Maximum Overdrive: Why Stephen King's Directing Debut Was So Bad

While Stephen King is a legend of literary horror, his attempt at directing a feature film, 1986's Maximum Overdrive, wasn't met with much acclaim.

While Stephen King is a legend of literary horror, his attempt at directing a feature film, 1986's Maximum Overdrive, wasn't met with much acclaim. By the mid-1980s, King was already one of the biggest names in horror, and rapidly becoming a pop culture icon. Always prolific, King had so far released such classic novels as Carrie, Salem's Lot, The Shining, The Stand, and Pet Sematary, just to name a few. Adaptations of his work had also quickly taken off, thanks to 1976's Carrie, 1979's Salem's Lot, and 1980's The Shining.

By 1986, King had also himself entered the movie business, penning the script for zombie godfather George Romero's beloved 1982 anthology film Creepshow, as well as the screenplay for 1985's Silver Bullet, an adaptation of King's novella Cycle of the Werewolf. With that said, it's not hard to imagine why King decided to take a shot at directing an adaptation of his own work. Unfortunately, that proved to be a mistake.

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Maximum Overdrive adapted the King short story Trucks from the Night Shift collection, and while the tale of large machines that come to life and menace mankind had potential, several factors combined to ensure than the film wasn't a success. A box office bomb and a critical punching bag, Maximum Overdrive is a bit of a laughing stock when it comes to King works. Here's why.

Maximum Overdrive: Stephen King Was Constantly High on Set

One thing Stephen King readers should quickly notice when watching Maximum Overdrive is how different in tone the film is from the Trucks story, which basically played the premise straight. While one could argue that the idea of vehicles turning on humans inherently brings with it the potential for levity, Maximum Overdrive is absolutely ridiculous for much of its running time, and it's not always clear if some things are meant to be funny or not. This has led the film to develop a "so bad it's good" cult following over the decades, but King spent much of the 1980s in a haze of addiction, and has himself admitted that he was high on cocaine for the majority of production. Couple that with an inexperienced filmmaker, and it became a recipe for disaster.

Maximum Overdrive Was Remade, And It Was Somehow Worse

Stephen King has never denied how badly Maximum Overdrive turned out, and that he regrets the final product. King has also insisted he has no plans to ever direct another movie, although one wonders if a now sober King could pull it off. Amusingly though, the Trucks story was adapted again in 1997, this time as a TV movie called Trucks, and with no creative involvement by King. Yet, anyone hoping for a better take was disappointed, as while Trucks was certainly more serious than Maximum Overdrive, it also proved to be a total bore that even the most diehard King fans sometimes forget exists. As infamous as King's movie became, at least it managed to entertain some by virtue of being so weird. Trucks is more likely to cure insomnia than provide any type of thrills.

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