Director Elliot Silverstein brings a combination of Duel (1971), Jaws(1975) and The Exorcist (1973), as a demonic, driverless car goes on the rampage in the tiny desert township of Santa Ynez in southern Utah, striking terror into the heart of every god-fearing soul in town.
The story opens with the car pushing a couple of bicyclists off a cliff and backing over a French Horn-playing hitchhiker four times. In each case, the viewer witnesses a portion of the action from the driver’s seat in a similar way to the tonsil-mounted camera in Jaws.
The hero of the abominable film is Wade Parent (James Brolin), a personable deputy sheriff who is making it with the local schoolmarm, Lauren (Kathleen Lloyd). Naturally, he’s appalled by the attendant gore to all this, and he vows to hunt down the culprit.
Joining him in the search are Sheriff Everett Peck (John Marley) and Deputy Luke Johnson (Ronny Cox). Good ol’ Ev doesn’t last long because you know who takes him out in the first few minutes, and Luke – severely disturbed by all the commotion – begins to lose his five-year battle with the bottle. All of which leaves Wade to fend for himself.
It’s all downhill from there.
The acting – it almost goes without saying – is dreadful, and how it took three people (Debbis Shryack, Michael Buller and Lane Slate) to write the lame-brained script that accompanies these demonic happenings is a major mystery. But the action – courtesy of ace Hollywood special effects man Albert Whitlock – is exceptional.
Celebrated car maker George Barris created the star of the movie, a black sedan based on a Lincoln Mark III chassis with longer side fenders, close-set headlights and a lower roof.
Deputy Sheriff Wade Parent
Sheriff Everett Peck
Lynn Marie Parent
Eddie Little Sky
Ernie F. Orsatti
Melody Thomas Scott
Deputy Luke Johnson