Stephen King said this about horror on four wheels, “Even such a much-loved American institution as the motor vehicle has not not entirely escaped the troubled dreams of Hollywood.” While lots of car movies are indeed lemons, he called Duel “one of the half-dozen best” made-for-TV movies of all time. Of course, his judgement, critical or otherwise, isn’t exactly beyond reproach (During the filming of the similar Maximum Overdrive, King’s directorial debut, he was purportedly gargling Listerine and popping pills.)
But Wrecker isn’t Duel, nor is it Maximum Overdrive.
Here, somewhat generic Pacific Northwest college coeds Emily and Leslie are on a road trip through, what we can only guess is an attempt to replicate California (the signage is in km/h). It’s hard to believe the filmmakers went out of their way to recreate a quintessential American roadstop – complete with giant Stars & Stripes flag, Southern drawls and hicks – but leave in the highway metrication.
Our players: Emily is a pushover in her personal life and is the one tasked to take evasive action when a large tow truck barrels down on them. Her buddy Leslie has a foul mouth and swills beer in the front seat and has supplied the weed.
At the outset, there’s a neat bit of ironic chastising of the diesel-belching truck ahead of them, “Haven’t you ever heard of climate change?” (This as the girls are burning rubber and loads of fossil fuels in a muscular Ford Mustang) They try and pass the tow truck, whose driver is clearly toying with them, both on the highway and also when the duo checks in at a rest stop.
Wrecker is a bit of a mess. It has odd cinematography. We’re by no means experts, but its grindhouse aesthetic is at odds with the very present-day setting. Not certain if this was intentional or some issue with color correction, but the film is yellower than an old man’s drawers. The filmmaker’s occasional forays into overhead digital shots is not smooth, but rather a bumpy ride indeed. Not something you’d want in a movie that’s ostensibly built for speed, although to be fair, the herky-jerky style works far better during nighttime hours.
As other reviewers have pointed out, with a speedster like theirs, they could easily have a tow-truck eating their dust (and not just a tow truck, a tow truck towing a beat-up wagon. One that was a casualty of a notorious stretch of road called “the Devil’s Pass.”) A workhouse tow truck would be no match for 300-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 of muscle car. Still, that’s a minor point.
There are fewer and fewer places these days without cell service. And this “no reception out here in the middle of nowhere” gambit is getting pretty stale. Also, some of the same hairpin turns were being used over and over again. On a no-budget production like this it’s understandable, but at least try to mask it.
** (out of 5)