By Richard Winters
My Rating: 3 out of 10
4-Word Review: No driver no problem.
This is an expectedly dumb horror film about a driverless car that comes out of the desert and begins to terrorize a small town in Utah.
The film fails to be scary or suspenseful in even the slightest way. It is basically a Jaws rip-off put on wheels, but has no basis in reality and not half as compelling. It takes a weird idea and then submerges it with a conventional narrative. The car attacks are separated by drawn out soap opera style drama making you look forward to the attacks because at least they inject some excitement. The attacks though are pretty sanitized and at times even hokey. The ending is too pat and offers no explanation as to why any of this even occurred. The consistently sunny and picturesque small town scenes are not good at creating a horror atmosphere. The one brief moment where actor James Brolin confronts the car on a lonely desert highway is the only part that offers anything in the way of interesting surrealism.
The car itself really doesn’t look that frightening and resembles a toy car and moves around like it is being run by remote control. Its horn sounds like a cross between one used for a train or a boat and comes off as being more distracting than scary. It behaves more like a thinking animal than a demonic object. It drives away from the police and seems to have a strategy for what it does. The scenes where actress Kathleen Lloyd tries to ‘talk’ to it and its responses to her talking is downright laughable.
For what it’s worth R.G. Armstrong gets one of his better grimy character roles, but Lloyd is completely wasted as usual and Brolin seems as sterile as ever. Ronny Cox must be given credit simply for his wonderfully distressed facial expressions. John Rubenstein is engaging, but then gets killed off too quickly.
Director Elliot Silverstein adds a few nice directorial touches, but it can’t overcome the basic weaknesses of the script. The closing credits features the car seemingly driving around the streets of Los Angeles in apparent attempt to ‘scare’ everyone into believing that it might still be ‘out there’. Of course judging by all the bad drivers L.A. already has this car wouldn’t make much of a difference.
My Rating: 3 out of 10
Released: May 13, 1977
Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes
Director: Elliot Silverstein
Available: VHS, DVD