Film: Maximum Overdrive

"If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself."
Stephen King in the trailer.

Maximum Overdrive is a horror film written and directed by Stephen King based on his short story "Trucks" from the Night Shift collection. The same short story was later adapted into a Made-for-TV Movie in 1997.

The movie centers around people trapped in the Dixie Boy truck stop outside Wilmington, North Carolina, surrounded by homicidal trucks and other vehicles who have gained sentience from radiation produced by a comet close to earth.

Later King claimed that he was coked out of his mind while making this film. This explains a lot.

This film contains examples of:

  • America Saves the Day: Inverted in the end. It is a Soviet "weather satellite" which destroys the UFO hiding in the comet causing all the trouble.
  • Anyone Can Die: Dozens are killed as early as the first few minutes, among which is Denny, Deke's father and one of the truck stop employees. Midway there's Camp Loman, the fundamentalist preacher Brett hitched on, and at the climax Wanda, Bubba and a few others bite the dust, too.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: Brett gives a hard one to Bubba after casually telling Deke that his father was among the earlier casualties.
  • Artistic License: This movie requires some MST3K Mantra ("It's just a show") due to a lack of Consistency in exactly what machines can come to life. Some mechanical items should be "alive" but aren't (like cars and the mechanical parts of the arsenal of weapons), and some things that really shouldn't be alive are (the side-view mirror moving, the valve on the gas refill truck, the swivel for the small military car's machine gun).
    • In a throwaway line, a radio station reports that "some machines are waking up slower than others."
  • Attack Of The Killer What Ever: Trucks, household appliances, you name it.
  • Bad Humor Truck: One of the vehicles patrolling the suburbs is a blood-smeared ice cream truck.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Bubba shooting rockets at 2 18-wheelers who try to run down Brett, Billy, Connie and Curt.
  • Bond One-Liner:
    Bill: Adios, motherfucker!
    Bubba: That one's deported for sure!
  • The Cameo:
    • Bandmembers of AC/DC appear briefly on a speedboat in the bridge scene.
    • Stephen King appears briefly as the man using ATM machine in the opening.
  • Chainsaw Good: As Deke rides his bike through the suburbs, man with a chainsaw stuck on his throat can be briefly seen.
  • Closed Circle: The truck stop, since it is surrounded by murderous vehicles.
  • Completely Different Title: In Italy, the film was titled Brivido ("Shiver").
  • Contrived Coincidence: The boy who just arrived knows Morse code.
  • Cool Mask: The Green Goblin mask on the Kidz Toyz truck.
  • Corrupt Hick: Bubba Hendershot runs a truck stop that mostly employs people on parole allowing him to force them to work more hours then he has to pay them for. If they refuse, then he can get his friend who is on the state patrol to arrest them and send them back to jail. Billy theorizes that Bubba also sells guns on the side when his gun cache is found.
  • Death by Materialism:
    • When the truck stop's arcade room starts going crazy, a guy in there starts collecting all the coins the machines spit out. Staying there, he gives an opportunity to one of the cabinets to hypnotize and electrocute him.
    • Brad leaves behind the rest of cast to take a ring from a corpse, and is then flattened by the Kidz Toyz truck.
  • Destination Defenestration: During the bridge scene, one poor guy is shown flying through a windshield.
  • Destroy The Product Placement: A Semi-trailer prominently labelled with a Miller beer logo is blown up with a rocket in a wide shot giving you a full view of the ad before it explodes.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In stark contrast to the original short story it was based on, the movie ends with Bill, Brett, Curtis, Connie, Deke, Handy (the driver of the Green Goblin truck) and a few others happily sailing off into the safety of an island, while the Soviets save the day firing down the UFO hiding near the comet causing all their troubles.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: When the truck that was chasing Connie and Curt drives off the road, it catches fire in mid jump and explodes completely when it stops.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: When the military vehicle starts honking its horn, Deke recognizes that it's using Morse Code.
  • Eye Scream: Duncan gets an eyeful of gasoline, and loses most of his eyesight.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: The mask on the Kidz Toyz truck has them, since its red pupils are aligned with the vehicle's headlights.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Brett notes that Billy "sure makes love like a hero".
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Wanda June. After an entire day of getting her arm cut by the electric knife and watching the trucks take over the Dixie Boy; she finally snaps and falls under the delusion that because humans made machine, they should automatically listen to her out of principle. She tries to put this into play twice and it fails to work. The latter costing her, her own life.
  • Homicide Machines: The vending machine scene is one of the most memorable instances of this. But there's also the meat slicer and the lawnmower and certain other appliances besides.
  • How Many Fingers?: Said to Duncan after he got gasoline into his eyes.
  • I Call It "Vera": Billy calls his straight razor "Mother's Helper".
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: As with the other Stephen King films. A special case here, as he also directed the movie.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted in the steamroller scene and played straight on Deke.
  • Knife Nut: In this case, an electric knife is the nut. When it gets close enough to a waitress, it cuts her arm.
  • Marionette Master: Stephen King on one of the posters holds the cast on his strings.
  • More Dakka:
    • Hendershot's gun collection in the truck stop's basement at one point serves this purpose for the protagonists, giving them a chance blow up some of the vehicles.
    • At one point, the trucks call an armed military vehicle for assistance when they need to coerce the cast to give them gas.
  • Plug 'n' Play Technology: Kind of a weird partial example. There's no actual interfacing of differing technologies per se, but the weird alien radiation which animates the Earth's gadgets does endow those gadgets with some unexpected abilities — such as the ability to see/sense humans, or to move independently even with no built-in means of locomotion. In the short story, at least, the "alien ray" was supernatural.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Aside from the occasional use of Psycho Strings (appropriately provided on electric guitar), the soundtrack is entirely made from AC/DC songs.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: At one point, drunk Wanda freaks out and goes to outside to yell "WE! MADE! YOU!" at the circling vehicles.
  • Psycho Strings: Used a lot early on whenever a machine strikes, later used for some Jump Scare moments.
  • Recycled In SPACE: Maximum Overdrive is George A. Romero's Zombie trilogy WITH TRUCKS!!
  • Recycled Trailer Music: The trailer uses "Chariots of Pumpkins" from Halloween III: Season of the Witch.
  • Scenery Gorn: At one point, Deke slowly rides his bicycle through the streets of a neighborhood littered with bloody, butchered corpses. Even with the incongruous rock soundtrack, it's one of the more effective and properly disturbing parts of the film.
  • Self-Deprecation: Combined with Creator Cameo.
    Stephen King: This machine just called me an asshole!
  • Sex Dressed: When the bulldozer and army vehicle arrive, Bubba and Wanda come rushing out of a room with him buckling up his pants and her zipping up her shirt.
  • Shout-Out: The light aircraft flying recon for the trucks is playing "Flight of the Valkyries" on its radio.
  • Signature Style: Bill's "the comet is a broom" speech is typical King.
  • Squashed Flat: One of the junior baseball players is flattened by a steamroller.
    • A loader dozer also does this to the newlyweds' car.
  • Stealth Parody/Parody Retcon: After the movie was released, King claimed he had intended to film a modern B-Movie.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: When the vehicles eventually drive into the truck stop, everything starts to blow up spectacularly.
  • Title Drop: Brett tells Bill that she was hitchhiking to California "before everything went to maximum overdrive".
  • Up to Eleven: In an MTV spot advertising the film's release, King said he asked cinema houses to play the sound as loud as possible when showing his film- so it would be the loudest movie ever.
  • Vanity License Plate: The license plate on Hendershot's car reads "BUBBA", after his first name.
  • Vengeful Vending Machine:
  • What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: invoked Subverted - Stephen King claims it was.
  • Your Head Asplode: This happened to the steamroller victim, but it was cut.
    • Rumor says that George A. Romero actually threw up at this scene when invited to a test screening.