Monday, May 9, 2011

The Car (1977)

Title: The Car (1977)

Director: Elliot Silverstein

Cast: James Brolin


I recently did a Monster Blog Post on 40 Memorable Movie Cars (which you guys loved!) and I placed the Continental Mark III car used in The Car on that list for a good reason, this movie has a killer car with lots of personality! Watching this movie, you get the feeling that the evil car is alive and breathing, sometimes, even speaking. This film came about during the 70’s when satanic themed films were all the rave. I mean, this was the day and age when films like The Devils Rain (1975), The Omen (1975), The Exorcist (1973), Werewolves on Wheels (1971), and Race with the Devil (1975), were thriving in theaters. Since these Satanic themed films were so popular with audiences, studios (smelling cash waiting to be made) didn’t waste any time in capitalizing on the fears of the people, same as Hollywood has always done. People are afraid of nuclear apocalypse? Make a movie about that! People are afraid of viruses? Make a movie about that! People are afraid of the end of the world? Make a movie about that! In the 70’s, people were fascinated (and scared) with films that had Satan laced into their storylines somehow. And let’s face it; Satan has always had a way of drawing people towards himself, especially when it comes to entertainment. Music, movies, books…anything dealing with old Beelzebub will more then likely sell; no matter how afraid people are of the idea of Satan. So the time was ripe for a film like The Car to get made.

In The Car, the town of Santa Ynez is suddenly terrorized by a shinny black killer car! Nobody knows where it came from, and nobody knows why it’s here. The only thing they know is that it likes to kill people! Slowly but surely the people of Santa Ynez come to realize this. And suddenly, everyone in town is afraid of the black car that’s roaming its streets! The big question on everybody’s mind is: who the hell is driving this murderous vehicle? Is anybody driving it? Well, if you listen to the ramblings of an old Indian lady who was an eye witness to one of the cars attacks, nobody is driving it. And the car has a weird vibe to it! Every time it appears, a strange supernatural wind precedes it! On top of everything, the car appears to be indestructible! Even its tires are impervious to bullets! How will the people of Santa Ynez stop this evil car from killing more innocent people?

Most people are of the mind that in order for a horror movie to work, it has to be rated ‘R’. I don’t subscribe to that point of view because I have seen many horror movies that are rated ‘PG’ or ‘PG-13’ and are just as effective (sometimes even more so) than any ‘R’ rated motion pictures. The Ring (2002) is always an example I like to mention. To me, that film was ultra eerie and extremely spooky. I don’t know about you guys, but the first time I saw The Ring, it really got under my skin! Yet when I left the theater I was amazed to discover that this extremely effective horror flick was rated ‘PG-13’! I am always amazed when a horror film can do that without an ‘R’ rating. Such was the case with The Car, a horror film about a satanic killer car that I was surprised to find out was rated ‘PG’! There’s not an ounce of blood on this picture, and the kills are mostly suggested and off screen, yet this car manages to crawl under you skin. You’ll get to hate it. And here in lies the success (in my humble opinion) of this movie.

What makes this film work is the personality that the filmmakers infused into the ominous vehicle. We never get to see who is driving the car because the car has these black windows that don’t allow you to take a look at who’s behind the wheel. There is this one truly awesome moment in this film when the car allows a cop to get close it. The car taunts him by opening the driver’s window just a bit, enough for us to take a peek at the darkness inside. The door opens up as the cop gets closer, and just when we think we are about to get a peak at who’s driving the monstrous vehicle the door slams shut and the car starts to rev up it’s engine as if saying “Ha! You’re never going to know who I am! Ha ha ha ha haaa!” It was a great moment, and it really got me, for a second there, I actually thought I’d see the face of Satan pop up, or two red eyes glowing inside of the vehicle, but no, the film chooses to leave the driver a mystery, which I loved. Not knowing who is driving the car makes the whole ordeal more mysterious. Though we do get the idea that someone is behind the wheel because at times we actually get to see the driver’s point of view, and the drivers vision is tinted in red, which kind of gives us the idea that maybe it is Satan doing the driving? Because if Satan were to have vision, I’m sure it would be red. But seriously, this is the type of situation you will see a lot of in this movie. You’ll feel as if the car is actually talking, taunting, and defying its enemies. One scene has the car actually driving around a group of people, like a wolf surrounding its prey! The vehicle is portrayed as a predator, hunting the people it wants to kill. This is the reason why a lot of people compare this film to Jaws (1975), calling it “Jaws on Wheels”. In fact, even the musical score imitates the music from Jaws a bit.

I thought it was great how this film has a formidable villain who doesn’t even say a word through out the whole film! I love that kind of a movie where the villain is a complete mystery all through out. It makes the villain that much more ominous, that much more of a mystery. On this film, the car isn’t just ominous, he’s also practically indestructible. One awesome scene has the car ramming itself in a head on collision against a group of police cars, bashing them up with its own body, and then falling right back on the road, as if nothing had happened to it! Awesome sequence! It reminded me of a similar scene in The Wraith (1986) where the exact same thing happens. I’m sure this film was very influential on that one. Another awesome sequence has this lady hiding from the car in her house. She locks herself up, afraid that the car might have followed her. As she talks on the phone, we can see on the window behind her that the car is steadily approaching; little by little it gets closer. We hear the engine getting louder until finally blamo! The car drives right through the house! Like a bullet, the car drives right through her house and completely obliterates the lady! I have to say that out of all the killer car movies that I’ve seen like Christine (1983) or The Wraith (1986) this is the one with the most personality; it’s the one I felt was most alive.

This was an effective and entertaining horror film every step of the way. I applaud it for having a great villain that manages to get on your nerves without saying a single word through out the whole movie! Plus, the car just looks freaking evil. The front side of the vehicle looks like a face, its headlights peering like two big evil eyes staring at ya! Then there’s that blaring horn! It sounds the same as the horn on that truck that The Creeper drives in Jeepers Creepers (2001). One thing is for certain, mysterious villains work! Not many horror movies can say they have achieved all that on a PG rating, so yeah, hurray for The Car.

Rating: 4 out of 5


jervaise brooke hamster said...

I remember seeing this on TV for the first time circa 1980 and its been one of my favorite cult movies ever since and that scene you talked about where The Car rolls and hits the other cars is still quite magnificent even by todays standards, it always reminds me of the equally superb and legendary 2-car roll in The Hitcher.

Franco Macabro said...

The Hitcher's a real classic, love that one.


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