let us also remember the Great Watermelon Genocide of 1987. Never forget!

After that, we finally get our main destination for the movie – this truck stop diner out in the country, where a guy named Bill is pissed off that he has to work extra hours for no pay. But his boss, a fat jackass named Bubba Hendershot, sees things differently because Bill is a convict out on parole.

If they handed this guy the keys to the kingdom and told him he could rule the Earth, I for one would be fuckin' terrified. His power trip in this movie is bordering on the massive. Never underestimate the power that a gas station owner holds, I guess.

Geez, the Green Goblin’s concept design for The Amazing Spider-Man 3 is really out there and not what I expected:

Sony production executives consider it an interesting twist on the character. People on the Internet bitched and moaned for days even though there was no script or even a trailer yet.

For the next half hour or so, the movie is at its best – just random death scenes via machines. Like at a baseball field, where one guy goes to get a soda and kicks the machine. What he didn’t count on was that the soda machine had FINALLY HAD ENOUGH and so it kills him. While I do wish there were more scenes here of the kids hitting soda cans with their baseball bats, I have to say the one kid who blocks them with his catcher’s mask is just priceless – easily one of the funniest things in the movie.

That's fucking badass. This kid is going places. Like, he will probably grow up to be a Die Hard-esque action hero.

One of the kids ends up escaping and runs off to witness more of the wanton destruction. I’m sure he’ll have a great time watching Sylvester Stallone’s take on the Brave Little Toaster.

Meanwhile, a girl who looks suspiciously like she belongs in a Mark Twain novel is riding in a car with some sleazebag who keeps on touching her thigh. When she tells him (rightfully) to fuck off, he gets self-righteous and starts talking about Jesus and complaining that kids today are SO vulgar and foul-mouthed. I’m just amazed at the subtlety with which King is attacking Christians – truly a masterwork of religious satire!

"Does it bother you that you're the cliche perverted douchenozzle with no moral compass who tries to invoke Christian moral values incredibly hypocritically?"
"Not really."
"Man, it's tired and dated that King is still trying to shoehorn in un-subtle messages about the hypocrisy and belligerence of hyper-religious far-right Christian assholes?"
"I guess. I just can't believe they're letting us go on this long about it."

On another note, when an ice cream truck goes evil and kills its owner, WHY would it still have its tinkly ice cream music playing?! Just for ironic laughs? I guess maybe it wants to tell all the other evil trucks and household appliances that it still has ice cream left over. I wonder what it would do in a fight – maybe open up the back doors and spill ice cream all over its enemies. There are just so many possibilities with this. I hope to one day see a Michael Bay Transformer sequel with this ice cream truck character in it.

Actually I probably still wouldn’t watch it – but sshhhh, it’s the joke that matters!

We also get to meet the best characters in the film. Some newlywed couple is driving down a country road aimlessly after being married. I dunno, maybe they’re going to celebrate their honeymoon in Children of the Corn country. The wife is loud and annoying, and the guy is … eh, mostly just bland. The wife’s absolute asinine nature makes up for that though. They come across a bloodied up dead guy and the wife asks “Is he dead?”

"Nah, he's just taking a nap."

What, are you fuckin’ blind? The only way he isn’t dead is if he just happened to take a drunken nap after being doused in a vat of fake blood and movie make-up gore effects. What follows is a scene where a truck tries to kill them. The wife screams a lot, which probably had the effect of making even dogs in the audience go deaf. They end up getting away unscathed, luckily for them – BUT NOT FOR US! We still have to sit through the rest of the movie with these two characters. Particularly the wife will make you want to claw your eardrums out. Thanks for that one, Stephen King!

Well, it's happened; annoyance finally has a face.

Back at Country Truck Stop Diner Land, we see that another condition of employment, besides having to work random extra hours for no extra pay, is having to light the boss’s cigars for him:

Their jobs also include shining his shoes and wiping his ass.

Shit job. But you know what’s really a shit job? When you’re trying to have some peace and quiet on the John and the main character in a Stephen King movie looks over the wall of the stall at you.

"I really couldn't have just talked to you without looking over the stall because.....uhhhh...."

Jesus, man! Personal boundaries! Get with the program! I guess King really wanted Bill to be a coprophiliac – that gives him an edge over other King main characters.

Because otherwise, we see Bill becoming the cliché Stephen King main character: he’s a young, scruffy guy with a checkered past just trying to beat the odds, and now he also has a hot chick who likes him! Probably just ‘cause they’re the only two characters in their age bracket in the diner. All the others are either old, fat or disgusting – and c’mon, nobody wants to see a sex scene with someone like THAT.

Yup, a sex scene, right in the middle of the apocalypse. I kinda get it – make the best of what could be your last hours alive. But it’s fucked up in this movie because THESE TWO ARE SUPPOSED TO BE THE MAIN CHARACTERS. I mean, they were trying to solve the damn problem before this. And now they’re willing to just throw their hands in the air, say ‘fuck it’ and then … well, actually go fuck it?

It’s just backwards. What the hell am I even doing? Let’s get back to talking about trucks going evil and turning on humanity. How about more scenes with the newlyweds trying to escape Optimus Prime’s disgruntled brothers-in-law?

Oh, put a sock on it.

We see them trying to escape more evil trucks. After narrowly escaping a confrontation, the wife turns to the husband and screams “I NEVER SHOULD’VE LET YOU DRIVE AGAIN!” Because, you know, whenever HE drives, 18-wheel trucks try to take over the planet. For the love of Christ, just let her drive for the rest of the marriage.

"Video games AND shower facilities? That's everything a girl could want!"

It doesn’t even make sense – I mean he IS keeping her ALIVE for fuck’s sake. You could show a little gratitude!

They get to the diner and are promptly welcomed with open arms, as they are clearly among good company with the other annoying people in this movie. I’m so glad we finally get to see a collection of the annoying stereotypes you make when you’re telling a story while mad at a relative all gathered together in one place. There's also this other lady, who in the middle of the night feels an uncontrollable urge to run outside and address the trucks in her best impression of a drug overdose, screaming "WE MADE YOU! WE MADE YOU!"

This is what Shakespeare really wanted back in the day and was actually trying to capture when he wrote such characters as Lady Macbeth.

I guess we finally get some action when they start trying to fight the trucks. Bubba pulls out a rocket launcher he just happened to have around the gas station, and starts blowing the fuck out of everything.

He may be a complete detestable jackass, but never let it be said that he lies down like a welcome mat for evil trucks bent on world domination!

Yeah, well, I certainly feel safe going to piece-of-shit gas stations now that I know the intolerant redneck assholes owning them carry rocket launchers. Peachy! Things are going pretty well, as far as apocalyptic truck versus human battles go, until a military cannon tank shows up and begins killing everyone. I guess the humans were asking for it though, as they just kinda stand around and look dumbly as the cannon begins to fire. Yes, they clearly have time to move. No, they do not take advantage of that time.

"Yeah...I could have ducked or tried to dodge, but I'm a fuckin' idiot."

So I guess that’s the final straw for the humans, as they are now slaves to the trucks! But wait a second – how will the trucks order their slaves around if they don’t speak the same language?! Well, it’s simple – they teach the humans how to speak their language, which is just honking car horns of course. So all the humans forget how to speak English and instead just honk like really annoying ducks all the time. And that’s the end of the world as we know it.

No, that actually was a lie – I know; how can you ever trust me again? Actually the trucks start honking their horns in Morse code, and the little kid understands it and translates. Apparently they want to be “fed” with gas – so I guess the human characters become unwilling gas station attendant slaves.

What follows is pretty much the worst climax ever. It’s nothing but people filling 18-wheeler trucks with gas. Where’s the excitement in that? I get what it was going for, but come on. You could at least put in some car-washing scenes too. Or some paint job change scenes. The possibilities for humans being truck slaves are infinite, and King does not take advantage of it!

The worst kind of slavery is the kind that makes you recall summer jobs you had when you were a kid.

I guess they eventually escape through a tunnel in the sewers. They go to a dock to find this boat which can lead them to an island with no motor vehicles. They’re about to leave when the Green Goblin truck finds them and attempts to do something – though I’m not sure what, as he’s just a truck and they are clearly already in the boat. But they destroy it anyway, finally bringing down the Green Goblin truck and, apparently, ending the entire truckpocalypse right then and there.

What? How do you even know that worked? Why are you celebrating because you destroyed ONE TRUCK?! What about the rest of the world? Isn't it a bit soon to be cheering and dancing when the rest of the world could still be in grave danger?

But of course we don’t get an answer – just a text scroll explaining that everything turned back to normal because really what was causing it was a comet passing over and showering radiation on the Earth. Oh, well that explains it. I hate when that happens. Just like the one last year that made all dairy products come to life and turn evil. The milk shelves at Wal-Mart have never been the same!

We end on the sounds of our heroes sailing off to the island anyway – well, actually we end with the squawking annoying voice of that newlywed wife character, bitching and complaining about more shit even though they just technically saved the world. Is anything good enough? Will SOMEBODY please shut her up?! It’s really fuckin’ unbelievable that they actually ended on this character’s voice – she’s so annoying she practically BEGS to be killed off. That’s what would normally happen to a character like this. But King said ‘nope, we’re letting her live to the end.’

Thank you. Thank you so much for that.

On the other hand, I am glad this movie is finally daring to tell the true story of what happened in 1987 when the trucks came to life. It was for sure a traumatic and world-changing event that we will remember for decades to come and put in the history books. I for one am just glad King made this movie so we can appreciate the real historical value of what happened and learn from our mistakes.

Images copyright of their original owners. I own none of them.