Part of Final Girl's Film Club
James Brolin - Wade Parent
Kathleen Lloyd - Lauren Humphries
Ronny Cox - Luke
Henry O'Brien - Chas
John Marley - Everett Peck
R.G. Armstrong - Amos Clements
Genre - Horror/Supernatural
Running Time - 97 Minutes
Score - 3 Howls Outta 4
With gas prices rising to unreasonable rates lately, less people are driving their cars across the continental United States. Not only does this make people who depend on travelling in cars angry, but I'm sure it makes the cars themselves angry too. And believe me, you don't ever want to see an angry automobile in action!
What? You don't believe me? Have you seen DUEL? THE WRAITH? MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE? CHRISTINE? HERBIE: FULLY LOADED? Yeah, that last film scared the crap out of you, didn't it? Yeah, we're all still suffering nightmares over that piece of crap.
Fortunately, I found a film about a killer car that is more B-grade entertainment than horror. And that underrated 1977 film is called THE CAR. What would you do if a car possessed by a supernatural spirit just entered your town and started to run people over with glee? If you're James Brolin, you'd do commercials for AAMCO and marry Barbara Striesand. I'd rather get run down by the car than marry evil, but that's just me. Let's see why THE CAR is one ride you don't want to pimp.
Santa Ynez, Utah is known for its desert heat, friendly residents [except for that guy who likes beating his wife and becomes redeemed at the end], and the beautiful canyon scenery. Oh, the town is also known for its evil black Sedan that likes to run into people and kill them for whatever reason. Not only does this car like to kill bikers, police officers, and women in their own homes by leaping 4 feet into the air, but it also likes to use its horn. God, how annoying. Anyway, it's up to traffic cop Wade "I don't wear a helmet while driving a motorcycle because I'm too fuckin' cool for that shit" Parent (James Brolin) to see what's up with this black Sedan.
As the death toll rises, Parent realizes that The Car can't be destroyed easily and is pretty much convinced by his partner Luke (Ronny Cox) that this automobile may be supernatural in Nature. If that's the case, what is The Car? Where does it come from? Why is it murdering people? And where can I get James Brolin's facial hair? Man, that's studly.
Let me just put it out there and say that THE CAR is a ridiculous B-movie that pretty much rips off JAWS [the studio wanted to ripoff the success of JAWS by turning the shark into a car], but adding in elements of THE EXORCIST to create its own film. Yet, I was highly entertained by this flick. It is what it is and takes advantage of that fact, creating a film that's very appealing and a blast to watch. It's brainless fun. Sometimes that's all you need in a movie, especially one like THE CAR.
The story is pretty simple: a possessed black Sedan without a driver enters a quiet town and begins running them all over as several of the townspeople try to stop its ride of terror. Nothing more. Nothing less. We don't know why the car is doing this. We don't know who exactly is possessing this car. We don't even know why this small town of Santa Ynez was picked for this route of destruction. Nothing about this Sedan is explained. And quite honestly, it doesn't need to have an explanation. As long as you watch this car destroying people's lives in some of the most impressive ways possible, you completely buy the whole thing. Not once did I sit down watching this did I want to find out the specifics. I just enjoyed what was in front of me. There are implications that maybe this Sedan is being controlled by Satan. That's enough for me. I don't need or want some back story that's just gonna ruin the film's flow and mood. More destruction, less explanation is fine with me with a film like THE CAR.
Not to say that the simple story is perfect. The human characters aren't all that developed really and come across as either bland, stereotypical, or just plain silly. Heck, the Sedan has a better personality than its human co-stars. Honestly, the character development scenes of the human characters weren't all that interesting to begin with. I mean, it's nice to know your characters by fleshing them out. But when that has nothing to do with moving the film's story forward, what's the point? There was no connection at all. Like, for example, Luke's alcoholism. He was sober for two years and due to the car's destruction, the stress of it led him back to drinking. But did the story go any further than that? Nope. It's a non-issue. So why bother putting it in? Things like that just drag the film down. I just wanted to see the car just run people down. Is that so much to ask?
The JAWS ripoff stuff is pretty evident in this film too. I'm not gonna go into depth about this, but I will say is that if you know JAWS pretty well, you'll catch the "homage" in THE CAR. It's one thing being influenced by a better film. It's another taking the scenes and scenerios from this better film and using them by replacing the shark with a car. That's not originality. That's plagiarism.
The action sequences in THE CAR are actually very impressive. As a matter of fact, I kept thinking of DEATH PROOF while watching THE CAR and seeing where Quentin Tarantino got some of his input. There's nothing fancy about the death scenes. No CGI is used. Real stunt drivers are doing their thing and doin' it, and doin' it, and doin' it well. Some of may come across as silly. I mean, what car can leap several feet in the air without a ramp - just to run over some lady who's talking on the phone inside her own house? If a car can't respect that feeling of being safe inside your own home, then you're pretty fucked. There's also a scene where the car flips over, flies in the air, rolls on top of some cop cars, crushes them until they explode, and then lands on its four tires again to continue it's destruction. It's brilliant! This car fuckin' rocks the house! I was clapping while watching that very scene. The visual effects by Albert Whitlock and the special effects by Bill Aldridge, Jack Faggard, Paul Hickerson, and Ed Kennedy are really spectacular for such a low-budget flick. I was impressed.
The direction by Elliott Silverstein was good as well. For a film shot mostly in the daytime, it's very suspenseful. You kind of get tense whenever the car is chasing after someone. You know the victim is gonna get it bad, but the excitement is WHEN it's gonna happen. I was always interested in what would happen next and how they would stop this Sedan. The story was built up nicely and the lack of explanation to what was going on started to actually make its own sort of sense in a way. You understood what was happening without really getting the facts. That's impressive filmmaking right there. We also got POV shots [sometimes in red fliters] of the Sedan as he ran down his victims. And the use of the desert and isolated community and locale was fully taken advantage of. It made the film a bit more intense. I do think that the scenes without the car were pretty "made for TV". It kind of hurts the film a bit because they look cheap and aren't that well acted, but those don't really last long to do much damage to the film's pace. So all in all, nice work from Silverstein.
The film's score was also very nice. It was sort of haunting and macabre in a way, which fit the mood nicely. There was also part of the score that was used in Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING as well. It worked for me!
The acting wasn't all that great, but in a film called THE CAR, I'm not expecting Oscar-worthy performances. James Brolin was the best actor here by far. He wasn't given anything really interesting to do other than be a family man and get his ass beat by a car, but he did it well. Gotta love the facial hair though. It sort of went away once he married Barbara Streisand. Correlation? Hmmm...
Kathleen Lloyd was actually pretty funny at times as the fiesty love interest and female lead. Some people may find her annoying but it was nice to see a woman who was tough yet vulnerable at the same time. She also negotiates by grabbing guy's balls. Hey, it works for me! She could have turned it down a notch maybe in her performance but I still liked it. Ronny Cox doesn't do much either but again, he's fine. Henry O'Brien was kind of awful though as the stereotypical Native American. I wouldn't be surprised if some Native Americans would be insulted by this performance. He was "whatever" really. We also get appearances by Kim and Kyle Richards as Brolin's cute daughters. Wait a minute...Striesand and Paris Hilton? Man, was Brolin fucked from the start or what?
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE NEVER CALLING A KILLER CAR "CHICKENSHIT"
- Some chick and her boyfriend wanted to race inside a dark tunnel. I remember my first time racing inside a tunnel. Unfortunately, I prematurely finished the race before I could get started.
- Lauren woke up Wade at 6:30 a.m. for work by licking his ear. Not only would she get a big case of ear wax if she did that to me, but she'd be sleeping in late after I headbutt her in the face for waking me up that early. Bitch.
- The abusive Amos was annoyed by a French horn player so much that he threatened to shove the horn so far up his ass that he would be farting music for a year. That would explain Scarlett Johansson's last album. Yeesh.
- James Brolin refuses to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle. Now I understand why he married Barbara Streisand. He's not all right in the noggin...
- Chas was so upset with someone that he threatened to shove an arrow up his ass. That would explain Scarlett Johansson's last album. Yeesh.
- Some prudish teacher wondered if it was healthy for a 13-year-old boy to picture his teacher naked. Maybe not, but my boner didn't seem to care or mind at the time!
- Lauren wanted the band to play better and with more energy. This way, people would want to get up and march to the music. That isn't necessary. I already wanted to get up and march...away from that horrible music!
- Lauren was talking smack to the killer Sedan, trying to get the driver to come out for a beatdown. Eh, it's probably Lindsay Lohan under the influence again. Just don't make her angry. She'll just make another HERBIE: FULLY LOADED flick. Nobody wants or needs that.
- The killer Sedan burst into someone's home, leaping right into the homeowner, killed the person, and then went out the other end. Not only does the Sedan hate the high gas prices, but the mortgage crisis too? Someone needs to get an oil change!
THE FINAL HOWL
THE CAR surprised me, I gotta say. I wasn't expecting much and actually had a good time watching some demonic car have its way with stupid people. That never gets old in my opinion. B-movie lovers should definitely check this film out. Even regular movie lovers would probably get some kind of kick out of this one. Besides DUEL, I'm sure THE CAR influenced Stephen King to write CHRISTINE and John Carpenter's direction for the adaptation. It's pretty evident if you want both films back to back. If you're looking for great acting and depth, do not watch THE CAR. But if you want to have a killer time with a pissed off automobile, you can do a lot worse. No more stop signs...speed limit...nobody's gonna slow THE CAR down.