Tag Archives: Maximum Overdrive

Horror hits high gear: Maximum Overdrive

max1Stephen King adaptations have been part and parcel of the horror movie-going experience for more than 30 years and the results have been somewhat patchy, with The Shining and The Dead Zone at one end of the spectrum and the likes of Cujo at the other.

Also sitting pretty at this end of the line is Maximum Overdrive, a film based on a King short story (as so many are) featuring Emilio Estevez. But what sets this apart from other King fodder is that this was the first, and to date, only time that the bespeckled Maine writer has stepped from behind his typewriter to behind the lens to direct.

It’s a mess of a movie sure, but as always with ‘the King of horror’ there are intriguing ideas and interesting images to be had along the way, and to be honest it’s a gloriously fun B-movie in the same vein as Night of the Comet, Cat’s Eye and Creepshow, the latter two of which King was also involved in.

In many ways this is Transformers without the machines transforming into robots but what it does share with its Cybertron cousins is that is has plenty of explosions as pretty much everything you see on screen is blown to smithereens.  Unlike those robots in disguise there are also several rather cool and memorable death scenes including death by lawn mower, a cold drink machine that fires its cans of drink with deadly accuracy and a steam roller that makes a squidgy mess of a baseball team.

With a premise such as this, the emphasis is purely on the fun factor rather than the fear factor, which no doubt disappointed many, but when it’s someone like King running the show there is always some fun to be had. Sure, Emilio Estevez is the only character we give two hoots about (also look out for an appearance by Yeardley Smith AKA Lisa Simpson).

The ‘story’, as little of it there is, unfolds as thus: After a comet passes over earth it leaves a haze surrounding the planet which takes control of machines, making them deadly killers (no reason for this is given but we don’t really need or want one as it would only get in the way), it’s almost a homage to the likes of Day of the Triffids with machines running amuck instead of those pesky plants. A group of people try to stay alive hold up at the Dixie Boy truck stop, think of it as The Alamo with articulated lorries, including the particularly memorable ‘leader’ which has a face not too dissimilar to The Green Goblin.

Released in 1986, this was also the year that Halley’s Comet passed by close to Earth, so it could be seen as a reaction of that as being a supposed harbinger of doom, as it was allegedly sighted before The Battle of Hastings. It could also be seen as a pre-curser to the worry, even though it never materialised, over the likes of Y2K. For all of its comedy and its big bangs it certainly takes a tiny leaf out of the James Cameron book of doom mongering in posing questions about our over reliance on new technology and how we would cope if it bit back.

Before the days of mobile phones and our devotion to all things technology you can’t help but wonder whether it wouldn’t be the right time for a remake of sorts, like all geniuses perhaps King was just ahead of his time with this particular tale?

The mindless mayhem and death and destruction are worth a peek on its own and surely a film with little leaguers getting neatly pressed by a steamroller can’t all be bad!! A bonafide cult classic.

Advertisements

King of cameos: Stephen King

pet-sematary-stephen-king-560[1]Stephen King has long been the number one name in horror but over the years his face has turned up, mostly in cameo appearances, in many of his adaptations long before the likes of Stan Lee was mugging in the background of the latest Marvel release. King may not have been spotted stacking shelves in Haven or Under the Dome just yet but Dean Newman takes a look back at the King of cameos.

Pet Sematary (1988)
This was the first of his books that King adapted for the screen. As well as scribing duties King also wound up popping up in the graveyard, how apt, as the minister giving the service at a funeral. It was a clip that was also heavily used in the trailer and King really looks to be relishing the role and is certainly my favourite appearance and so very apt to be surrounded by all that death with King as much the master of ceremonies as he is the master of horror.

Stand By Me (1986)
Okay so King himself doesn’t actually appear physically but the film, based on the short novella The Body, is semi-autobiographical and clearly King as the young writer to be. So essentially King is Wil Wheaton and Richard Dreyfuss, the latter who mostly appears as a voiceover apart from at the very end in perhaps one of the greatest most poignant endings in film history. King still has the marks left by the leeches scene…

Creepshow (1982)
Less of a cameo as King appears in one of the segments In Creepshow. Stephen King plays Jordy Verrill in the segment entitled “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill.” Jordy Verrill, a country bumpkin, discovers a meteor on his property and soon finds himself, and his entire home, consumed by some sort of meteor fungal that first takes over his house and then him – can’t wait to see what Dr Pixie makes of that on Embarrassing Bodies!

King also played a Truck Driver in Creepshow 2 during the segment, The Hitchhiker

The Stand (1994)
For many The Stand is regarded as King’s magnus opus and as such he delivered a script for an epic in scope television adaptation. It was perhaps only fitting then that King kept on popping up, just to keep an eye on proceedings you understand, as Teddy Weizak throughout this land mark mini-series

Maximum Overdrive (1986)
If it wasn’t committed to celluloid then King probably wouldn’t even remember his turn as an irate man at a cashpoint who swiftly gets his comeuppance due to the fact, by his own self admission, that he was pretty much off his face on drugs during this period. A curio more than a classic.

The Shining (1997)
No, not that one. Although the Kubrick version is hailed as a classic of horror cinema, King hated it, so, as you do, he had it remade closer to the original novel as a two part TV movie. In this adaptation King has a turn as the band leader.

Quantum Leap (1990)
Oh boy! In this horror tinged edition of the time travelling do-gooder Sam Beckett, which takes place on October 31st 1964 and sees him end up meeting a young boy who just so happens to have a dog called Cujo. That’s right, a young ‘Stephen King’. Allusions to other King books include Christine, Carrie and The Dark Half. And the episodes title? The Boogieman.

The Simpsons (2000)
Appeared as himself signing books in the episode Insane Clown Poppy, obviously a riff on IT. As an interesting side note, one of his more recent books, Under the Dome, was reminiscent of certain elements of The Simpsons Movie, not the Spider Pig I should imagine though.

The X-Files (1998)
King cameoed off screen as a writer of one of the shows fifth season episodes, Chinga, that dealt with witches, possessed dolls, random acts of violence (seeing as you ask people gouging their own eyes out), all of course set in Maine (where else!)

Sleepwalkers (1992)
He was the cemetery caretaker in ‘Sleepwalkers’ – perhaps he should have buried it before it was released. It’s rather shonky to say the least with only the rather lovely Madchen Amick as its redeeming feature. Good company of Clive Barker.