Monday, December 30, 2013

My Favorite Era: Maximum Overdrive (1986)/Future Hunters (1986)

This series wouldn't be complete if I didn't include at least a few of those sort of films you would rent on a weekend and end up watching at about two in the afternoon (or morning if you were a night owl) and just find yourself wondering "What the hell am I watching?"

With that in mind, here is a double dose of WTF for your reading pleasure.

Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Stephen King's one and only directorial effort is a monumental bit of over the top garbage movie filmmaking. Taken from his short story "Trucks", it tells the gruesome tale of a diner in Wilmington,  North Carolina that finds itself under siege when, after Earth passes through the tail of a rogue comet, all the vehicles and mechanical devices in the area begin to go murderously haywire and menace the folks in said diner.  Yep, it's essentially the stereotypical 80's King novel done in widescreen, with all the things that entails.

Maximum Overdrive is loud, violent and obnoxious with abrasive acting from most of the cast (Pat Hingle and Yeardley Smith are especially egregious), some disappointing MPAA mandated cuts to the gore that sort of makes the film toothless and while I do like AC/DC, having them do the entire soundtrack was probably more than a little overboard.

In spite of these flaws, I do find myself enjoying parts of the film (mostly the bits where not a damn person is talking).  King does a serviceable job behind the camera (considering he was coked out of his gourd at the time this is a minor miracle) giving us some legit creepy bits with trucks moving without a driver; I tend to enjoy Emilio Estevez (he's the lead here and does well enough) and I readily admit I'm a sucker for anything produced by Dino De Laurentiis, even if he is uncredited as he is here.  I think this was the last King project he had anything to do with.  The others were The Dead Zone, Firestarter, Cat's Eye, Silver Bullet plus the TV movie Sometimes they Come Back.

Really the best part of the film is the main antagonist, a gigantic truck from a toy company that sports the head of Spiderman villain The Green Goblin on its front grille.  It's visually striking and King does a good job of making it the centerpiece of the film.  Outside of that, there are a few nicely gruesome moments when annoying characters are offed (not to mention the little league game that sees a guy get killed by a soda machine and a kid get flattened by a steamroller) but for the most part, the Green Goblin truck is the thing to really see the film for.  I think I like it because it's the only main character that doesn't talk.

Maximum Overdrive is a trashy relic of the 80's and if you like bad movies, you can do a hell of a lot worse than this one.  Bad script, a stupid plot, bad acting, annoying characters, hell if it was a little more gory it would be more worth watching.  As it stands, it's just sort of okay providing you have a thing for unintentional comedy and lowbrow humor.  Having King announce at the beginning of the trailer "I'm gonna scare the hell out of you!" was probably a bad move.

Future Hunters (1986)

The second half of our double bill is this wild, bonkers flick from Cirio Santiago I found on a 50 movie pack (sometimes they really pay off in the best way).  Richard Norton plays a post-apocalyptic hero trying to get his hands on the spear that pierced Jesus when he was on the cross and somehow caused a nuclear war that leveled the planet.

He manages to find it, only to be mortally wounded and in the process of recovering said spear, is transported to 1986 where he gives it to Slade (Robert Patrick giving off a strong Emilio Estevez only less of a smartass vibe, oddly enough) and his girlfriend Michelle played by Linda Carol.  Because lord knows it's always a good idea to put the future of humanity in the hands of a whiny schmuck and his infinitely more badass girlfriend*.

*We're talking a matter of degree here, really.  It's not like she's Pam Grier or anything.  It's just that she doesn't whine nearly as much as Slade and has a pretty decent fight with an amazon at the end.

To be fair, Slade does have a few moments but for the most part, he doesn't really earn such a bad ass name.  He's a former Marine mechanic and based on what we see, no wonder one of the Marine mantras is "Improvise, Adapt, Overcome."  Hell, once they get to the jungle island and the Nazi villains show up, he's downright competent!  Oh yes, the bad guys are a bunch of Nazis led by an overacting fellow who might as well have a big neon sign reading "I'm evil!" over his head the first time he appears.  Yep, the fate of the world lies in the hands of the future T-1000 and his girlfriend as they fight against a bunch of cheesy, deranged Nazis.

That is really all the plot we get as the rest of the film is a bewildering, wonderfully bad melange of genres with time travel, amazons, Nazis, a Mongol horde, big guns, the prerequisite bunch of little people (with some kids thrown in) you have to get in any film shot in The Philippines during this time period and even an out of nowhere appearance from Bruce Lee impersonator Bruce Le.  One of these days I'll have to get to that particular genre, long story.

Future Hunters is one of those films that is sort of hard to talk about since in order to describe what happens, you have to be comfortable with coming across like a drunken lunatic. Part Road Warrior riff, part time travel adventure, part jungle adventure film, about the only genre this doesn't cover is horror.  And even then, if really cheesy films horrify you... Well, like the MST3K song says, you should really just relax.

Santiago doesn't keep the pace as tight as it should be (the thing runs 100 minutes but would have been fine at about 85 nor so) but he makes up for that with tons of action.  Not always the best thought out action but still, lots of people get shot and lots of things get blown up real good.

It's the sort of movie that seems like it would work if you broke it up into ten minute chunks and watched it that way.  But trust me, it wouldn't.  With Future Hunters you either muscle your way through or don't bother at all.  If you do get through it, you will more than likely be entertained and at the end of the day, that's all a film like this has to do.  There is always something interesting happening, while the film runs a little long it still has a decent pace once it gets going and regardless of what you might think of it you have to admit there aren't many other films like it.  I sort of love it, actually.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.