BAD MOVIE MONDAY: MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986)

Hello Friends! Welcome back to BAD MOVIE MONDAY! Today’s absurd automotive atrocity was one of my picks from last May when I wanted to provide a little extra torture my friends during movie night. MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE is the legendary 1986 train wreck directed by Stephen King.

Quick Recap! When COVID shut down everything in early 2020, I started an online bad movie night get-together with some friends that we eventually dubbed “Bad Movie Monday”. The premise was simple: We’d torture each other every Monday with the worst trash we could find, tell a few jokes, cheer each other up, and in the process maybe discover some weird obscure cinema that we might never have seen any other way. This series of reviews will feature highlights of those night, so you can all share in the fun and maybe get some ideas for your own movie night.


One thing that becomes quite clear while watching this movie is that King seems to have a fascination with accents and turns of phrase. So since this film is set in North Carolina everyone talks and acts EXACTLY like you imagine they would. Very loud, very “Southern”. I mean, SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT plays like a documentary about Southern Culture in comparison. Look, I like King as a writer, but he does have the tendency to create characters that are horrible grotesque stereotypes that are so over the top that they take you out of the story. This is kind of what he’s doing here. All the actors are trying their best to not be too crazy, but from what I’ve read Stephen King was whacked out of his head on cocaine and I strongly suspect that much of his direction probably consisted of cackling like a maniac and screaming “MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE!!!” when actors asked him how big they should go. Pat Hingle, who plays Bubba Hendershot, because of course this movie has a character called BUBBA, is an old pro and the one who’s having the most fun here. He knows what kind of movie this is and he knows he can’t save it, so he decided to just go with the flow and earn his paycheck in the most colorful way possible. Smart move.

Let’s look at the back of the VHS box!

When a seemingly harmless comet, Reah-M, circles the Earth, machines begin to behave in bizarre ways. At first the problems seem minor: The gas pumps suddenly stop pumping fuel, video games flash and beep uncontrollably and soda machines spit change and cans of soda pop wildly. Soon, the attacks become more serious. No place is safe, including the “Dixie Boy” truck stop where patrons and employees try to out-maneuver a convoy of terror.

Armed with a secret cache of weapons hidden in the basement of the Dixie Boy truck stop, Bill Robinson (Emilio Estevez) leads an escape to the open sea in a last-ditch effort to save himself, his group and the entire human race.

Stephen King at his terrifying best.

Technically, this is all correct. Sort of. I wouldn’t have put “Stephen King” and “Best” anywhere close to each other on there, but you will be terrified. Terrified that it may never end. By the 80 minute mark you’ll be cowering behind the sofa like you saw The Ring video seven days ago and the TV just turned itself on.

Despite everything I’ve said and everything I’m about to say, I have a huge fondness for this film. As a comedy, it kind of works to be honest. I don’t think it was intended that way, and it certainly wasn’t marketed that way, but a couple of good laughs are the best you’re going to get out of this movie so why not enjoy yourselves? It doesn’t have the right setups or payoffs to be a proper parody, but if you watch this with friends you can have a lot of fun. Between you and me I highly recommend indulging in a bit of beer and weed. It’ll help. Trust me.

Okay. Onto my favorite part of the review! Ten things that went through my mind as I watched this movie:

#1 – Stephen King will make you rethink his “Master of Horror” moniker. In fact, he’ll make you rethink his “Writer” moniker.

#2 – AC/DC is a great band if you want to headbang. Not as great if you want to build mood and tension.

#3 – This movie features the first ever cinematic appearance of The Green Goblin. See if you can spot him. Also, WHY IS THE GREEN GOBLIN IN THIS MOVIE???

#4 – There was a period between 1984 and 1987 where comets were the number one “Bad Guy” in horror movies. It was a weird time.

#5 – There’s a moment in the film where you can almost physically see the moment that actress Ellen McElduff, who plays waitress Wanda June, just says “screw it” and decides that if she’s going to be acting in this piece of shit she might as well be one the most memorable things about it. Her “We made you!!!” speech isn’t going to win any awards, but the fact that she cranks up her performance to Daffy Duck levels of screaming and hopping around is highly appreciated.

#6 – Did you ever want to hear Lisa Simpson say swear words? Well, now’s your chance! Also, yes, her character whines and screams like that throughout the movie.

#7 – If you watch carefully, you may spot a very young Giancarlo Esposito in one scene. Brace yourselves for his one line of “YO MAMA!!!” That’s some compelling writing there Stephen King. You’re spoiling us!

#8 – Stephen King didn’t do a lot of research for this. Soda Machines, Lawnmowers, RC Cars, Electric Knives, and Hairdryers DO NOT WORK THAT WAY. I know I’m supposed to suspend my disbelief, but there’s a scene where we see a guy got killed by a chainsaw. How did it get him? It’s got no wheels or legs!!!

#9 – If nothing else, this movie has primo gore. King was a madman behind the camera and I absolutely believe that he’d have made an utter bloodbath if he’d been allowed. I approve of this, because it would have improved things immensely. Sadly, this movie came out a little too early for a home video Director’s Cut version and now we only have a de-fanged version to watch.

#10 – YOU WILL BE TERRIFIED …that Stephen King ever makes another movie. Holy shit this is bonkers.