Sunday, February 23, 2014

This machine just called me an asshole!

In 1985, for reasons that are beyond modern comprehension, Dino De Laurentiis decided to give Stephen King ten million dollars to direct a demolition derby with his boner. The footage of this demolition derby was hacked together and sold to the public as Maximum Overdrive in 1986. The public was willing to buy slightly more than seven million dollars worth of that shit before it said "no thank you" and nominated the film for two Razzies (worst director and worst actor).

It's no secret that I adore Stephen King, and I'm actually a pretty big fan of Dino De Laurentiis films (considering that he produced Dune, Army of Darkness, and three other Stephen King films (Cat's Eye, Silver Bullet, and The Dead Zone)  this shouldn't be a surprise). In spite of the fact that I have a history of appreciation of the writer, director, and producer of Maximum Overdrive I am surprised by how much I liked the movie.

It's just the little things, you know? A man glaring at a malfunctioning pinball machine and responding to it with a resounding "Yo' Momma!" is a startling moment of comic genius. And you have to appreciate a film that is so gleeful about slaughter, especially when it comes to killing kids in hilariously goofy ways - Spielberg certainly wouldn't have included a scene of a steamroller flattening a little-leaguer in any of his films, but maybe that's to his detriment because watching that sort of stupid gore is delightfully refreshing.

The movie is utter shit, of course, but it's the kind of prancing, giggling utter shit that I can really get behind.

And, in spite of the film's shittiness and Emilio Estevez's nomination for worst actor, there is one genuinely excellent moment in his performance. When Estevez's character, Billy, has spent a day in the sun fueling his truck overlords and thinks he's done because the station has run out of diesel, a fuel truck shows up and orders him toward the tank so he can keep serving his mechanical masters. Fed the fuck up, he gets into a chest-bumping argument with the tanker born of exhausted frustration and pure, straight-up crazy. His defiance in the face of a Mack grill, his refusal to be cowed before multiple tons of truck and gas, is actually pretty fucking great. Sitting there, watching this ridiculous film, I was touched and moved by Billy's frustration and desperate need to express some agency in his topsey-turvey world. And when you can make me feel something other than blood-fueled glee in the middle of a film as ridiculous as Maximum Overdrive, you're probably doing something right.

     - Alli

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