UNITED STATES—Is it mere coincidence the seasons of giving and saying thanks come on the heels of a holiday known for its ominous ultimatum, “Trick or Treat?” Not likely. Indeed, most of us have a lot to atone for by the time December rolls around. If we haven’t overindulged in Halloween candy, we’ve surely played some frightening prank that brought some hapless relative to the brink of cardiac arrest. Even the most noble boy/girl scouts of us can’t help but show a little of our mischievous sides on Halloween. Maybe it’s the costumes that provide us with the lack of inhibition, the feeling that we can get away with anything when we are hidden from recognition. Or, maybe it’s just that never-ending sugar rush. Either way, scaring and being scared is just plain fun. So, if you want to be scared this Halloween and you also love cars or road trips, try these frightful flicks (listed in order of least to most scary):
Probably the worst movie and least scary viewing experience of all the flicks on this list, Maximum Overdrive makes the guest list of this club with the help of a little “name-dropping” (it was directed by Stephen King) and a crisp Benjamin Franklin discreetly slipped to the bouncer. Once inside, the film is nothing but a disappointment to everyone. This “horror” film is more comedic than frightening and the only thing keeping a reluctant audience’s mild interest is the AC/DC soundtrack. Unfortunately cost cutting is evident throughout the production as the “suspenseful” score is also by AC/DC. Whenever something that is supposed to be frightening happens, a distorted guitar riff sounds off, resulting in a sad attempt to rip-off the Norman Bates murder scenes in Hitchcock’s Psycho.
It seems pretty ironic that this film, which stars a fast, Grim Reaper-like anthropomorphic car, would gain momentum so slowly. One glaring reason for this is that the first half of the film takes place during a bright sunny day. It isn’t until the sun goes down that this film becomes even remotely scary. The most frightening scene involves the car driving through one poor victim’s house. But, there really isn’t much more to keep you in suspense before or after that scene. What’s more, the incessant honking of the Mack truck-inspired horn gives you the impression there is nothing more than an impatient A-hole behind the wheel of this gaping-grilled hoopty rather than some demonic presence.
Don’t let the demure girl-next-door name fool you. This anthropomorphic 1958 Plymouth Fury is not something you’d want parked at a drive-in theater near you. This antagonistic automobile is basically an amalgamation of Michael Myers and Herbie. To call this flick a “movie for car guys” would be a bit misleading, to say the least. In fact, John Carpenter’s film serves as less of an enthusiast flick and more of a warning not to get too attached to your ride. But, the combination of Carpenter’s bone chilling keyboard/synthesizer riffs, reminiscent of those used in the many films comprising the Halloween franchise, and the overall dark and gloomy settings make this film scary enough to watch on a first date.
While it neglects one important element required to achieve the full five out of five screams rating (none of its scenes are shot at night), Steven Spielberg’s Duel succeeds in most other categories. Once it gains momentum, this horror film features quite a few startling moments that cause your heart to skip a beat. Where it really nails it, though, is in the way the film invites a viewer to live vicariously through the main character as he desperately attempts to escape the sick game of cat and mouse in which he becomes embroiled. Anyone who’s ever taken a long boring road trip down the I-5 will think twice before overtaking a rusty big rig after seeing this flick.
A proper horror film needn’t feature much more than Ted Levine’s voice to be qualified as scary. Joy Ride, however, doesn’t waste an opportunity to absolutely terrify you at every possible moment, including the ones in which Levine’s voice is silent. The mere fact that you never actually see Levine’s character, Rusty Nail, in person is the icing on the cake. If it weren’t for one particularly foreboding scene in which the movie’s two protagonists reluctantly visit one of Rusty Nail’s victims in a hospital bed, one might surmise that Levine is merely the voice of the menacing Mack truck that terrorizes the heroes throughout the movie.
If you feel this list of haunted cars is incomplete or just plain wrong in every way, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. If reading in print, please email Kyle at firstname.lastname@example.org .