Horror Slashback: Remembering Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Welcome back fiends. Your friendly retro horror maestro is back with another installment of our Horror Slashback series.

“Stephen King’s masterpiece of terror directed by the master himself.”

It has been a while since we have done one of these, so I figured why not jump back into it with the classic Stephen King film Maximum OverdriveWith a cast that includes Emilio Estevez, a soundtrack by AC/DC and killer semi trucks, what’s not to love?

Maximum Overdrive marked the début and to date only film directed by the legendary Stephen King. The film tells the story of a group of survivors huddled inside the Dixie Boy truck stop in North Carolina as they find themselves in a battle of humans versus machines.

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Stephen King in a cameo in the beginning of the film.

With no semi, electric appliance or drawbridge safe, our band of hero’s include an ex-convict, a beautiful hitch hiker, a slimy door to door Bible Salesmen, a teenage boy,  and a newlywed couple one of which is famous voice actress Yeardley Smith, known more famously for voicing Lisa Simpson.

They fight to survive against a gang of semis possessed by an unknown force which drives them to kill humans. The pack of trucks is seemingly led by a sleek black semi, which trailer announces it belongs to the “Happy Toyz” company but has the green menacing face of the character the Green Goblin across the front of the truck.

Our characters battle the killer machines to get out while the trucks try to get in. A showdown ensues with the trucks, a bulldozer, machine gun mounted military truck and an ice cream van. What is causing everything to go into maximum overdrive? Is the comet in the sky to blame? Will our band of hero’s survive?

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Maximum Overdrive is a fantastic film and a horror classic. With the menacing green goblin faced truck and the hard rock soundtrack blasting in your eardrums it is easy to get lost in this film. Based on the Stephen King short story Trucks, King wrote the screenplay and directed the film. According to sources King said “If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself.”

The Dixie Boy truck stop specifically constructed for this film was so realistic several real truck drivers attempted to stop at it. Stephen King is a huge AC/DC fan and asked the band personally if they would do the soundtrack for this film. King allegedly sang “Ain’t No Fun Waiting Around To Be a Millionaire” by the band from start to finish. After he finished the band agreed.

When watching the scenes with the ice cream truck listen closely, the song that the truck is playing is “King of the Road” by Roger Miller. In 1997 a new film entitled Trucks, was released by an American and Canadian television horror film company. This film was also based on King’s story.

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According to sources, several of those involved in Maximum Overdrive do not have fond memories of this film even though it holds a high place for many horror fans. Allegedly Yeardley Smith is embarrassed of her involvement in this film even though she provided a lot of the comic relief but I could find no reference to this.

King is this film’s harshest critic. Reportedly when asked why he has not sat behind the director’s chair since making this film he responded with “Go watch Maximum  Overdrive“.  According to sources and King himself he was suffering from a bad drug addiction at the time and was “coked out his mind” during most of the film and had no clue what he was doing. King says now that he is clean and sober he would love to try again. King has also been quoted as saying this film is a “moron movie”.

I count down the days that Stephen King climbs back into the director’s chair. If Maximum Overdrive was his worst, I cannot wait to see his best. I have seen this film over 20 times and it gets better every time I watch. It’s hilarious, action packed, has just enough gore to make it fun and a story that pulls you in. I know when I was a kid I would get nervous when we would pass a semi on the highway. I would always check to make sure he had a driver, and maybe I still do this, but I won’t admit it in print.

Check out the amazing trailer for the film starring King himself and using music from Halloween 3:

Stephen King, if you ever see this, know we love you and your film. It is a cult classic!! You made and still do make a lot of people and horror hounds happy. So friends when you have time, kick back, open your favorite beverage and take a trip to North Carolina where the sun is hot and the trucks are deadly. You won’t regret it.