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Maximum Overdrive is a 1986 American comedy horror film written and directed by Stephen King. The film stars Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle, Laura Harrington, and Yeardley Smith. The screenplay was inspired by and loosely based on King's short story "Trucks", which was included in the author's first collection of short stories, Night Shift, and follows the events after all machines (including cars, trucks, radios, drones, arcades, vending machines, etc.) go sentient when the Earth crosses the tail of a comet, initiating a worldwide killing spree.

The film is King's only directorial effort, though dozens of films have been based on his novels or short stories. It contained black humor elements and a generally campy tone, which contrasts with King's somber subject matter in books. The film has a mid-1980s hard rock soundtrack composed entirely by the group AC/DC (King's favorite band), whose album Who Made Who was released as the Maximum Overdrive soundtrack. It includes the best-selling singles "Who Made Who", "You Shook Me All Night Long", and "Hells Bells".

Maximum Overdrive was theatrically released on July 25, 1986, to generally negative reviews from critics. It was nominated for two Golden Raspberry Awards including Worst Director for King and Worst Actor for Estevez in 1987, but both lost to Prince for Under the Cherry Moon. In 1988, Maximum Overdrive was nominated for "Best Film" at the International Fantasy Film Awards. King disowned the film, describing it as a "moron movie", and considered the process a learning experience, after which he intended never to direct again.

Plot

As the Earth crosses the tail of a comet, previously inanimate machines suddenly spring to life; an ATM insults a customer (King in a cameo) and a bascule bridge rises during heavy traffic, causing all vehicles upon the bridge to fall into the river or collide. Chaos sets in as machines of all kinds begin attacking humans worldwide. At the Dixie Boy Truck Stop just outside Wilmington, North Carolina, employee Duncan Keller is blinded after a gas dispenser sprays diesel in his eyes. An electric knife injures waitress Wanda June, and arcade machines in the back room electrocute a customer. Cook and paroled ex-convict Bill Robinson begins to suspect something is wrong. Meanwhile, at a Little League game, a vending machine kills the coach by firing canned soda point-blank at him. A driverless roller compactor flattens one of the fleeing children, but Duncan's son Deke manages to escape on his bike.

Newlyweds Connie and Curt stop at a gas station, where a brown tow truck tries to kill Curt, but he and Connie escape in their car. Deke rides through his town as humans and even pets are brutally killed by lawnmowers, chainsaws, electric hair dryers, pocket radios, RC cars and an ice cream truck. At the Dixie Boy, a black Western Star 4800 sporting a giant Green Goblin mask on its grille runs over bible salesman Camp Loman after a red garbage truck kills Duncan. Later, several big rig trucks encircle the truck stop.

Meanwhile, a Mack truck pursues Connie and Curt, but they make it crash off the side of the road as it explodes. They arrive at the truck stop and try to pass between the trucks, but their car is hit and overturns. Bill and Brett Graham, a hitchhiker, rush to help them, but the trucks attack them. The owner Bubba Hendershot uses M72 LAW rockets he had stored in a bunker hidden under the diner to destroy many of the trucks. Deke makes it to the truck stop later that evening and tries to enter via the sewers, but is obstructed by the wire mesh covering the opening. That night, the survivors hear Loman screaming in a ditch, and Bill and Curt sneak out to help him by climbing through the sewers. Deke finds Loman and believes he is dead, but he suddenly jumps up and attacks Deke. Bill and Curt rescue Deke, and a truck chases them back into the pipe.

The next morning, a Caterpillar D7G bulldozer and an M274 Mule drive to the truck stop (the former pushes Hendershot's Cadillac inside). The angered Hendershot uses the rocket launcher to blow up the bulldozer, but the Mule fires its post-mounted M60 machine gun into the building, killing several people, including Hendershot and Wanda. The Mule then demands, via sending morse code signals through its horn that Deke deciphers, that the humans pump the trucks' diesel for them in exchange for their lives. The survivors soon realize their own machines have enslaved them. Bill suggests they escape to a local island just off the coast, on which no motorized vehicles are permitted. While the crew is resting, Bill theorizes that the comet is actually a "broom" operated by interstellar aliens that are using Earth's machines to destroy humanity so the aliens can repopulate the Earth. During a fueling operation, Bill sneaks a grenade onto the Mule vehicle, destroying it, then leads the party out of the diner via a sewer hatch to the main road just as the trucks demolish the entire truck stop. The Green Goblin truck pursues the survivors to the docks, managing to kill trucker Brad when he falls behind. After Bill destroys the truck with a direct hit from an M72 LAW rocket shot, the survivors then sail off to safety. A title card epilogue explains that two days later, a UFO was destroyed by a Soviet "weather satellite" conveniently equipped with class IV nuclear missiles and a laser cannon. Six days later, the Earth passes out of the comet's tail, and the survivors are still alive.

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