Maximum Overdrive is a hard movie to recommend nowadays. As Stephen King’s directorial debut, it’s a stark contrast from his typically-stern horror novels. Focusing on dark humor and a soundtrack composed entirely of AC/DC songs, Maximum Overdrive saw the world’s machines gain sentience after a special comet passes by the Earth. Everything from lawnmowers to pocket radios to big rig trucks saw fit to murder their creators. Even King himself isn’t immune to the machine uprising, as he’s insulted by a particularly vulgar ATM.
It’s a movie with a ridiculous concept and an equally ridiculous execution, rightfully being disowned by critics and King himself years after its release. But a lot has changed since Maximum Overdrive was released in 1986. What felt like nonsensical science fiction back then feels eerily relevant in our tech-driven lives today. Would it be so ridiculous to see Maximum Overdrive — or the short story it was based on, Trucks — come back to the silver screen in the 2020s? Frankly, we think there’s some merit to the idea. There’s no better time for a Maximum Overdrive remake, and we’ll tell you the reasons why.
The Concept Feels Contemporary
It’s been almost four decades since Maximum Overdrive was released in theaters. For reference, 1986 was the year that the technical powerhouse Pixar was founded. It was one year into the lifespan of the CD-ROM and only four years removed from the release of the original Commodore 64. Computing was a bit beyond its infancy but still nowhere near the level of adoption seen nowadays. You could argue that the tech behind the machines of the day being primitive in comparison adds to the horror of the story. There’s no legitimate reason that these machines have achieved sentience, nor is there any adherence to the laws of physics in doing so, yet here they are, rolling along of their own volition.
But think about where we are now in terms of technology. The self-driving trucks of Maximum Overdrive actually exist in some fashion, powered by dozens of interconnected sensors and artificial brains. Even the sentient lawnmower that gives chase to Deke exists in the form of Roomba-like mowers. Sure, they’re much more sleek and less intimidating than a gas-powered mower, but still. On top of this, it’s hard to find anyone who walks around without some form of electronic device on their person, whether it’s their phone or watch.
What’s especially terrifying is the technology that’s already been thought of but hasn’t been implemented yet. A recent patent application from Ford plots out a system that will lead to a vehicle automatically repossessing itself for delinquent payments. Before this, the vehicle will slowly disable its features while locking its doors, emitting annoying noises, and refusing to be driven unless in the event of an emergency.
On top of that, self-driving vehicles aren’t just an in-development novelty. They’re on the roads, making decisions to safely carry their passengers wherever they want to go. It’s not outside the realm of possibility for someone to interfere with this decision-making process and potentially veer the vehicle into a dangerous situation. Of course, that is if it already doesn’t do so by itself.
Giving Maximum Overdrive a New Direction
If Maximum Overdrive commented on our relationships with technology, the message only feels more relevant with the advent of smart homes and smartphones. We’ve become so interwoven with tech that, for some, it’s difficult to imagine life without it. More importantly, what came off as campy and ridiculous in the original film might feel a bit more realistic when you read about crashing Teslas and the exponential growth of artificial intelligence. Even the comet utilized in the original movie doesn’t feel all that silly. Scientists observed that, if the right conditions are achieved, a solar flare could take out a significant portion of our electric grid through geomagnetically induced currents.
Even if King vowed never to touch the director’s chair again, it feels appropriate to consider a remake of Maximum Overdrive that purposefully twists the modern-day conveniences we take for granted into something malicious. Even if you want to keep the humorously over-the-top tone of the original, there’s plenty of material you could utilize in this strange future we’ve built for ourselves. Food delivery robots could purposefully run themselves into the road as unexpected speed bumps, machines that assemble vehicles could fling their handlers around like rag dolls, and hand-held devices could opt to spontaneously combust at a moment’s notice.
Beyond that, there are some serious concepts that a Maximum Overdrive remake could tackle. Technological innovations appear to be accompanied by a concerning trend of removing control away from the end user, placing that control in the hands of the organization behind said innovation. The result of removing this agency from the user, relying on interconnected networks and constant communication between devices and organizations, sets the stage for some unknown force to intercept this communication for nefarious purposes. With how houses and modern appliances are now connected to the internet, who’s to say that a mysterious comet wouldn’t suddenly lock your domicile down with no way of leaving? Or that the terminal that controls your lighting and thermostat wouldn’t keep you locked in a dark sauna?
There’s an accepted risk in many of the devices we utilize daily that can easily be taken advantage of, even by forces other than a passing comet. It feels appropriate to acknowledge this risk by having those same devices gain sentience and a thirst for blood. It’d undoubtedly be entertaining, at least. If we ever get a Maximum Overdrive remake, there’s certainly no shortage of ideas that can be crammed into it. Let’s just hope there’s a little less AC/DC this time around.