“The video game says “play me”
Face it on a level but it takes you every time on a one on one
Feeling running down your spine
Nothing gonna save your one last dime ’cause it own you
Through and through
The data bank know my number
Says I gotta pay ’cause I made the grade last year
Feel it when I turn the screw
Kicks you round the world, there ain’t a thing that it can’t do to you”
AC DC Who Made Who (1986)
The concept of this movie was truly extraordinary. Artificial Intelligence and the Revolt of the Machines. Starring Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle and Laura Harrington, directed by Stephen King and featuring an exclusive soundtrack by AC DC what could possibly go wrong? Well, pretty much everything. There is no logical explanation why anyone would want to stay sober during the viewing of this film. From a stunning lack of directing, to editing which seems to string together scenes that vaguely relate to one another, to laughably abysmal acting — Maximum Overdrive provides a cornucopia of disappointment. Aside from cocktails and good company, why watch this movie? This is the first and last attempt at directing by Stephen King. Who can pass up that kind of milestone?
As the Earth passes through the tail of a comet, previously inanimate objects suddenly spring to life and turn homicidal. In a pre-title scene, a man (King in a cameo) tries to withdraw money from an ATM, but it instead calls him an “asshole”, and he whines to his wife (King’s real life wife Tabitha). Chaos soon begins as machines of all kinds come to life and begin rampaging and murdering all available humans.
The machine carnage spreads as humans and even pets are brutally killed by lawnmowers, chainsaws. Our gang of actors gather at a roadside truck stop called “The Dixie Boy Dinner” just outside Wilmington, North Carolina, where a waitress is stalked and then badly injured by an electric knife. Classic video games electrocute another victim. Employee and ex-convict Bill Robinson, played by Emilio Estevez, begins to suspect something has gone very wrong with the machines.
Robinson’s belief is reinforced by the marauding big rig trucks, which have formed a gang. The Big Rig Truck Gang is led by a Western Star 4800 Rig sporting a giant Green Goblin mask on its grille. Apparently, Stephen King bet bank that the Green Goblin would induce fear in the viewer. Honestly put, the Green Goblin looked like something Carnies use to promote small block parties with machines of questionable repair and safety. No matter how many times Green Goblin goes around the truck stop or chases down a hapless survivor, it’s just not invoking the fear factor. Truth be told Carnies are typically much more scary.
At any rate, as if being menaced by the Carnie-like Green Goblin wasn’t enough, Robinson rallies the truck stop survivors; they use a cache of firearms and M72 LAW rockets stored in a bunker hidden under the Dixie Boy Diner and destroy many of the trucks. The Big Rig truck gang fights back in the form of both a Caterpillar D7G bulldozer, which drives through the Dixie Boy Diner and a M274 Mule, which fires its post-mounted M60 machine gun into the building, killing several of the Truck Stop Survivors. The Mule then demands, via sending Morse Code signals through its horn, that the humans pump the truck’s diesel for them in exchange for keeping them safe; the survivors soon realize they have become enslaved by their own machines.
Reneging on the fueling operation, Robinson sneaks a grenade onto the Mule vehicle, destroying it, then leads the party out of the diner via a sewer hatch to the main road just as the trucks demolish the entire truck stop. The survivors are pursued to the docks by the Green Goblin truck — which manages to kill one more trucker after he steals a ring from a female corpse in a car — before Robinson destroys the truck once and for all with a direct hit from an M72 LAW rocket shot. The survivors then sail off to safety. Oddly with all the machines revolting, from electric carving knives, transistor radios to video games to big rigs, the movie gives no explanation as to why the expensive motor boats have not also become blood thirsty man killers.
As Robinson and the survivors sailed off into safety, I began to realize that I would never get that time back in my life. Fortunately, Brandy Old Fashioned(s) made the entire experience, using the recently released 30th Anniversary edition, palatable. Oddly enough, the trailer doesn’t contain any AC DC Music, the one redeeming quality about this movie.
This film was nominated for a Razzi award—and rightly so. It was also Stephen King’s only foray into directing films—again rightly so. Maximum Overdrive is the Sharnado of 1980s films. Speaking of which, JPFMovies will soon be reviewing Sharnado–stay tuned.