A sharp and witty script along with cracking performances is what keeps Elliot Silverstein’s THE CAR above the fray of the below-the-line grindhouse inspired cult films of the 70s. James Brolin, who in his younger days is a dead ringer for Christian Bale and sounds like Matthew McConaughey, is the lone sheriff in Santa Ynez who must stop a demonic car from killing people. Whilst not a direct inspiration, there are elements and similarities to Quentin Tarantino’s DEATH PROOF, and would be near impossible for this film to not be an influence. This flick is a lot of fun.
The supporting cast populated by a wickedly fun R.G. Armstrong, a playful Kathleen Lloyd, stoic John Marley, and a vulnerable turn from Ronny Cox. The principle characters are given a bit more to do than they normally would in a film like this. Brolin is raising two daughters on his own while courting a local school teacher; Marley’s first love is in an abusive relationship with Armstrong, and Cox is the closet alcoholic who puts the pieces together about the demonic car.
The Car itself is a lot fun. It is matte black, indestructible, and terrifying. One of the many highlights of the film is the point of view of The Car, which is cut to during key moments of the film and adds a heightened sense of reality to the situation this dusty California town finds itself in. The practicality of the effects is another aspect to not only admire but respect about the film. The stunts are wonderful, and the Car brings the action, especially in the third act where the Car literally gets airborne and drives through a house to take someone out. It is rather awesome.
The strengths of this film surely out way any slight aspects that potentially hinder the film’s enjoyment factor. James Brolin is quintessentially cool in this film, and carries the weight of the lead perfectly – if this film had been made in the 40s, Gary Cooper most certainly would have played the role. The menacing score, the remarkable set pieces and expansive cinematography are all factors that showcase what a wonderfully fun picture this is. A minimalist approach is very effect in horror, and THE CAR is a prime example.