Friday, March 4, 2011

The Car: Brush Your Teeth, Shake Your Ass

I've been known to turn a nose up at killer car movies in the past. The reasons extending from a long list of, "'s kind of boring isn't it?" or "You know...I don't really like driving very much at all" or even, "Being in a car when my Mom is driving makes me car sick so..." Yes I've come up with every excuse in the book which is surprising seeing as how I genuinely like killer car movies once I actually sit down and watch them. The Car had something else going for it though. Something other worldly. Something....mustachioed. Something, James Brolin. And so I couldn't ignore its heavenly cries any longer.

Truth be told, The Car has a whole lot of awesome questioning going on. As in, "Wait a minute why is this so awesome?" There's pretty much nothing about The Car that should be good (other than James Brolin's facial expressions)

and yet I find myself rewinding it and reliving some of the greater moments over and over again. Yes mostly it's because the writing is insanely ridiculous and perfect in every way possible, but also I think it's because The Car has this weird burst of character emanating from it. So it may not be the greatest film ever made--but at least it's a film that you will remember and that's saying something.

In a nutshell, The Car is about a dastardly black sedan terrorizing a small town. Apparently the car has no driver and mows down bikers and hitch hikers without any kind of after thought. Again, this isn't surprising since one is driving it. James Brolin and his fellow cops then embark on a mission to bring the car down. Many explosions will follow.

While there isn't a whole lot in the way of blood, gore and actual physical scares--The Car does something here that is reminiscent of some of the greatest horror films of all time. It creates a sense of dread that almost seems to drive us mad. Due to this, the car in The Car--isn't just a car any longer, it's an actual villain whose presence immediately makes our stomachs turn. Although the film is largely a bit silly--you can't deny that there are honest to goodness scenes of fear in this. Most notably in my opinion, is the scene where Lauren is on the phone with Wade. She is in agony over the fact that she thinks the car is close and that she can even hear its engine. All the while we see the headlights in the distance growing steadily bigger.

Dramatic irony if I ever saw it....

Perhaps even better than this, is the scene with the school kids practicing their marching band routine. This is a scene that I actually give a ton of credit to.

This is because not only was it harking back to the fabulous and quite perfect scene of the school kids and the birds, but it also manages to make you feel incredibly antsy and extremely fearful of the outcome. It's not uncommon in horror films to want your characters to die. Here though I was dreading the fact that the car could easily mow down all these kids within seconds.

It was one of those scenes that can be linked to any number of films where children are in perilous danger. Think Jaws, Frankenstein, The Birds or even a film like Halloween.

Also notable is the nice way that film uses the car's dust trail to create a sense of warning and danger.

It acts as the shark fin so to speak and its presence often creates violent yelling at the TV screen. If only people would look around when they are keeping watch then we wouldn't have this problem.

For all the strangely good things going on in The Car however, there is of course some hilarity. There's a lot of bad writing here that almost makes me feel embarrassed for the actors that are forced to utter it. There's also a lot of confusion happening, like why for instance there is this awesome streak of blood when we all know that all the car did was push a girl off the cliff.

There's Kathleen Lloyd's character of Lauren who seems to be just a little too vocal about well--about everything really. She's one of those cringe worthy characters that thinks she's hilarious because she can utilize a Brooklyn cop accent. Funny? More like cheese city. She also has a great scene where her superior shows her a drawing that one of her young students did. A drawing of Lauren naked at the chalkboard. Lauren laughs it off and makes jokes about how big he made her boobs, but all of it is kind of face palm inducing.

I also enjoyed the "Stalker Alert" moment that we had in Lauren's house.

Clearly we know what she does in her spare time.

And of course how could we bring up hilarity and not mention James Brolin. He utters what is perhaps the most perplexing line out of the whole film. It goes something like this, "Ever notice it's impossible to brush your teeth without wiggling your ass?" To which Lauren shakes her head and says, "Everybody knows that!"

.........maybe the invention of the electric toothbrush has changed this universal knowledge on us, but remind me again why "everybody knows" that this is true? I mean IS IT true?

And how can we forget the stunt double moment of the year?

Yes, The Car has its moments. Other than it being hilarious in parts, it does actually have its fair share of problems. Mostly in the confusion area surrounding the car. One of my main problems with the film overall is that it doesn't really explain anything very well. At one point Luke launches into this whole theory of why the car can't drive over hallowed ground but he never finished the theory. Naturally I was rusty on my whole who can and cannot walk on hallowed ground knowledge so the only thing I thought of was witches (Thank you Hocus Pocus). But apparently it means the devil.

Now that is pretty neat except for the fact that this movie literally offers up no explanation about why the devil is terrorizing this town, or why he chooses to drive a car, or why anything. Technically you could make up some theories and think about why, but The Car isn't exactly the type of movie to make you think, if you know what I mean.

The plot synopsis hinted at the real cause of the car being this unbelievable, scary thing-but barely anybody talks about it. I wanted MORE. I wanted to know why. Man, I just wanted some answers and unfortunately we got zippo. In fact, unless you are smart enough to draw the conclusion that the car is the devil, the only real explanation you'll get is this giant fire explosion.

Let's play what do you see in the fire?

Personally I saw a dragon--which I thought was pretty cool until I realized that a dragon driving a car would be pretty silly. Then I thought oh well I guess it's a snake.......but again how many people are really capable of connecting snakes and the devil today? People can't even tell you where Texas is located on a map. So anyways...this is all the explanation we get. Devil, snake, dragon, weird old man face I spotted in the lower right corner. It's a bundle of gee, thanks a lot The Car for clearing that up *Sarcasm*.

The film also has a real knack for introducing side plots that do not matter in the slightest. Like the side plot of Luke's drinking, Lauren and Wade's relationship, what happened to Wade's wife? The man who beats his wife, the same man who is mean to Indians. I mean, why are we led to believe that Luke sneaking out to drink on his 2 year anniversary of being sober will be an important part of the overall story when it's not? Or MAYBE the devil chose to terrorize this town because people can't stay sober and because people beat their wives....hmmmm but wouldn't the devil like that stuff? I'm so confused!!

Overall The Car has its pacing problems, it has its confusion and it certainly is not a fan of explaining things. Little of it makes any sense at all really, but you can't deny that the film doesn't have at least a little something going for it. The car IS ominous, and it is menacing and scary. The film is hilarious is in its own way and it does have this strange little bit of charm. Again, I think the whole point of The Car is James Brolin.

Would this movie have ever come to life has he not been involved? I think not.


Dod said...

Great review for a movie that was making the grapevine rounds when I was a kid in grade school in '77. No Internet then - we had to rely on cafeteria talk and passing notes.

And yet I've never seen this. Your excellent review makes me want to get a hold of it and bask in the James Brolin-ness of it all.

Great stuff again, Andre, really.

The Mike said...

I think you nailed it. It's so not a good movie, but it's just soooo...good. Like, I just want it playing in the background at times so I could jump in and go "OH YES, THE CAR!" and then watch for a little bit and get tired and move on and then come back and go "OH YES, THE CAR!" It's just so attention grabbingly sweet.

Anonymous said...

I see...DE DEBBIL! Don't call it a glorified TV-Movie-the-Week. Just blow the desert dust off that oil portrait of James Brolin, get on the lemon yellow phone and say hello to THE CAR!

Unknown said...

I caught this for the first time--at least as far as I can recall--about three years ago. The car had an iconic look, and while the acting was a chore to sit through at times, I loved watching that car roll over everyone it could get at.

Christine Hadden said...

I totally remember seeing this oh-so-many years ago and actually being rather scared. Yep, I was YOUNG.
It must have made an impression on me though, because for years it sat in the back of my brain and I kept thinking "What was the name of that movie with the good looking dude and the creepy car?!" - oh yeah - THE CAR! Duh.

But these days, I have to admit taking another look at it sounds like a fabulous evening, especially if I make it a two-fer and include the original Amityville. No one can beat Brolin and his 'stache.

Big D said...

I remember this. I was a wee laddie when it was shown on late night saturday TV.
I love the travelling, trumpet playing man at the beginning!
Great moment of nostaglia.
Thanks And.

Fred [The Wolf] said...

I really love this film because it's so campy and so over-the-top silly. I love that scene where the car just jumps through the window to ran over the teacher. I remember watching that and just dying of laughter for ten straight minutes. Apparently the demon possessing this car was a high school dropout or something. Excellent review. And poor James Brolin - he was so cool until that evil Streisand woman got her claws into him. RIP 'Stache...