Hell hath no Fury...like a 1958 Plymouth.
I'm usually entertained by Stephen King associated movies. Yes, I know the long running gag is that they are all absolutely terrible and blah blah blah, but I don't have a history of the books (in fact, I currently haven't read any of them) and I don't most the time approach a movie for more than entertainment purposes - letting me keep expectations low and enhance the chances of me enjoying what I'm watching. Heck, the top two King tagged movies I like are actually in the twenty percent or less ratings department - so obviously I'm the person you should listen to here. Either way, this is one car that'll give you pause about giving your car a personality of it's own - or maybe it'll run out of gas.
The story here is actually something that I haven't seen too often - that of being a killer car. I mean, sure, I saw it in Maximum Overdrive although I'd argue that was a much more camp-filled approach then what we have here. Objects being possessed isn't exactly a rare movie occurrence, but here that's not really implied to be the case. Here, the car is already this "living" thing before it even fully rolls off the assembly line. Heck, the thing has a body count before it's even off the assembly line. The thing is basically a mechanical slasher with a super-crush on it's owner.
Beyond that aspect, I'd wager not much is too unique feeling on the human front. You have a bit of the "nerd turning cool" phase, with his football playing friend actually appearing in less of the movie than I would have initially thought. There's some typical high school action, which serves as a bit of an enabler of a higher body count by the end. Most of this high school grade stuff is also very of it's time period - a modern "sensible" audience may take quite a bit of offense at various points, because that is kinda what they like to do. Not gonna say it get's a free pass or anything, and it does make the plight of some characters a little less attachable, but it helps set the mood that it wants.
Carpenter as a director usually doesn't disappoint my movie-faring sensibilities. There's some good usage of the camera from time to time to frame things up - be it surprises or just pointing your attention at a specific detail - and a quite nice soundtrack if your into "old timey rock and roll." I admit, it actually feels a bit of a departure as far as sound goes than what I normally associate with Carpenter's work - that of the more synth and hard edge of tension such as what you'd hear in The Thing. There isn't any shots that seem incredibly tricky up on screen at least by today standards, but they do have some nice effect shots in there.
And those effects can range from mundane - like an incredibly bright light inside the car - to the incredibly extravagant - such as the car doing it's best Wolverine impression. Most the effects aren't really hard to figure out how they were done, and even the self-healing shots have a feasible way of being done, but they all look quite well done regardless. The final showdown has a little bit of a couple of odd back and forth moments that leads to some slight continuity jars when it goes from close up to wide, but it isn't enough to ruin the movie even if it does slightly take you out of it when you notice it.
The actors do a decent job here, but I wouldn't exactly feel very solid with saying the do "great" jobs. Some of the deliveries feel somewhat lackluster, and some of the characters feel like they were torn out of a stereotype. Still, the acting is passable enough and doesn't hurt the movie any even when it gets a little too flamboyant. The lead nerd is probably the one who has to do the largest change of acting, given his character arc from mechanical-savvy nerd to power tripping lunatic - and is probably a bit at the weakest when he hits the middle ground "cool guy" phase where some of it feels phoned in. Of course, it feels phoned in, but at the same time I'm not sure if I want to flat out consider it as such, as his character by that point is constantly mentally distracted with his car which in turn makes it also feel like it could be accurate acting instead of just bad acting. Of course, the car has a bit of personality too it as well - doing the whole "Radio talking" in a more basic form long before we saw the big yellow Transformer do it.
The pacing feels mostly okay, although with a little buildup in the beginning setting everything up to allow for the nerd's character arc. Although story wise the moments can seem a little paced out in importance, there is usually always something going on one way or another. Of course, it's not till our final act when things really heat up (in multiple ways) and some solid elements of tension over what characters will survive arises - before that, most the conflict feels more finely centered around the attitude shift that the nerd is going through as opposed to anything specifically focused on the car. In that way, it does feel very Stephen King - that normal sort of story that gets injected with a dose of supernatural - even if a portion of that supernatural is exposed to the viewer before we even get to most the main players.
It's another enjoyable King tagged movie in my book. You might notice that I keep phrasing it like that - as tagged. That's largely to avoid confusion that a phrase like "adaptation" would bring. See, I haven't read the book, so I admit my coloration on expectations are probably far less then any normal King fan might be. All I expected to see was a killer car, and that car was indeed killer in design and action. I do feel that if nothing else, the amount of car carnage on display should be enough to justify the horror genre amongst mechanics and car lovers - as there's at least two nice looking cars in this thing that get pretty trashed. I liked it, and would argue it'd be worth checking out for those who don't mind that 80's sensibility and flippant usage of the english language.