Stephen King's "Maximum Overdrive" is a Quart Low


In 1986 famed horror writer Stephen King stepped behind the camera to personally direct his one and only movie.  "Maximum Overdrive" is based on his short story called "Trucks" and stars Emilio Estevez as Bill Robinson, a short order cook at a truck stop who must save the day from a bunch of evil self-driving big rigs.

A comet passing by Earth triggers machines to start going haywire.  Pop machines shooting lethal cans of pop, Lawnmowers running amok and big trucks out to kill.  Yes, it's just as ridiculous as it sounds.  All played to several songs by AC/DC.  The comet is said to remain in the Earths atmosphere for eight days, but will humanity survive?  The never-ending battle between man and machine is resumed.  To quote the waitress "We made you, we made you!"

This is an appalling stupid movie but works as a sort of trashy fun entertainment.  The events take place at the Dixie Boy Truckstop in Willmington, North Carolina, and has its share of stereotypical southern characters. The cigar-chomping owner who calls everyone Bubba.  The slightly retarded grease monkey attendant.  There is also the story of an annoying just married couple and a twelve-year-old little leaguer.  There are several characters that I assume came from the short story, but on film, they seem quite one dimensional.  Estevez does his best with the material but its quite the step down from the previous year of 1985 when he broke out with "The Breakfast Club" and St. Elmo's Fire".  I'm sure he got paid and I don't blame him for cashing in on his newfound celebrity.

With the Stephen King name, this movie gets instant recognition but viewer beware.  Surprisingly it's unavailable from Netflix as the DVD is out of print.  Although if you still really want to see it go over to Amazon On Demand. 

Stephen King's Original "Children of the Corn"


Released in the Spring of '84 "Children of the Corn" is another in a long series of classic horror movies based on a story by Stephen King.  It mixes two popular horror sub-genres in religious horror and creepy killer kids.  Although there have been numerous sequels, 7 to be exact.  Nothing compares to the original in its iconic evil main characters Isaac and Malachi.  It's a great story that really is pure evil.

The story opens in the small Midwestern town of Gatlin, Nebraska in a little cafe where many of townspeople gather.  Little do they know that the children have planned a sort of reckoning and soon they will be left to fend for themselves.  Their leader is the child preacher named Isaac.  Isaac is probably about 12 or 13 and is short for his age.  His voice is fairly high and has quite the violent temper.  His second in command is the equally vicious red-haired Malachi.  They're a couple of little Christian fundamentalists that rule with an iron fist and warn to fear "The one who walks behind the rows".  They all congregate in the cornfields and listen to Isaac spew his sermons.

Our adult heroes are Burt and Vicki (Linda Hamilton) who are traveling across the country back to Seattle when they accidentally hit a kid who ran out a cornfield.  They find that his throat was slit and stick his corpse in the trunk.  Trying to find a phone (no cell phones it's1984) they run into one of the oldest horror clich├ęs know to man.  The rundown gas station in the middle of nowhere run by a crazy old man.  The station's phone is not working and is also out of gas for that matter.  They are told to avoid Gatlin and to go to the next town over for help.  Although they do try to find the other town, it seems that all roads lead to Gatlin.  When they arrive they find nothing but a ghost town and no working phones.  They search a few houses and end up finding Sarah, a little girl drawing pictures.  She has the power to see the future and her drawings are very important to the group.  She and her brother Gob are two kids who want to get away from Isaac and the cult but are too afraid to do anything about it.  Vicki stays with the girl while Burt goes to look for others.  The house is then attacked by Malachi and company, taking Vicki hostage.

The plot is pretty simple but the characters are memorable.  Some of the visual effects are pretty laughable, but it's still a scary film even by today's standards.  Just like the classic films "Village of the Dammed" or "The Lord of the Flies" the children form their own society and things get pretty intense.  However, the "Children of the Corn" have a bunch of help from the devil himself or is it an angry God? 

A little Story about "Jack and Diane"


Writer/director Bradley Rust Gray's debut feature "The Exploding Girl" was a mild indie success with its star Zoe Kazan, a twenty-something girl dealing with life and relationship issues.  It's a slow burn character study that felt very real and relatable and looked to be a good starting point for the young filmmaker.  His follow up film "Jack and Diane" is here and it has taken a pretty vicious critical beating.  It stars current "It" girl Juno Temple and Riley Keough in a brief but intense affair, that includes metaphoric intercut with a werewolf-like beast.  The film also features brief stop-motion tidbits from the brilliant Quay Brothers.  In some ways, I think it has been unfairly picked on and doesn't deserve such a thrashing.

Diane (Temple) is a British girl in New York City who while trying to find a phone runs into Jack (Keough) the stereotypical tomboy.  The two girls are complete opposites.  Diane is tiny, meek and insecure.  While Jack puts up a tough and rigid exterior, full of false self-confidence.   After partying the night before, Jack is hit by a car while on her skateboard and for the rest of the film she has a nasty scrape on the side of her face. We find out both characters are caring around some heavy emotional baggage.

Diane has frequent nosebleeds and strange dreams about a big nasty beast ripping people apart, but this is by no means a horror movie.  The animated sequences are thick strands of hair moving around the inside of a persons body like a rope tightening around a heart.  It's sticky, grimy and a little gross, but then again so are some of the critics.  Early on in their relationship Jack finds out that Diane is leaving for Paris in a few weeks and she tries to distance herself and forget everything about her, but she can't.  Eventually, they start to embrace the time they have left together.  The film does feel a little awkward and strange but then again this is what the characters are feeling.  The story also meanders and goes in a few different directions but overall I didn't find it annoying. Towards the end of their time together Jack starts getting the nosebleeds and having these awful visions almost like Diane infected her with something.

I know I'm in the minority on this but I kind of dug the film.  It's currently available on Netflix watch instantly, so take a chance and give it a watch.

Spend a Night with David Cronenberg and "The Brood"


Canadian director David Cronenberg is the king of bodily horror.  Ever since his debut feature "Shivers" he has built a strong cult following with a long list of critically acclaimed films.

"The Brood" was released in 1979 and looks to be one of his most personal films.  It's about a dad fighting for the custody of his young daughter from his mentally unstable wife Nola.  Cronenberg himself was involved in a messy divorce at the time and this film looks to be his way of venting in some extreme and bizarre ways.  Art Hindle plays Frank Carveth, a father who after seeing signs of abuse on his young daughter, confronts his wife and psychiatrist.

The story begins with Dr. Hal Raglan showcasing his revolutionary new treatment called physchoplasmics.  Its a very theatrical approach as his patient, Mike, is on stage with Dr. Raglan impersonating Mikes father.  Mike then starts to develop these welts all over his body when they seem to have reached a breakthrough.  The doctor has also authored a best selling book called "The Shape of Rage".  He seems to be comparable to a modern-day Dr. Phil but in a very extreme sense.  Frank is furious with his wife and accuses her of beating their little girl Candace.  Candy as she normally goes by is a sweet and innocent little blonde girl who is very reminiscent of the girl from the "Poltergeist" movies.  But is she one of those devious and creepy horror movie kids or not?

The story only gets more bizarre as it progresses.  Frank's mother in law, who is quite the lush, is   Candy doesn't seem to be to shocked by this.  Repressed anger and frustration play big roles in the film.  Candy's teacher Ruth Meyer is the only comforting female presence in Candy's life and Frank asks her to dinner to discuss her behavior.
babysitting for Candy one night when what looks like a little kid breaks into the house and bludgeons the grandmother to death.

After Franks father in law is also beaten to death by a childlike person,  Frank is this time able to kill the perpetrator and finds it to be a kind of mutated troll-like being with no genitals or belly button.  The source of these creatures or the brood is the disturbing secret to this mystery.  "The Brood" is about the bitter anger and rage that people go through during a breakup or divorce.  It's about betrayal and retribution.  There are also themes of the lasting effects of childhood trauma and how it shapes us as adults.  "The Brood" is definitely strange but it is also classic David Cronenberg.