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Maximum Overdrive

Force Entertainment/Force Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 93 mins . R . PAL


Stephen King is one of the best horror writers of all time but sadly, for the most part, his terrific books have never been captured well on film. Responsible for classic reads such as Misery, The Shawshank Redemption, Carrie, The Green Mile, The Shining, It, Needful Things, Tommyknockers, The Dark Half, Pet Cemetery, Cujo, Firestarter and Children of the Corn, the list seems almost endless. Very rarely is a good book recreated well on screen and Stephen King's are no exception. Some have been very good films without being as good as the book, most just acceptable, but others have been total disasters. Maximum Overdrive unfortunately fits into the latter category.

The setting is the Dixie Boy truck stop in Redneck USA. Due to the earth being caught in the tail of a passing comet, the Rhea-M comet to be exact, machines have gained minds of their own and are out to kill every human in sight. The trucks are the biggest problem, as they cause the most damage, but even pinball machines and electric knives are a threat. The trucks surround the truck stop in old cowboys and Indian style and the humans trapped inside are terrified. The apparent leader of the trucks is a big black toy delivery rig with a green gremlin's head on the front. At this point I would suggest the intended victims simply sit tight and wait for the trucks to run out of fuel, but that would make for a boring movie really.

"We made you!"

Released in 1986, Stephen King had the theory with bringing his books to life on screen that “if you want something done right then you have to do it yourself” and he made his first and last attempt at directing with this film. Now I hate to be a sour puss, but what was he thinking? I should have known from an early scene where an electric knife attacks a waitress that this was not going to be a cinema classic. Emilio Estevez heads the cast (a worry in itself) and is supported by Pat Hingle and Yeardley Smith, the only other actors of note. I would suggest this is where Smith was seen and more importantly heard, hence her recruitment as Lisa Simpson. The acting is pretty bad throughout, but the script is mostly at fault.

Stephen King makes a cameo appearance as the guy at the auto teller machine who is called an asshole by said machine and due to his lacking of acting ability, he goes by reasonably unnoticed, as do the rest of the cast. Music is supplied by AC/DC and it rocks, the problem is that all of the music is theirs so if you are not a fan of AC/DC then bad luck. The music is possibly the only good thing about this film. So overall, if you like trucks or AC/DC then you may enjoy this film, otherwise don’t bother. Thankfully Stephen King had a lucrative writing career to fall back on, or I fear we never would have heard of him again.


Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced, this transfer is very good. Picture is sharp throughout with very good colours. Blacks are solid and there is very little grain. There are a few film artefacts, but nowhere near as many as expected. There is occasional aliasing and loss of detail, but for a film that is almost 20 years old the minor flaws that occur are acceptable. There are no subtitles supplied with this release, but overall they are not really needed.


Audio supplied is a choice of Dolby Digital 2.0 or 5.1. Both are reasonable, but far from being demonstration quality. Again considering the age of the film, this seems to be the best that could be done. Dialogue is generally clear throughout and synch is never a problem. The disappointment with either track is the lack of separation, it is there but not as evident as it possibly could have been. The other problem is that the music score could have been emphasised a little more, AC/DC provided some thumping tracks and on occasions these are quietly played in the background and should really have dominated scenes. Generally this audio track is acceptable, but nothing more.


The extras department provides us with merely two bonus items. There is a Theatrical Trailer and a Biography on Stephen King. The trailer is quite a treat, it features King talking to the camera trying to promote the film and it is quite obvious why he should quickly go back to writing. The second extra is a series of text pages on Stephen King that provide some decent information.


Overall this is not a great film. A lot of people may want to check it out just to see Stephen King’s first attempt at directing or to see Yeardley Smith in one of her early roles as a screaming newlywed. Basically, if you treat this as a comedy and make fun of the ridiculousness of it all as you watch and not as a horror film, then you should enjoy it. I did see a good quote the other day that suits this film well, "Maximum Overdrive, minimum terror!"...

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      And I quote...
    "Stephen King makes his debut as a director in this ‘80s horror flick where the trucks take over and go on a killing spree."
    - Adrian Turvey
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