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Maximum Overdrive (1986): maximum Stephen King

A poster for the film Maximum Overdrive

This wild dose of Maximum King is a coked out whirlwind of sentient machines gore and pure unadulterated fun. Maximum Overdrive is often ridiculed as Stephen King’s folly, thinking he could make a better adaptation of his work than say, Kubrick. But it’s extremely telling that of all his many great works he could’ve chosen to adapt, he picked the slight but fun story Trucks from Night Shift. His intent here is to show the viewer a hell of a good time, and despite it’s faults, he does.

It’s a hootin’ hollerin’ blast that will gleefully murder kids with steamrollers.After some introductory nonsense about a comet, all machinery on earth becomes sentient and decides to destroy their makers, starting with the classic scene of King himself getting abused by a cash machine. Before long we are holed up in the Dixie Boy truck stop with a bunch of colourful rural types, including Emilio Estevez’s cook Bill, Lisa Simpson herself Yeardley Smith as newlywed Connie and Commissioner Gordon / Pat Hingle playing against type as the ass-holeish boss Bubba Hendershot, all being terrorised by a fleet of vehicles led by the iconic Green Goblin truck.

A Green Goblin truck and Emilio Estevez

King’s story is a barely functioning frame around which to hang wild set pieces including an amazing bascule bridge scene where cars and bodies are hurled through the air, electric knives slicing up arms and lawnmowers chopping up more than grass.

For someone who had never directed before, and was reportedly coked to the nines, King nails the frenetic nature of the story and while it never builds tension or explores any real thematic ideas it is undoubtedly a shit-ton of fun. Plus a rocking ‘score’ by AC/DC and some impressive pyrotechnic and practical FX.

Interestingly, King lost the Worst Director & Worst Film Golden Raspberry Awards to Prince who took the honours for Under the Cherry Moon, another ill-advised but equally entertaining film.

4 squished bible salesmen out of 5.

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