Maximum Overdrive is a 1986 American science fiction action horror film written and directed by Stephen King, based on his short story "Trucks" from his collection of short stories called "Night Shift".

The film starred Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle, Laura Harrington, Yeardley Smith and Christopher Murney.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

As the Earth passes through the tail of a comet, previously inanimate objects (ranging from weapons to electric signs, electronics, vehicles, lawnmowers, an electric knife, etc...) start to show a murderous life of their own.

In a pre-title scene, a man (King in a cameo) tries to withdraw money from an ATM, but it instead calls him an "asshole" and he whines to his wife (King's real life wife Tabitha).

Chaos soon begins as machines of all kinds come to life and begin assaulting humans: a drawbridge inexplicably raises during heavy traffic, resulting in multiple accidents, most notably the black AC/DC van and a watermelon truck; while at a Little League game, a vending machine kills the coach by firing canned soda point-blank into his groin and then to his skull; a driverless steamroller flattens one of the fleeing children.

The carnage spreads as humans and even pets are brutally killed by lawnmowers, chainsaws, electric hair dryers, pocket radios and RC cars. At a roadside truck stop just outside Wilmington, North Carolina, a waitress is injured by an electric knife and arcade machines in the back room electrocute another victim.

Employee and ex-convict Bill Robinson begins to suspect something is wrong when suddenly marauding big rig trucks, led by a black semi-truck sporting a giant Green Goblin mask on its grille, run down two individuals and trap the rest of the civilians inside the truck stop's diner.

Robinson rallies the survivors; they use a cache of firearms and M72 LAW rockets stored in a bunker hidden under the diner and destroy many of the trucks. The trucks fight back, and at one point several human fatalities result from an M274 Mule firing its post-mounted M60 machine gun into the building.

The vehicles then demand, via sending morse code signals through their car horns, that the humans pump their diesel for them in exchange for keeping them safe; the survivors soon realize they have become enslaved by their own machines. Robinson suggests they escape to a local island just off the coast, on which no vehicles or machines are permitted.

During a fueling operation, Robinson sneaks a grenade onto the Mule vehicle, destroying it, then leads the party out of the diner via a sewer hatch to the main road. The survivors are pursued to the docks by the Green Goblin truck, which manages to kill one more trucker after he steals a ring from a female corpse in a car before Robinson destroys the truck once and for all with a direct hit from an M72 LAW rocket shot.

The survivors then sail off to safety; a title card epilogue explains that two days after the machines' rampage, a UFO was destroyed by a Soviet "weather satellite" equipped with class IV nuclear missiles and a laser cannon.

Cast[edit | edit source]

  • Emilio Estevez as William "Bill" Robinson
  • Pat Hingle as Bubba Hendershot
  • Laura Harrington as Brett Graham
  • Yeardley Smith as Connie
  • John Short as Curtis
  • Ellen McElduff as Wanda June
  • Frankie Faison as Handy
  • Leon Rippy as Brad
  • Christopher Murney as Camp Loman
  • J. C. Quinn as Duncan Keller
  • Holter Graham as Deke Keller
  • Barry Bell as Steve Gayton
  • Patrick Miller as Joey
  • J. Don Ferguson as Andy
  • Giancarlo Esposito as Video player
  • Stephen King (cameo appearance) as ATM Man

Production[edit | edit source]

The movie was the first to be made by Embassy Pictures after it had been bought by Dino de Laurentiis.

The filming for "Maximum Overdrive" began on July 14, 1985 at the North Carolina Film Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina.

The "Dixie Boy" truck stop was actually a set that was constructed 10 miles outside of Wilmington, North Carolina. It was convincing enough that several truckers tried to stop in and eventually the producers had to put announcements in the local papers saying that the "Dixie Boy" was just a movie set.

After filming wrapped, the set had been partially demolished by explosives, but some locals bought the set of the Dixie Boy and transformed it into a working truck stop. It was fully functional for three or four years until it went bankrupt and was torn down sometime in the late 1980s.

Several of the radio-controlled trucks that were used for the Dixie Boy siege broke down throughout filming which delayed production because every time a truck would break down and get repaired, another truck would also break down.

On July 31, 1985, an incident occured during shooting where a radio-controlled lawnmower that was used in a scene went out of control, struck a block of wood that was used as a camera support which began shooting out wood splinters and injured Armando Nannuzzi (the director of photography).

The incident caused Nannuzzi to lose his right eye and in February of 1987, he sued Stephen King for $18 million in damages. The suit was eventually settled out of court.

While filming the scene where the ice cream truck flips over, the stunt didn't go according to plan and it almost resulted in an accident.

A telephone pole-size beam of wood was placed inside so it would flip end over end, but it only flipped once and slid on its roof, right into the camera. Gene Poole (the dolly grip on the film), pulled the cameraman out of the way at the last second.

While shooting the scene where the steamroller rampages across the baseball diamond, Stephen King requested that the sound effects department place a bag of fake blood near the dummy of a young player who would be run over by it. The desired effect would be that a smear of blood would appear on the steamroller and be re-smeared on the grass over and over, like a printing press.

However, while filming the scene, the bag of blood exploded too soon and sprayed everywhere, making it appear as if the boy's head also exploded. King was thrilled with the results, but the censors demanded that the shot be cut.

The film would be Stephen King's only film that he directed. He later admitted that he was "coked out of [his] mind" the whole time he was making the movie & often didn't know what he was doing.

Reception[edit | edit source]

Box Office[edit | edit source]

"Maximum Overdrive" debuted at #7 at the box office, grossing only $3,205,44 during its opening weekend, coming in behind films Aliens, Heartburn, The Karate Kid, Part II, Ruthless People, Top Gun and Back to School.

Domestically, the film made $7,433,663.

Critical Reception[edit | edit source]

The movie received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics.

On Rotten Tomatoes, it was given an approval rating of 17%.

In Leonard Maltin's annual publication "TV Movie Guide", the film is given a "BOMB" rating.

The New York Times said, "Mr. King loses the fillip of retribution in better horror films. For the most part, he has taken a promising notion - our dependence on our machines - and turned it into one long car-crunch movie, wheezing from setups to crackups".

Accolades[edit | edit source]

1988 Fantasporto Awards

  • International Fantasy Film Award for Best Film: Stephen King (nominated)

1987 Razzie Awards

  • Worst Actor: Emilio Estevez (nominated)
  • Worst Director: Stephen King (nominated)

Theatrical Trailer[edit | edit source]


Maximum Overdrive Trailer

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