There was a time when I watched Maximum Overdrive at least once a year.
Stephen King all but denies the existence of his directoral debut, dismissing it as a coked-out fever dream, but I rather think there is so much good in the film, that the quality of the work redeems itself. Now it was not a big film, nor important, but ultimately competent despite pharmaceutical influence. Performances are wrought by King and a talented cast. There are scenes where I can imagine King just telling them to go off on the material, take it to the maximum, as per the title.
This goes back to something I've meditated on lately: "instantly-recognizable typology". Lloyd Kaufman brought this little phrase to mind, as I watched the Toxic Avenger Earth Day Marathon on the El Rey Network, particularly on the first day, April 22 2016. You might dismiss the typology as stereotypes, but its deeper, archetypal, but in a modern way, which means that I'm recommending Kaufman and Toxic Avenger as a sociological milestone.
A story from New England in the King short story Trucks, is transplanted into rural North Carolina in Maximum Overdrive. The script is great, though the characters are sometimes perhaps a bit cliche, but this is more of that "instantly-recognizable typology", but it is the explanation, how the whole ruse of the picture is figured during the humid North Carolina night, in a moment of reflection by the hero character of Emilio Estevez. Here our hero is an ex-convict short-order cook in a truck stop. His is a good man who has went wayward. Classic King, how he gives a big dose humanity to those that have erred against society. Pat Hingle works as the evil boss. We have the patronized waitress. "The road twitch", hitcher young woman.
Amongst my favorite scenes are those of the waitress, with one of the patrons punctuating the action, saying "sweet thang". Finally that "sweet thang" comment rubs the waitress wrong, when things get really serious. Her scene of "we made you!" is pushed to its limits, frought with emotion. Love that.
It was the explanation of a planned alien invasion that sounded a bit thin. I rather liked that aliens controlled the equipment, tho, and thought that could have went another direction, but here King has dropped something entirely original, if also implausible and unsatisfying, on our unsuspecting heads. So that we are surprised, after personifying machines, thrown a new curve, then King was successful, even if it were only a pyrrhic victory.
This is a Halloween festival film, though I have scarce mentioned it on a blog before. I hope this oversight has been corrected satisfactorily, and King the artist sated, but perhaps blushing with all his artistic flaws exposed, though the film was highly effective in my mind.....
Also, I have fond memories of visiting some of the Wilmington-area scenery used in the film. So. There. Then the area of the highway, with its scrub growth and pines. That's my home, man. Long live the pines. Just looks like home, to me, here on the banks of the Pee Dee river, butted against the Sand Hills region, where the pines go for miles and miles through large tracts of government-owned woodlands. Pine trees and sand.