Screen Time: Killer Car Films
I am always up for a challenge when it comes to writing about movies. One night, during a round or seventeen of adult refreshments, I boldly stated to my friends that I could write a movie column about any topic. Someone said “Oh yeah? I got five dollars that says you can’t do five movies about killer cars!”. My response is this column and a demand for my five dollars.
The Car (1977)
This is the first film I thought of when I began making this list. I remember flipping through the channels late one Friday night and came upon a scene where a black car was mowing down a marching band. I watched the rest of this film and felt it was a pretty cool idea that a supernatural car would terrorize a small town.
The Car in the movie’s title is a black sedan that enters the town of Santa Ynez and begins to run down the residents. After the car kills the town’s sheriff, it is up to Captain Wade Parent to stop the phantom vehicle. Things get personal when the car kills Wade’s girlfriend and the captain takes it upon himself to have a final confrontation with the killer vehicle.
Looking back, it was a freaky movie for its time, but it just doesn’t have the same effect watching it today. I’m surprised no one has tried to remake this one.
Without a doubt, this is the first film people think off when they hear the phrase “killer car”.
Christine refers to a 1958 Plymouth Fury that is bought by a high school nerd by the name of Arnie Cunningham. As he spends more time restoring the car, Arnie to change and becomes disconnected with reality and his friends. His friends attempt to save Arnie from Christine, but car takes matters into its own hands to keep Arnie all for herself and to protect him from those that would torment him.
I would rank this as one of King’s better films, but it’s not really scary or gory. I don’t know of any horror fan that goes “Hey! Let’s watch Christine instead of Hellraiser tonight!”, but this film could have a few hardcore fans out there. Then again, so could Gigli.
Maximum Overdrive (1986)
This is the second Stephen King film on my list and it is the only film he ever directed. He is on record saying “that in order to get a proper Stephen King film, it should be directed by Stephen King!”. Well, the end result is not a work of terror, but a work of comedy. Even King considered the film to be a moron movie and swore never to direct again.
Maximum Overdrive begins with a strange comet passing close to the Earth. Shortly Afterwards, machines all over the world come “alive” and begin to attack the human race. A group of people are trapped in a truck stop by a pack of tractor trailers. Using a hidden cache of weapons found under the truck stop, the people attempt to confront the trucks and win their freedom.
I think the best thing about this film was the AC/DC music. Of course, I am an AC/DC fan so if you’re not, you won’t like anything about this film… unless you are a killer machine.
During my research, I was surprised to discover that this was the first feature film directed by Stephen Spielberg. Even though it does not involve the supernatural, this simple film takes a simple road rage idea and turns it into a pretty decent thriller.
Duel is about a salesman who is driving through the California desert to an appointment. The salesman encounters a grimy tanker truck and soon finds himself stalked by the unseen driver. The two vehicles engage in a deadly game of cat and mouse before their final confrontation at the climax of the film.
Never let anyone tell you an idea is too simple or too short for a book or movie. This film was based upon a short story that appeared in Playboy and some times, the simplest plots are the most effective.
Death Race 2000 (1975)
This movie is on my top ten list and I still get a kick out of watching it. If you have ever shouted out “Old lady! Ten points!” while driving, then you have been touched by this film through popular culture. Apart from the vehicular violence, this film also offers up a clever satire on the world and capitalism.
Death Race 2000 is a movie about the annual murderous Transcontinental Road Race. It is a national form of entertainment. Racers streak across America earning points by running down pedestrians. A rebel group wants to put a stop to this bloody race and have deadly plans for the racers and the President.
I was pretty ticked when they decided to remake… pardon me, “reimagine”… no, I was right the first time: remake this film as Death Race in 2008. I knew Paul W.S. Anderson would screw it up based upon his work with other films. He stripped out all the stuff that made the original a classic and produced a film that was little more than a violent pulp piece… and even that is too much credit.
Until next time, keep your foot on the accelerator.