A town with skidmarks.
Deputy Wade (James Brolin) – father of Lynn Marie (Kim Richards) and Debbie (Kyle Richards) – is seriously dating schoolteacher Lauren (Kathleen Lloyd) and generally enjoying life. The problem is, an evil-looking car with tinted windows comes roaring into his small Utah town and starts making street pizza out of people. Actually, screw off Wade, the car is the star of this show….
Ah Utah, vast state of deserts, mountains, and smiling weirdos who don’t appreciate when you knock on their goddamned doors for a change. Someone had the idea of making their own version of Jaws out there and thought that maybe something like Duel would be a good idea. Now, a lot of people would cry ‘foul’ because swiping material from Spielberg and Lucas is naughty and bad and so shouldn’t be done because good filmmakers don’t steal. Of course, if that was true then that means that neither Spielberg nor Lucas should be regarded as good filmmakers because of the vast amount of material that they’ve stolen throughout their careers. Oh, right, those are ‘homages‘. Who cares, this is still pretty tense and doesn’t follow the same plot as Jaws or Duel but bears a superficial resemblance to both, so screw off.
I could spend some time talking about the characters in this film, but since this is, essentially, a slasher movie with a killer car rather than a loony with a knife, they are mostly present to be victims or potential victims. The first victims are bicyclists, which made me very happy as I drive and loathe bicyclists. The later victims are a hitchhiker, several cops and other public nuisances. By eliminating the very large supply of people who suckle at the teat of the state, this car is the sheer definition of the fiscal conservative, especially since it eschews emission standards and never allows intrusions on its freedom. Really, the only thing notable about the characters is the one who’s slain by a car flying through her house, another that finds that the car is really mean when it pushes him off a mesa, and a gaggle of cops who discover that playing chicken with a plaything of Satan is probably a bad idea.
Plaything of Satan indeed, this car is more evil than the Popemobile. Essentially a Lincoln – for you Southerners, I mean the car brand Lincoln – land sled that has been customized – by George Barris, car god – to look like a vaguely demonic beast. The front end and grill looks distinctly like a stylized face and the sleek black body with gleaming chrome along with dark yellow tinted windows and missing door-handles show this is not a vehicles for mere mortals, although maybe wraiths could give it a spin. The car also sounds evil as the engine and exhaust system growl while the horn makes an unearthly howl far more evil than La Cucaracha – which is fine because there are no vampires here – which might be like Hell’s steam whistle. We’re looking at Beelzebub’s pimpmobile here, something he would drive while picking up souls from his succubi.
And we’re back to Satan. In order to make the film more technically correct when it came to the application of diabolic powers on automobiles – though I’m pretty sure that Henry Ford already perfected same – the filmmakers decided to call in Anton LaVey for his expertise. Well, perhaps that explains why the film neglects to tell us where the car came from, why it’s in Utah, why it’s slaughtering people, why it’s indestructible without the application of copious amounts of explosives, and why it seems to be roaming the highways of America after it gets blown up in a blast of fire that is so devastating that it doesn’t even allow a little porcelain figure just like the one broken before the war to survive. I actually prefer that this element of the film was left out, mostly because any attempt to explain the existence of a demonic car outside of New Jersey would seem stupider than the concept of a werecar.
Still, the film does manage to fire on most of its cylinders by simply keeping things simple.