Monday, April 20, 2015

Maximum Underdrive

I will never try to convince anyone that Maximum Overdrive is a good movie, but I will also never waver in my undying, unreasonable, and eternal adoration for all that it is.

You could torture me. You could reason with me. You could tie me to a hard chair and invite Stephen King himself to stand there lecturing me as to why it's a terrible film, all the while poking me with a hot cattle prod. Heck, you could have Stephen King force feed me raw onions while he uses a creepy ventriloquist dummy to explain why Maximum Overdrive is not in any way good, and you know what? I will not give in.

I love it.

The idea that someone else decided to adapt King's story or remake this movie was, quite obviously, extremely exciting for me to learn, despite the fact that all who had seen it testified that it was not worth my time. I was prepared to walk away and remove it from my radar because really, if I need to see pinball machines electrocuting Gus Fring, I could quite easily put in my well-worn Maximum Overdrive DVD any day of the week (or every day of the week). When it popped up as a free stream on Amazon Prime, I found myself gravitating back towards this by all accounts waste of time. When I saw this tagline:

I knew there was no escaping it. I had to watch Trucks. No ventriloquist dummy could convince me otherwise.

Quick Plot: At a dusty rest stop far away from civilization, a few scattered and unhappy white people begin to notice that trucks are developing a violent mind of their own, possibly due to a fuzzily explained nearby toxic waste accident. Tragically, there is no mention of comets or lasers. 

Our scruffy survivors include Demon Knight's Brenda Bakke as an independent trail guide, a widowed mechanic dad and his teenage son, a divorced white collar dad and his terribly awful teenage daughter, an aging hippie, elderly clerk, and a few jerks in trucker hats who I think are supposed to be villainous but honestly, I never cared enough to know for sure. 

Made in Canada on a TV movie budget, Trucks is certainly a passable horror movie filled with a few genuinely fun and wacky sequences. The acting is more than acceptable, and the special effects budget clearly included generous donations from someone who just really liked to blow things up. Heck, in many ways, this is probably a much "better" movie than Maximum Overdrive.

But I have no desire to ever see it again.

Ever play an unbranded board game modeled on a far more famous one? The dollar store's version of Monopoly (perhaps named "Moneypoley" or "Real Estate Game"), for example? It's structured the same as Parker Brothers' pride and joy, but there's just something missing. Maybe the paper money is printed on thinner stock or the dice have stickers in place of carved dots. It's fine, and if you gave it to a child raised in a Skinner box who had never fought with his brother over who got to be the thimble, that child would enjoy it with no complaint. But it's just not real.

Even with maximum explosions.

That's kind of how I felt about Trucks. Its credits announce it as being based on Stephen King's short story (which I haven't read), and it never pretends to be a remake of 1987's AC/DC scored cocaine-fueled classic. This is a somewhat seriously told tale of trucks gone bad. Yes, it is very hard to tell such a tale seriously, even in the hands of Visiting Hours screenwriter Brian Taggert.

There are touches of fun, to be sure. A scene wherein a motorized toy pickup truck terrorizes a mailman is rather adorable. There's also a very neat sequence where a HAZMAT suit is inflated by a cleanup crew car, only to animate in such a way where it essentially becomes an invisible man axe murderer. These are good things.

But U-Turn, U-Die good? Not nearly. 

Trucks just isn't that much fun. The humans aren't colorful enough to sustain our attention and the actual trucks lack any defining feature to give a memorable face to the evil. By late ‘90s direct-to-video (or Canadian television?) standards, it’s fine. 

Just not soda-can-to-the-groin fine.

High Points
Look, I really DID enjoy the aforementioned kills for their surprise...

Low Points
Even if the inconsistency of what machinery acts evil and what doesn't remains an issue for a purist like me

Lessons Learned
Kids of the '90s firmly believe turquoise and silver should be worn separately or banned

When you're stressed, it's good to meditate

You can't be a redneck if you're from Detroit

Trucks is streaming on Amazon Prime and probably lurking somewhere in its entirety on youtube. It’s not the worst way to kill 90 minutes, particularly if you have any affection for tiny mechanical Tonkas braining a U.S. postal employee. It won’t inspire a LEGO set,  but you know honeybun, what can?
Damn straight.

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