FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Aug 4, 2008

Film Club: The Car

"We've got a crazy on our hands."

Why yes, officer...yes you do. Honk...honkhonkhonnnnnnnnnnk! That sound can only mean one thing- it's...THE CAR! What does it want? Why does it kill? Will it ever stop? Who's driving it? Who's Johnny? You'd might as well relax right now, Asky McGee, because none of your questions will be answered. All you need to know is that AutoJaws hates you and will run your ass over faster than you can yell "Cat poo!"

Don't worry, I'll explain that in a minute.

This 1977 awesome-piece of cinema opens with an All American-looking couple (the female half of which is Melody Thomas, who you may know as Melody Thomas Scott of television's The Young & the Restless- dazzle your friends with trivia!) giggling as they ride the roads of New Mexico in their short shorts. What could go wrong on such a beautiful blue day? Plenty, that's what, for here comes...The Car!

Director Elliot Silverstein only shows us fleeting images of the car- mostly he keeps it hidden or utilizes evil red car vision cam as it hurtles through Looney Toons-style tunnels towards the unsuspecting bikers. He treats the car like it's a monster and sets up some Friday the 13th style tension, which is the last thing I'd expect in a movie about a killer car.

The car wastes no time taking down the bikers by knocking them off bridges and cliffs, then speeding away with a puff of exhaust in search of more victims- at this point, I believe I turned to my friends and solemnly stated, "This has the potential to be the best movie ever made." Then the next five minutes happened, and I was no longer sure what to think.

Wade Parent (James Brolin) and his girl toy Lauren (Kathleen Lloyd) flirt and wrestle and engage in weird accents and nut play and I suppose we're supposed to find it charming or something, but my thoughts only turned to "I can't fucking wait until Lauren gets run over." Wade heads off to his job at the police department, Lauren heads off to her job doing something that I hope will put her immediately in the path of an oncoming car, and we head off to an even weirder five minutes.

Some French Horn-clutching, Leo Sayer-looking dude is ostensibly hitchhiking when he breaks up a domestic violence situation. I applaud the French Horn-clutching, Leo Sayer-looking dude for helping out the abused wife, but then he has to go and be all annoying, almost more annoying than the wife beater. Once the French Horn-clutching, Leo Sayer-looking dude quips "Wouldn't that be fantastic? Farting music for a year!", I get the feeling that he spends a lot of time in the exclusive company of his French Horn...and I get pretty excited when I see the plume of dust down the road. The plume gets bigger- 'tis the car, natch, on a mission to run over the annoying French Horn-clutching, Leo Sayer-looking dude! This car is all right by me, even if I happen to agree with French Horn-clutching, Leo Sayer-looking dude's views on farting music.

The police force (which is fucking huge considering that the town only has one street) is baffled by all the dead bodies. Witnesses, including the wife beater and some old Indian broad, say all sorts of crazy things- the car has no license plate! The car has...honk driver! No matter, though- like all good animal attack movies (see: Jaws, The Swarm), the townsfolk in The Car refuse to cancel the...the...parade festival or whatever the hell it is just because some cuckoo nutso guy is on the loose mowing people down in his sedan.

Boy, will they rue that decision! At a parade festival rehearsal, a positively unearthly wind heralds the arrival of THE CAR, which tries to run over young and old alike.

The group takes refuge in a cemetery and stupid Lauren tries to act all tough. She starts taunting the car, calling it an "upside-down bathtub" and spouting other equally scathing put-downs. Again I think, "I can't fucking wait until Lauren gets run over", but the car can't seem to do anything but get mad and do donuts- the cemetery, you see, is hallowed ground, and the eeeeevil sedan cannot enter!

I'll tell you who can enter the graveyard, however- the most awesome lady I've seen in a movie since the Poole sisters, that's who! In a moment of pure cinematic glory, this woman shakes her fist at the car and yells...well, it sounds like "Cat poo!", although I've been told that in subtitles it's said she exclaims "Tadpole!" Neither makes much sense, and so I'm sticking with "cat poo". I love this woman- and when I get older, you can bet your ass that I'll be busting out some flip-top glasses and standing at bus stops, shaking my fists at people and calling them cat poo. Hitch your wagon to a star, I say!

The police continue to be baffled, although they're at least attempting to catch the car by setting up roadblocks and the such. James Brolin manages a face off, but soon discovers that bullets do no damage to the satanmobile. Windshields remain intact, tires remain inflated, and the car remains mysterious and evil. James Brolin approaches the driver's side, and the door suddenly opens and whacks him unconscious. Why the car doesn't run him over and finish the job, I have no idea. Another mystery of life, I suppose.

James Brolin wakes up in the hospital, and there he remains as Lauren heads home before spending the night taking care of his young daughters (played by Kyle and Kim Richards of Halloween and Escape to Witch Mountain respectively- how rad is that?). She stands in the kitchen whining to James Brolin- she can hear the engine of that damn car!- when finally- FINALLY- she gets taught a lesson about sassin' the devil's sedan. The car drives through the house to run that bitch over, and I believe I let out a cheer.

James Brolin, of course, does not cheer...and now, his battle with the car is personal. He comes home and finds the car in his garage, just sitting there. Eyaagh! The scene is absolutely reminiscent of vampire movies like 'Salem's Lot, when our intrepid heroes come across the eeeevil bloodsuckers slumbering in their coffins. Everything gets all tense, and we're just waiting for the bad guy to spring to life- and The Car doesn't disappoint...mostly.

Again, rather than simply running over James Brolin, the car just sits there, honking and revving its engine; apparently it either wants to kill him slowly via carbon monoxide poisoning, or it wants to annoy him to death with noise. Just as I was getting ready to shake my fist and yell "Cat poo!" "Enough with the fucking horn already!", the car busts out of the garage and speeds off.

The police have gotten their shit together and they've come up with a plan to lure the car into a canyon and explode it with explosives; after much car versus motorcycle chase action and men running with wires running action, their plan comes to fruition. There's a massive explosion and eeeevil devil faces appear in the fire as...I guess as the eeeevil devil spirits are released from the car!

One thing's for sure, though, the scene features overacting of a caliber I haven't seen since Silent Film Zombie! Awesome. Except, that is, for the dude on the upper left, who looks a bit bored with the devil fire clouds.

The Car ends rather ambiguously as we see tires barreling through city streets and hear the ominous honk...honkhonkhonnnnnk. Did the car survive? Does the devil have a massive fleet of evil sedans, a la Elvis and his Cadillacs? Isn't it funny when the devil has cars and dogs doing his bidding? It seems as if he's taking the really hard approach to world domination.

But no matter! The Car is awesome, surely the finest film of its kind. My only wish- and it makes me feel a bit funny to say it- is that there was more explicit carnage. I really wanted to see Lauren and Leo Sayer get run over but good.


Film Club Coolies, y'all!

The Blood Spattered Scribe
The Good, the Bad, and the Wonky
Awesomeness for Awesome's Sake
Dinner With Max Jenke
Evil on Two Legs
That Will Teach Them To Be Bad
The Horror Section
Film Experience
Acheter et entretenir sa tronconneuse (c'est French ca!)
Zombie Cupcake
Monstruos Calientes
Askewed Views
Overthinking It
House of 1000 Courses
Lazy Eye Theatre


Anonymous said...

I could have done with more car-nage too...but the car slowly pushing the cop's door shut, then off the cliff kinda made up for it.

After the car takes care of the bikers, and we get the close up exhaust "Blech!!!" sound...I thought we were in for a lot more "Love Bug" style hijinx...thank goodness the car went crazy... [could you imagine HERBIE vs. THE CAR....??? holy crap...]

Besides "cat poo!!!" the other lines that made me laugh out loud were: "she was the first..." and the native american officer telling the wife beater to "sit 'em down". Crazy.

Great pick, thanks Stacie.

Scott Sigler said...

Stick with "Cat Poo." I think it's hard to go wrong with that as high-quality dialogue, regardless of the situation.

timothy grant said...

Thanks for re-introducing THE CAR to me. I haven't seen it since I was a yungun.

In the seventies you couldn't lose with cars, Indians-who-know-better, Marlboro man moustaches or unstoppable devil forces.

THE CAR was like a seventies movie mashup - Smokey and the Bandit, Jaws, The Exorcist, and Easy Rider all rolled into one.

And of course my favorite thing is that everyone could have survived if they just stayed off the frigging road (especially at the parade which no one attended except the participants). And those bicyclists had mad shoulder to pull onto!!! They asked for it!

Anonymous said...

It's the devil's car! That car is sedan-ic!

I'm here all week.

OCKerouac said...

Wait just a minute... A full on review of The Car wiothout a single mention of the giant Jimmy Brolin oil painting in the middle of Lauren's living room? I certainly hope ole JB got to hold on to that treasure after the film wrapped. I get the feeling it's hanging over Barbara Streisand's gold-plated toilet at this very second.

Also, did anybody else notice the chilling psychic quality of The Car's menacing horn? If you ask me, it was eerily reminiscent of the Aamco commercial horn... Commercials that in later years would feature old Beardy Brolin himself!

What The Car lacks in entertaining gore, it certainly makes up for in useless prognostication...

rob! said...

i didn't find lauren that annoying, and i had sympathy for the actress who had to do a five-minute monologue to a car.

weird: the word verification for this comment is "nqHELL." spooky!

Zombie Cupcake said...

I so regret not mentioning the oil painting in my 'review'! I even guffawingly pointed it out whilst watching. Ah well, here we go:

It's not my greatest work ever, but I'm not so ashamed that I won't share. Looking forward to the next one!


for what it's worth, I kept hearing about this so I tried.

This Car Won't Start


Fred [The Wolf] said...

I agree. THE CAR is a very cool flick. That scene with Lauren and the car jumping into the house to kill her made me laugh so hard.

Here's my review if you're interested:

Full Moon Reviews Presents: THE CAR (1977)

P. K. Nail said...

Gosh, I loved this movie! It takes guts to film a car as if it were a human stalking killer, but kudos to the filmmakers for going with it.

I concur on "cat poo." That is ABSOLUTELY what I heard when I watched it.

FatalPierce said...

Crap, now I want to watch it a third time because I somehow missed the "cat poo" lady!

I didn't dislike Lauren all that much, but for a teacher she did do some really stupid things didn't she?

I point a few out somewhere in here

Heather Santrous said...

Damn, I missed yet another club selection. I really wanted to be apart of this one too. It is a movie that I had watched before, on late night cable once. I have been busy trying to get a few posts ready, so the club selection slipped my mind. Hopefully I will be apart of the next one.

Dave Ehrlich said...

First time Film Clubber here; after some truly maddening Blogger formatting nightmares and font formatting issues, I've survived:

Monstruos Calientes - Final Girl Film Club: The Car

Thanks for the fun pick, Stacie.

PIPER said...

I'm writing. I'm writing. I want to be a coolies.

Anonymous said...

A touch late, but here it be...

Anonymous said...

We've got our review up at House of 1000 Courses.

Anonymous said...

I'm such a jerk. I watched this movie- and LOVED it, yet couldn't throw together a review. Jerk with a capital "J I tell ya.

My big revelation was going to be this:
I watch all movies with the subtitles on as I am mildly deaf and an above ground subway track is right outside my window. Whilst reading these subtitles I caught a trend. Every time the Car killed, the subtitles said "Horn Honks Triumphantly" OMG LOL

OCKerouac said...

Well that's it. Now I'm going to have to customize my car to make the horn honk triumphantly. I wonder if that'll void the warranty...

Arbogast said...

Cat poo lady is Kate Murtagh, probably best known as the Waitress on the cover of Supertramp's Breakfast in America album. (Cut to the 20-somethings cocking their heads at me like I have two of my own. "Supertramp?") Kate (who's still alive, I might add) was Moms Smackley (best character name ever) in Switchblade Sisters and also a mean-as-Hell villain in the 1975 remake of Farewell My Lovely. And of course Stacie knows this (as she knows that the Leo Sayer looking guy is John Rubinstein) but she's just pretending not to be as old as she really is.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I have to find this movie.
I thought I saw all the weird 70 flicks. Apparently not!

Thanks Stacie :)

Anonymous said...

Im sorry to say this, but I prefer "Christine" from 83.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm a little late but I can't pass up a review on one of my favorite horror flicks such as The Car. I remember watching it in a double feature with Crash, which I have yet to find. I have a toy of the Car which is proudly displayed in the living room amongst Alien and Jason.
"Cat poo!!" all the way and "Up your ass with a splintered fiddle!!!"

Christopher said...

I remember seeing this as a kid and thinking the devil in the fire at the end was kind of cool. Then, when I was older, I saw Quatermass And The Pit and learned how a REAL filmmaker creates a towering fire demon.