A high concept movie pure and simply The Car can be summed up in one sentence as Jaws on wheels however plenty of fun is to be had if you embrace this ridiculous and joyous ride which has a lot more going for it than just a killer car.
It is the killer car however that the film revolves around with the coffin shaped, vampire fanged fendered all black beast on four wheels riding through the deserts of Utah from the start forcing two bicycling teens off a cliff and mowing down a hippy with a trombone.
These car crimes reach the local sheriff’s office where Captain Wade Parent (The Amityville Horror James Brolin father of Josh Brolin) and his officers start to investigate further failing to connect the oil splattered dots till it’s much too late.
As the vengeful vehicle is sighted across the area and the bodies begin to pile up it seems the car is unstoppable and when the Native American community starts talking of demons and spirits Wade starts to realise he has a lot more on his hands than a mad motorist with road rage.
Made by Universal to cash in on the popularity of violent car thriller’s such as Steven Spielberg’s spectacular Duel and Roger Corman’s hilarious Death Race 2000 The Car’s simplistic and preposterous story is saved by how serious all the characters contained in the film’s word treat it.
With a big cast making up the small town folk and their small town lives thrown into turmoil The Car stars Kathleen Lloyd (The Missouri Breaks), John Marley (The Godfather), and Ronny Cox (Deliverance) all giving great performances.
It is Brolin who centers the whole film giving a high class turn in a trashy movie as the motorbike riding everyman cop with a loving family who you can’t help rooting for especially when his world and everyone he loves is run over by the evil blood thirsty car.
Equally as important as the hero is the villain of the piece which here is the customized 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III designed by famed Hollywood car customizer George Barris, a maliciously magnificent machine that somehow manages to be brought to life due to some great filming.
Fetishised and anthropomorphised by the camera with abstracted shots of its tires and glowing headlights the car has a character all of its own with its insistent horn and growling engine emphsising its beastly qualities while the red tinged through the windscreen shots heighten its supernatural aura.
Throwing in some excellent set pieces such as the police car chase and the parade rehearsal gone wrong, resulting in the car cornering the kids and their teachers in the hallowed ground of a cemetery that it seemingly can’t enter, the film makes sure to keep things moving and keep up the killing all the way to the explosive climax which still leaves the question of the car’s origin partially unanswered.
A definite influence on more modern killer vehicle movies such as Maximum Overdrive, Super Hybrid, Road Train and the wonderful postmodern mind bender that is Rubber, The Car is a cult horror classic full of fear packed freewheeling fun and well worth a watch for petrol heads and horror buffs.