Halloween’s just around the corner. And like everyone else we thought we wouldn’t miss this little trick. So we decided to give you a treat combining this ghoulish celebration with our favourite thing in the entire world – cars.
Yeah, there’s your big name scary vehicle movies. Spielberg gets his first outing in Duel, where some poor bloke’s chased around by an articulated lorry. Christine sees the master, Stephen King, narrate a classic tale of possession in automotive form and Hitcher reminds us of why we really should avoid getting a lift with a stranger.
But we prefer a more alternative look. What about those movies that poke fun at all the ghastly and devilish mechanics of the standard scary film? We’re talking about the schlock-horror sillies that turn the genre on its head.
Comedy, cars and a whole lot of blood come together to create the pictures that we want to watch – which we have helpfully listed in this article, giving you a roadmap of our favourite silly and scary car movies.
Death Race 2000 (1975) – Paul Bartell
The Car: Heavily modified Chevrolet Corvette
The Star: David Carradine
Even though Hollywood rumours state that director Paul Bartell wanted to make this into a dark and serious dystopian piece, Death Race 2000 drives on the more ridiculous side of the road. Crazy racers tear up a future cross-country race, receiving points for killing pedestrians until one champion starts to question the whole affair.
Although this might sound a little like central London on a Monday morning, you have to ask how much influence this film had on computer games like Carmeggedon and Grand Theft Auto, with its maiming and killing mode.
Rubber (2010) – Quentin Dupieux
The Car: A Tyre
The Star: Stephen Spinella
A tyre comes to life and immediately decides it prefers death. The death of other people that is… As this rubber object goes on a killing spree around a desert town. After becoming obsessed with a strange and beautiful woman the tyre is dragged around the houses before the movie’s climax – and we don’t want to give too much away.
When it comes to surreal, Rubber really hits the road. This is an insane premise that is even more insane than you can possibly imagine, whilst still managing to come up with a truly memorable end and quality storyline.
The Cars that Ate Paris (1974) – Peter Weir
The Car: Some real metallic monsters
The Star: Terry Camilleri
This violent and eccentric classic sees two brothers towing a caravan through the outback when they fall victim to a town that drives people off the road for a living. One brother dies, whilst the other, Arthur, gets to wake up in a hospital right at the centre of this crazy little place called Paris. From then on in it’s a real backside ride into a dark, terrifying and ever so slightly zany world.
The Cars that Ate Paris is like no other film that you have seen. Made to parody the horror films that became so popular in the 1970s, this big screen classic is a very complex satire, which pokes fun at the car mad Australian spirit that’s played out full throttle in films like Mad Max.
The Car (1977) – Elliot Silverstein
The Car: Customised Lincoln Continental Mark III
The Star: James Brolin
The car in The Car goes on a rampage. It’s that simple. After mowing down a couple of youngsters on their bikes, it ramps up the action, terrorising a whole town, whilst skilfully dodging the long arm of the law. The sheriff goes on the hunt after the vehicle has a run in with his girlfriend. And then things get a whole lot more spooky.
There were four cars specially custom built for this film by celebrated Hollywood auto-specialist George Barris, who was also responsible for coming up with the famous Adam West Batmobile and the Iconic Munster Koach.
Maximum Overdrive (1986) – Stephen King
The Car: The most memorable is a Western Star 4800 Truck
The Star: Emilio Estevez
Maximum Overdrive is loosely based on another Stephen King short story, Trucks. Earth is caught in the tail of a comet, which brings all the machines to life, including the cars. Following a human fightback led by brat-packer Emilio Estevez, there’s the sunset scene with a little UFO intrigue thrown in for good measure.
Go to Stephen King’s filmography listings and you’ll see a ton of writing credits, but only one directing credit. Maximum Overdrive is the single outing for this stalwart of the genre in celluloid form and for that reason alone, it’s worth savouring.
Death Proof (2007) – Quentin Tarantino
The Car: 1970 Chevy Nova and a 1969 Dodge Charger
The Star: Kurt Russell
Hollywood stuntman Mike, played by Kurt Russell has a very interesting car. Apart from one seat in the vehicle, it’s completely Death Proof. After taking a girl for a murderous journey in the jalopy, her friends decide to pay back the attack, taking Mike on the ride of his life.
You may not know it, but this film page homage to a number of others – from references to Russell’s epic Big Trouble in Little China in the script through to the plates on the cars, copied from films like Bullitt and Dirty Mary Crazy Larry.
The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2) (1981) – George Miller
The Car: a heavily modified 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT Coupe
The Star: Mel Gibson
If you haven’t seen this film then ask yourself why not? Mel Gibson resumes his role as the Road Warrior, taking on a group of outback renegades in a war for oil. There’s plenty to love about this film and tons of little funny turns as the ratchet turns up to a massive finish, giving you the perfect twist down a road to nowhere.
Mel Gibson only has 16 lines of dialogue in this entire film, meaning he had quite an easy ride when it came to learning the script – and the 7 Sisters Oil mark on the tanker at the end of the film is a reference to an old conspiracy theory that falsely claimed petroleum companies had supressed an innovative carburettor to keep oil prices high.
Blood Car (2007) – Alex Orr
The Car: ???
The Star: Mike Brune
When the petrol runs out, prices start to rise to unquestionable levels. But what could cars possibly use for an alternative fuel? Well the clue is in the title as the kindergarten teacher Archie Andrews puts together a vile automobile that has the power to run on something a whole lot creepier.
This is the one film on the list that runs truest to the schlock horror genre. The mad scientist in the form of Artie is the archetypal geeky guy who turns bad after having enough of life’s beat-downs, giving the whole production a comic book vibe that’s hard not to love.
Repo Man (1984) – Alex Cox
The Car: One flashy red Cadillac
The Star: Harry Dean Stanton
This film has real cult status and it’s easy to see why. What starts off as a seemingly normal film about the gritty realities of living as a repo man, repossessing cars in the sunny state of California takes on a twist that’s absolutely out of this world, as things get stranger than you can possibly imagine.
With a low budget and high concept, Repo Man economically critiques everything that’s wrong with the 1980s with a toothless grin and a punk sneer. Very watchable and a real thorn in the side of the studios, this is a must watch classic that packs a ton of laughs.
Remember that these films are just for fun, but there’s a whole load of real life horror on the road. So always check your tyres, make sure your windscreen is clean and get a vicar to exorcise any ghosts than happen to have possessed your pistons before embarking on any night-time Halloween ride.