Daily Horror History, July 25th: Happy Maximum Overdrive Day (And Birthday to Mike from The Blair Witch Project)
Stephen King’s directorial debut turned out to be his directorial swan song. Maximum Overdrive, released twenty-two years ago today, is based on King’s short story “Trucks,” in which the motorized vehicles of the world spontaneously become self-aware and hostile toward humans. The short-story is more dour and ends with an impractical apocalypse in which the vehicles have enslaved humankind, forcing the survivors to pump gas, a power dynamic that the narrator believes could last until the vehicles rust over and fail to run, but could last beyond that if the cars and trucks and motorcycles and even planes somehow coerce humankind to build replacements.
The doomsday implication of the ending doesn’t hold up to an ounce of scrutiny, and is sensibly abandoned for the adaptation, along with any hint of self-seriousness. Even the trailer for Maximum Overdrive is trying to push its tongue clean through its cheek, and unlike the short story, the movie features levitous killer arcade machines, profane ATMs, and even crotch-“punching” vending machines to go along with its Green Goblin Grilled primary menace. King hasn’t spoken very favorably of this adaptation over time, but given the ludicrous premise, I think horror-comedy was the only option; it was either going to generate intentional laughs or unintentional ones.
Today is also the birthday of Michael C. Williams, one of the stars of The Blair Witch Project, where he played, you guessed it, Mike. While The Blair Witch Project isn’t the sole credit to his career, he hasn’t shown up in much since then. Still, even if he never gets another role, he’s earned a place in horror history as the guy who kicked that probably-worthless map into a creek, and ended up having to stand in the corner as punishment.