Mladen and Del review ‘Trucks’
“Trucks” stars Timothy Busfield as Ray, Brenda Blake as Hope, Brendan Fletcher as Logan, Amy Stewart as Abby, and others. Directed by Chris Thomson. Rated PG-13 with a 95-minute run time. See it on Amazon Prime, Tubi, Apple TV and Vudu.
To recuperate my manliness after Del forced me to watch and review “Barbie” and “Wham!,” I made him watch 1997’s “Trucks.” And, what a film it is. From its big rig practical effects to the bonkers scene involving a Tonka-looking radio-controlled toy truck, the movie plows through your disbelief and eye rolling like a convoy of rabid Teamsters through a school zone.
Here, feel free to skip to the next paragraph. Del wants a movie summary in each review, so I’m giving you one, like it or not. “Trucks” is based on a Stephen King short story. In “Trucks,” trucks come alive, herding people into crappy buildings in a dusty town not far from Area 51. The trucks terrorize the huddled humans and, when needed, run over or otherwise murder a few. The self-driving, bloodthirsty machines, who talk to each other by flashing their headlights and switching windshield wipers on and off, are animated by … I’m not sure. The victims talk about mysterious satellite dishes erected at the nearby Air Force base, aliens attracted to Earth by SETI, a stolen election for president, the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop, and, wait, I think I’m confusing one government conspiracy with another.
“Trucks” has flaws that go unremedied. There’s no nudity. The swearing is mild. The violence is not as graphic as it could’ve been, though the fire axe-wielding hazmat suit scene in a disaster response van is pretty damn terrific. And, let’s not forget the toy truck and mailman incident that unfolds about half-way through the film. It’s imaginative. It’s ridiculous. It’s carnage laced. In short, it’s perfect.
“Trucks” also has flaws that get remedied. For example, the killer trucks are autonomous but have no way of refueling themselves. So, through much of the film, I’m like, “Stupid rednecks, sit tight until the monstrous machines run out of gas.” Then comes along our principal scared, bewildered, and desperate protagonist (“Ray” portrayed by Timothy Busfield) who notices that the trucks had chances to kill him but didn’t. Why? Why did he live while some of his fellow captives died? Well, the trucks signal the answer to him. You see, Ray is the town’s gas station owner. The machines spared Ray because they needed him to refuel them. If he didn’t, they’d splatter his son and nascent girlfriend all over the desert sand. Come on, concede that’s a clever way for the trucks (and the movie’s plot) to overcome their lack of hands with opposable thumbs to pump diesel.
Because “Trucks” is based on a King short story and King often sways toward the bleak, the film’s ending is somewhat discombobulating. But, don’t worry, the ending is nothing like the heavily traumatizing conclusion of another movie based on King’s writing, “The Mist.”
I was confused.
Fifteen minutes into “Trucks” and still no Emilio Estevez. What the hell was going on?
A quick dive into the Internet Movie Database disabused me of my mental fog. “Trucks” is not “Maximum Overdrive,” the cheesy ’80s-vintage scifi-horror movie directed by none other than horror author Stephen King. Instead, “Trucks” is a cheesy ’90s-vintage scifi-horror movie based on the same short story, “Trucks,” that inspired “Maximum Overdrive.” And that story was written by none other than horror author Stephen King.
That’s about as clear as my soap-scum infused glass shower doors.
I’d describe “Trucks” as a genre hybrid, falling somewhere between a classic ’50s big bug movie and a Robert Rodriguez grindhouse gorefest, Why anybody thought “Trucks” was worthy of a remake escapes me, especially when King wrote many other memorable stories – the one about the guy who drinks bad beer and turns into a giant escargot comes to mind every time I pop the tab on a can of Natty Light. But then, why are there 27 “Children of the Corn”s or 91 “Lawnmower Man”s? The answer, of course, is that Americans have no bottom when it comes to schlock.
And that’s what “Trucks” is – schlock. It’s one of those movies that’s so bad, it’s good – except “Trucks” isn’t good. It’s terrible, and Mladen owes me big time. At least when I make him watch something out of his comfort zone it’s something decent, and good. “Trucks” is a Baby Ruth bar floating in the swimming pool of moviedom. The acting is awful. The script is laughably inept. No cliché is left behind. And there are plot holes big enough to … ahem … drive a truck through. It’s like watching political aides trying to teach Ron DeSantis how to eat pudding with chopsticks. In other words, it’s a mess.
Here’s an example of the breathtaking dialogue:
Teenage girl: “Why does everybody keep dying?” (Hmmm? Could it possibly have anything to do with the fact that they’re being RUN OVER BY TRUCKS?)
Old man: “I don’t know. I’m just an old hippie.”
The trucks, we are told, have been brought to life by either Area 51, a toxic gas cloud, the Earth sailing through a comet’s tail, aliens … or maybe “Trucks” is a cautionary tale, warning against the unintended consequences of electing a fascist as president of the United States and then letting him skate when his crimes become public knowledge. Either way, I think everyone involved in the movie sailed through a comet’s tail because if “Maximum Overdrive” proves that horror authors should stick to writing horror stories and not directing horror movies, “Trucks” proves that even dedicated filmmakers can sometimes screw up, and “Trucks” is a Godzilla-sized Phillips-head of a screw(up).
Mladen didn’t assign a letter grade to “Trucks” so I’ll assume he’s giving it an F. I’ll be generous and award a D- seeing as how it’s truer to the short story than “Maximum Overdrive.”
When they come out with a scifi-horror movie titled “Night of the Killer Prius,” I’m there. But “Maximum Overdrive” and “Trucks” is a two-movie convoy of 18-wheeled schlock. For a vastly superior killer truck movie, check out “Duel.” Meantime, I’ll stick to the passing lane.
Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and writer.