The Horror Honeys: Road Rage: The Best (?) in Vehicular Manslaughter

Road Rage: The Best (?) in Vehicular Manslaughter

A Supernatural Honey List - by Suzanne

We all know there are hundreds of films out there with an evil animal, a kid, an entity or any manner of otherworldly creature, but have you ever stopped to think how many films have a machine of some kind as the main antagonist? Obviously, I have or I wouldn't have asked the question. In this post, I'm going to focus on road-worthy vehicles with murder under their belts. (see what I did there?)

Personally, I never liked driving. I had serious road rage. Spending the last 4+ years living in NYC, and now Chicago, has given me the gift of commuter trains, which, if I'm to be honest, comes with its own kind of rage. Still, me not behind the wheel of several tons of steel is probably best for the rest of the human race.

I'm sure when you think of homicidal cars, Christine is the first that comes to mind and we will get there, but there are a few movies of this ilk which pre-date the Stephen King classic. Let's start there.

Duel (1971) - Dennis Weaver stars as David Mann, a businessman, on his way to a client meeting. When he passes a slow moving oil tanker on a winding road, the truck driver, offended by this move, begins a game of vehicular cat and mouse. Mann quickly goes crazy as he tries to reason why this is happening to him. Weaver is superb, especially when he starts to get nutty. Save a few scenes in the first half of the film, he's mostly talking to himself or in voice-over, but he pulls it off. Written by the brilliant Richard Matheson and directed by Stephen Spielberg, who had not yet made a feature film, this made for TV movie isn't exactly supernatural, but the driver is never seen, except in silhouette. The focus is always on the truck, which is a menacing character; old, rusty, and always shows up at the most inopportune times. 

The Car (1977) - Here we have a possessed car terrorizing a small desert town in Utah. A super hot James Brolin stars as Wade, a super hot single dad/Sheriff who is investigating the mysterious hit and run deaths of some local teenagers. Of course, the townspeople think it's a maniac until the car disrupts parade practice and chases everyone into the cemetery. Although everyone is trapped inside, the car cannot cross the barrier. You know, hallowed ground and all. Wade and his army of deputies are now in a race to destroy the evil plaguing their town. This movie is hysterical and not intentionally. It's so wrought with continuity errors and overacting you can't help but laugh. Also starring in this automotive shit-fest is Ronny Cox as a drunken deputy. Playing Wade's daughters are  Kyle and Kim Richards. This was before Kyle did Halloween and before Kim became a crack addict. 

The Hearse (1980) - Jane Hardy (Trish Van Devere), trying to recoup from a year of losses and a nervous breakdown, decides to spend the summer at a country home left to her by her aunt. She isn't well received by many in the town and discovers her aunt was a practicing satanist, something the locals have not forgotten. From the night she arrives, strange things happen at the house and an old hearse, with a ghostly driver, begins to appear. Jane isn't sure if she's going crazy or if the people of the town are trying to drive her out. This is a decent film with some solid acting by Van Devere and Joseph Cotten, who plays the bitter and drunken real estate agent, angry because the house was not left to him. Unfortunately, it doesn't really deliver on being scary. It does, however, have one of the most painfully boring love scenes I've ever seen.

Christine (1983) - Oh, Arnie Cunningham, how I heart thee! You know the story so I don't think I need to go into a synopsis recap on the evil 1958 Plymouth Fury and her boy-toy Arnie. With source material by Stephen King and directing by John Carpenter, how can you go wrong? While not entirely faithful to the book, it is one of the better adaptations. Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, and Harry Dean Stanton are a great core cast. The special effects in this film, particularly the regeneration of the car, are just wonderful. Let's not forget Arnie's transformation from super geek to cocky, dare I say, handsome accomplice to Christine's murderous rage.

Maximum Overdrive (1986) - First of all, I'm not going to apologize for seeing this in the theater. There. I said it. Now let's move on. When the earth passes close to a rogue comet, machines come to life and go on a rampage. Several human survivors are trapped at a road-side diner by some really angry vehicles. They try to come up with a plot to destroy their captors in an effort to escape. Based on Stephen King's short story 'Trucks' with the man himself writing the screenplay and directing, I don't understand why people hate it so much. True, it's not a great movie, but it's not all that bad either. Who can forget the Happy Toyz truck with the green goblin front or the machine gun toting vehicle? Emilio Estevez delivers a typical uninspired performance, but he's still cute so I don't care much. [ Head Honey note: Stephen King admits to being blasted on cocaine during the filming of Maximum Overdrive, and barely remembers making it, so there's that. ]

Trucks (1997) - Some will tell you this is a remake of Maximum Overdrive, but this is actually a different take on the short story, which more closely resembles the source material and attempts to be slightly more dramatic and less hokey than its predecessor. Sadly, it's just a bad movie starring Timothy Busfield. This version does have something MaxOD does not have and that is possibly one of the best deaths ever. It involves a mailman and a big yellow Tonka truck, and you will laugh your ass off.

I'm sure I'm probably missing some and please let me know if there is something I should see. Although, I'm sort of truckered out after watching all of these… in order.

Frankly, the thought of any machine becoming so autonomous it could intentionally harm or kill you is terrifying. I mean, I'm constantly fearful that my cats are plotting my death and they have free will.

I can't imagine how my life would be if I also had to worry about my coffee maker and my flat iron. Yikes.