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Maximum Overdrive

Maximum Overdrive

By Patrick Samuel • October 10th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 3/5
De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

Original release: July 25th, 1986
Certificate: 18
Running time: 97 minutes

Writer and director: Stephen King
Composer: AC/DC

Cast: Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle, Laura Harrington, Holter Graham

Maximum Overdrive

We use machines all the time. In our house alone we’ve got the televisions, the washing machine, and the refrigerator…the usual really. At work we’ve got the computers, the printers, the telephones… A day without those gadgets would inevitably lead to chaos, and to think back to a time when none of those things existed is a simple no-go.

What would it mean though if all of these things took on a life of their own and turned on us, their creators, masters, owners and everyday users?

That’s precisely what happens in this Stephen King film, based on his novel. Released only a few months after Halley’s Comet passed us by, the story is set in 1987 where the Earth passes into the diffuse tail of a rogue comet, Rhea-M, resulting in some very strange events like a drawbridge opening while it’s packed with cars. As they plunge into the water, piling up on top of each other, passengers try to scramble to safety.

Meanwhile, in a small town where ex-convict Bill Robinson (Emilio Estevez) is working in the kitchen at a truck stop, an electric knife attacks a waitress and a slot machine electrocutes a customer. Elsewhere, a vending machine goes berserk at a little league game killing the coach, and a steamroller flattens a kid on the field.

Suffice to say, everything from lawnmowers to semi-trucks, is out for blood. As a group of customers and out-of-towners hide out in the truck stop from the circling killers outside, Bill rallies them to use whatever they can find to help them survive. The trucks however have other plans. They send a signal using more code saying they’ll spare their lives if they pump them with fuel. Humans have become slaves.

But is Maximum Overdrive really a work of fiction, or a parable? If we look at our own lives today, are we not slaves to our machines? Can you live a day without your phone, computer or television?

Maximum Overdrive

Maximum Overdrive is a typical action-driven film of the 1980’s. With its AC/DC soundtrack blaring as machines go on the rampage, the body count rises and we see some of the film’s most annoying characters biting the dust. Among them are Wanda (Ellen McElduff), the mouthy waitress, Hendershot (Pat Hingle), the owner of the truck stop and a couple of mechanics including Deke’s (Holter Graham) father.

There’s a lot of gunfire as well and one of the problems I found with the film was that it didn’t distinguish very well between the things can come to life and the things that couldn’t. Although the phenomenon is ultimately attributed to malevolent alien force that coincided with the comet, this comes rather late in the story and doesn’t explain why guns and rocket launchers, used by the humans, didn’t turn on them. If the cars, trucks and bikes can come to life then why are they able to escape safely in a speedboat?

While Maximum Overdrive’s story might not be as effective in conveying the idea that we’re already ruled by machines, it does offer a few laughs, a cameo by its writer and director and some entertaining kills. Yet considering how ill-equipped these guys really were, before being saved by a small arsenal of weapons, I couldn’t help but remember one of my favourite quotes.

“The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.” ~ Karl Marx
Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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