The Car (1977)
Dir. Elliot Silverstein
Written by Michael Butler & Dennis Shryack and Lane Slate
Starring James Brolin, Kathleen Lloyd, Ronny Cox
One day, for no particular reason, an evil car decides to start running over the citizens of a tiny Southwestern town. Since cars are silent and can come from anywhere, this is a huge problem. Oh right, I just remembered that cars are noisy and can only drive on roads, so really it’s just a menace to anyone walking or biking along a road which they can’t exit to the left or right, which, it turns out, is pretty much the whole town. I’m not sure if these people have houses or what, but it seems like they spend most of their time standing in the middle of the street, staring in confusion at cars baring down on them.
Since it’s pretty much impossible for an adult human being to be scared of an evil car, this is sort of more in the JAWS mold than your typical horror movie, where we follow the cops trying to deal with a menace to the citizens of a small town (and only two years later, what a weird coincidence). James Brolin has an easier time than Roy Scheider, though; no one complains when he closes down the roads. And I gotta admit, as bald-facedly laughable as this concept is, well, you can’t really be mad at a shark for eating people. But a car that runs down attractive schoolteachers in the comfort of their own home, well, that’s just being an asshole. This car is a total prick, and you end up rooting against it.
Most of the movie is way too slow and pointless to really be watched seriously by human eyes (after all, how many scenes can we watch of a car angrily driving around in the dust in pursuit of a human who by any reasonable measure should be able to avoid it simply by stepping to the left or right?) but it is at least is amiable enough to try a few humorously absurd antics. That scene, referenced in both South Park and Futurama, where a nervous person returns to their house only to find that the car is already INSIDE THEIR HOME!!! is from this movie, for example. There are some mid-level impressive stunts of cars and motorcycles doing obviously dangerous things for real, a couple funny kills, and a nicely restrained non-explanation for what the fuck is the deal with this asshole car, anyway*. If it wasn’t obviously one of the main influences for the Futurama episode where Bender turns into a were-care (the design of his were-car form is a direct lift of THE CAR) it might not be worth watching, but it is, so it is. It’s genial, and sporadically humorous enough to be potentially enjoyable when viewed with friends and a lot of alcohol. Just don’t get behind the wheel afterwards.
*Anton LaVey gets a “technical advisor” credit on the film, and gets a pre-credit quote from the Satanic Bible, which might lead one to jump to conclusions about who’s behind the wheel. But let’s not be hasty; it’s equally possible LaVey is just a classic car collector who helped furnish the (evil) custom Lincoln Continental Mark III, notable for not having any door handles or respect for human life.