Horror movies about evil cars always a favorite with the fans, the think about those thrillers of Duel, Christine, Maximum Overdrive, and Wheels of Terror, but this time the simple title of The Car (1977), a film overlook and GPS lost it. Director Elliot Silverstein gave audiences an interesting horror flick, with a custom design and highly sought vehicle by both collectors of die-casts and actual cars, most interestingly his flick released on May 13th, came 2 weeks before another famous car movie, Smokey and the Bandit. George Barris (passed on in late 2015), known for many car creations from Batman car on the television series, to Munsters’ dragster and coffin cars, and of course the customization of 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III black coupe (actually four of them) with only one surviving. While the movie is basic in design and plot, a devilish creation, using the backdrop of Snow Canyon in Utah as other locations, shows crispness in detail on Scream Factory’s Blu-ray in 2015, but also present clearly from cinematographer Gerald Hirschfeld known for his work on Young Frankenstein (1974). Although, the film garnished little attention upon the initial release, panned and criticized by many, it still earned a cult following, especially as a bad movie so good to enjoy.
Silverstein’s movie opens with a quote paraphrased from the infamous and legendary founder of the Church of Satan leader Anton LaVey, from the “Invocation of Destruction”, “Oh great brothers of the night who rideth upon the hot winds of hell, who dwelleth in the Devil’s lair; move and appear.” The references of this passage used in the presentation of The Car, the hot winds occurring when demon of hell descends on the innocent and noble patrons of a small town, Santa Ynez.
The scene primarily focuses, on two teenage cyclists, along a deserted road, in and out of tunnels and along empty bridges, quite scenic, opens the film lurking in the background quiet and stealthily the sinister Car. Tension grows slowly but the incredible ringing out the truck-like horn rips across the air frightening the teens into perilous situations. Soon the audience meets the central character Deputy Wade Parent, James Brolin (The Amityville Horror (1979)) very much in love with Lauren (Kathleen Lloyd) – his girlfriend, and lives with his two daughters Lynn and Debbie, become the targets of this vehicle. Kim and Kyle Richards portray Lynn and Debbie respectfully, however some might recognize them from their independent contributions to two famous John Carpenter films, Kim in Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and Kyle in Halloween (1978). Soon enough The Car kills a young hitchhiker in brutal fashion, though the viewers given a glimpse of wife-beating bigot Amos (R.G. Armstrong from Predator (1987)) and his job skill set, (won’t tell you). One needs to note a comical item, the police force of this lonely isolated little town, actually contains more officers that most crime squads on television today. Anyway, the movie contains no expert to explain what the representation of the Car means, a brief reference by a Native American woman “no driver – behind the wheel of the car”, from there the madness of what they deal with becomes more apparent. In addition, Officer Luke’s own demons plague , his alcoholism – reveal dangers to the innocent schoolchildren and yet exposes a fear of the Car, cannot cross holy grounds of cemetery, but subject to taunts from Lauren (not a good decision).
One often overlooks the stunts in a film, and yes, honestly, I have, most viewers take them for granted, but in this movie, as with all car-movies the involvement tremendously wonderful, especially the barrel roll over two squad cars, and one that including a first time fall of new stuntman’s career of over 190 ft. Then there’s a chase up a tight winding road in the Utah desert, other movies include these insane maneuvers but for film which appears more as a television movie it delivers, revved up and ready to take one’s soul.
The movie layers itself nicely with script and cast, allowing the character to breathe become multiple dimensional, and on the same level as The Car, but never gets beyond the b-movie status. It perhaps why it after 40-years the movie still holds a special place and achieving the cult following, likely though it is always going to hold the fascination with vehicle. It truly has no blood or gore, some suspense and tension, and overall story leans to ridiculous with car’s sinister abilities.
Many critics pass on this film, the concept of devil-possessed car, however six years later, an author named Stephen King best-selling novel, Christine who graced the silver screen thanks to director John Carpenter, about another possessed car, receiving lots of praise. The Car is not, by any means the same transmission as Christine; however, it still has the most blaring laughing horn, and even hints to a sequel, which never occurred just like Christine. The unbelievable premise still echoes the goofiness at times in the movie but overall a good film, worthy of a mid-week afternoon entertainment.