TRUCKS (1997)

Rating:

Just Hang On, Folks.  I Repeat: Just Hang On

Main Cast: Timothy Busfield, Brenda Bakke

Director: Chris Tomson

So, this one time?  In 1986?  Stephen King did a trailer for his upcoming movie MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, the one where all the machines come to life?  In it, he said, “A lot of people have directed Stephen King novels and stories, and I finally decided if you want something done right, you ought to do it yourself … I just wanted someone to do Stephen King right … I’m gonna scare the hell out of you.”

Turned out, that movie blew chunks and has long been considered one of the worst King adaptations.  In 1997, writer Brian Taggert (POLTERGEIST III) and director Chris Tomson (Time Trax) stepped up and said, “Hold my beer.”

The result was the 1997 TV movie adaptation of that same King story, Trucks, from the 1978 collection NIGHT SHIFT.  This time Timothy Busfield (REVENGE OF THE NERDS) has replaced Emilio Estevez as the main character with Brenda Bakke (American Gothic) playing the Laura Harrington role.

That’s only marginally true.  They’re not playing the same roles, this is an entirely different story.  In that previous King movie, it’s ALL machines that have come to life and started murdering people, trapping a bunch of folks in a small roadside truck stop.  In TRUCKS, it’s only trucks that have come to life, trapping a bunch of folks in a small roadside diner and gas station.  MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE was set in North Caroline while TRUCKS is set in Nevada.  So you can see, clearly, two different stories.

Hell, they may have even taken place in the same universe, for all we know, except for the use of 1997 cell phones by two of the characters in TRUCKS.

Let’s get into specifics.

Busfield plays Ray who runs a small gas station/garage(?) in the town of Lunar, Nevada.  He’s got a son, Logan, and two years earlier, lost his wife.  So because it’s a TV movie from the 90s, he’s overprotective of his teenage son, but has refused to properly grieve his wife or help his son through his own process.  Instead, he moved them away from their former life to open this crappy gas station in a small nowhere town.  Father of the year.

Meanwhile, Brenda Bakke’s Hope character runs Lunar tours where she takes folks around to see local UFO sites, I guess?  It’s never really made clear what, exactly, these tours consist of, I just know she picked up a trio of people from a bus stop in her Aerostar and that they were there for the UFO tour.  Of course, they never make the tour because on the way back to Lunar from the bus stop, they’re attacked by an unmanned semi and Hope’s Aerostar is destroyed.

She calls Ray’s gas station on her gigantic cellular telephone and Logan runs out of the gas station yelling DAD, IT’S HOPE, HER CAR’S BEEN WRECKED, or something similar and Ray runs to his station wagon and peels out, racing to save Hope.

Later, in a quiet moment amidst all the chaos, Hope admits she heard about Ray’s wife dying.

Which is weird because the way he raced off to her rescue, it seemed they were close friends and I’d think by that point, she would have already known about his dead wife?  Maybe not? Honestly, at this point, I think I’d already pretty much checked out and was just counting the number of times the script called for the line, “Hang on.”

My wife and I both said thank God we weren’t taking shots every time someone said it; we’d have never made it to the end of the movie.  Then again … hmm…

Anyway.  So Ray, Hope, and Co. make it back to the gas station where they’re trapped inside with the owner of the diner and two local truck drivers while a swarm of trucks constantly circle the area, keeping them from their cars.  And by a swarm, I obviously mean like 4 trucks.

Now, this is where I have a real problem with this movie.  There are a lot of characters, not too many to keep track of, but not a single one of them has an interesting arc or a character trait or even a funny name I can latch onto and ride out for the rest of the movie.  Instead, we get a bunch of faces and bodies doing this and that, none of which amounts to a single important thing in the overall context of the story.

I felt almost no tension, NO suspense, and it’s a TV movie, so any sense of real action or danger is going to be muddled.  There’s a scene where Logan and Abby (teen daughter of one of Hope’s tourists) are trying to cross a drain pipe to get across the highway to where everyone else is.  The trucks block the exit and start pumping their exhaust into it.  Ray comes out, after not getting crushed between two oncoming trucks, coaxes Logan and Abby out in a scene that took, easily, forty minutes of screen time and could have been done in one if he had just not stood aside and kept saying, “Almost there, come on, you’re doing good, it’s okay, we’re almost there, right, between the tires, be careful, come on, you’re doing great, we’re almost there, just a little further now, Logan, you’re doing great.”

Ray figures out he wasn’t killed, and that the trucks spared Logan, because they need Ray.  Ray runs the gas station, Ray is the one who fills all the trucks with gas when they come through.  He’s valuable.  So they let Logan go, and Ray, in return, starts pumping gas.

Now, in MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, this refueling scene is a big deal. There’s a line of trucks waiting to get in, it’s the middle of the day, it’s sweltering outside, and the whole refueling scene takes a good stretch and shows just how brutal a job it is.  In TRUCKS, he fills up three or four trucks with gas, it’s getting dark, the sun’s going down, he’s done in a minute, no big deal.

With the refueling done, they start planning their escape from the truck stop.

I’m gonna stop right here because it’s 5 in the morning, it’s -2 degrees outside, but it’s trying to inject any amount of suspense or logic into this movie’s “plot” that’s causing me the most grief this morning.

TRUCKS is just a bad movie.  Whether or not the makers referred back to the ORIGINAL source material, I don’t know.  I feel like they may have, that’s why it’s called TRUCKS instead of being passed off as a MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE remake, but, man, is this movie a piece of crap.

There’s a scene with a mailman where an RC dump truck breaks out of a toy store window, manages to trip the mailman into the street, then proceeds to run into the his skull over and over until it’s been crushed against the curb.  I’m not an RC enthusiast or anything, but I HAVE, in my 48 years, from time to time had occasion to touch an RC car and there’s no friggin’ way that happened.

In another scene, two HAZMAT workers are on their way to clean up a mess and one of the suits inside the truck comes to life and attacks the workers with an ax.  So, because the suit is inside the truck, the truck’s essence fills the suit and attacks?  F**k if I know.

And in TWO earlier scenes, before the trucks have revealed themselves as being sentient, we see characters walk past them and then, so we, the viewer, can keep track of them, the side view mirrors change angles, as if the trucks are watching them.  So the side view mirrors are their eyes?  Or are the eyes inside the cab where a driver would be sitting and they need to use the mirrors to see behind them?  God, this thing didn’t make any sense, and didn’t provide a single second of terror or horror, it was just bad.

Lazy writing, inattentive direction, the poor actors didn’t stand a chance and it seemed they really wanted to make a good movie.  Boy did they pick the wrong project for that.

I can’t NOT recommend TRUCKS enough.  If you really want to see a movie where trucks come to life and terrorize people, stick to the original King-directed mess.  Or better yet, watch TRANSFORMERS (2007).

King on Film

1976-1992 (Carrie to Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice)

The Dark Half (1993)

The Dark Half (1993) Movie Review | Movie Rewind

The Tommyknockers (1993)

The Tommyknockers Movie Review | Movie Rewind

Needful Things (1993)

Needful Things (1993) | Movie Rewind

The Stand (1994)

Stephen King’s The Stand Movie (1994) | Movie Rewind

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption Movie Reviewed | Movie Rewind

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995) | Movie Rewind

The Mangler (1995)

The Mangler – Stephen King Short Story Movie Adaptation (movierewind.com)

Dolores Claiborne (1995)

Dolores Claiborne Starring Kathy Bates | Movie Rewind

The Langoliers (1995)

Langoliers (1995) – A Stephen King Movie Strike Out | Movie Rewind

Sometimes They Comes Back … Again (1996)

SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK … AGAIN (1995) | C. Dennis Moore – Horror Author

Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996)

CHILDREN OF THE CORN IV: THE GATHERING (1996) | C. Dennis Moore – Horror Author

Thinner (1996)

Thinner – Movie Adaptation of Stephen King’s Novel | Movie Rewind

The Shining (1997)

The Shining – 1997 TV Mini-Series | Movie Rewind

Ghosts (1997)

King on Film: Ghosts (1996) – Starring Michael Jackson | Movie Rewind

Chattery Teeth (1997)

Chattery Teeth 1997 – Stephen King on Film | Movie Rewind

The Revelations of ‘Becka Paulson (1997)

The Revelations of Becka Paulson – King on Film Series | Movie Rewind

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