If you were to bring up a list of James Brolin's cinematic achievements, I somehow doubt 1977's The Car would make the list. My seven-year-old daughter described it as "pretty dumb." I think that about sums it up.
Plot? Yes, of course there is a plot. An evil wind blows and a mysterious car shows up and runs over people. One time it even drives straight through a house to get at a woman. (Later, when hero Brolin discovers the car in his garage, he shuts the door to protect his family. He was witness to the devestation left by the car plowing through the house. How he thought shutting the door would protect his family is beyond me.) In the end, viewers are treated to the driving force behind the automobile. Not to spoil the ending, but it isn't human.
I actually enjoy movies and books about mysterious vehicles that kill people. Christine.Duel. Killdozer!Titanic. I like the idea that something we depend on every day taking revenge on hapless citizens. Anyone who has dodged traffic in New York City knows how terrifying this scenario can be when taken to its fullest potential. The Car, however, is a failure of a movie.
For a horror film, it isn't very scary. Hell, it isn't even very entertaining. It just sort of exists ... like dreamcatchers or wax fruit. Critics hated it upon release, and that venom would be far from sated these days. Are there any creepy moments? Only in Brolin's acting. I'm actually a bit of a fan of his, too. I liked him in The Amityville Horror. I enjoy his son's work, too. But this film? This is one of those you assume he did in order to put a bigger pool in or something. Watching it, I feel bad for him.
After finishing the film, my daughter asked me a very good question. "What was the point of that?" I couldn't answer her, so I said, "Demonic cars are evil and they can drive through houses." She asked if it was supposed to be scary. "Did it scare you?" I asked. "No," she replied. "Then it doesn't matter what it was supposed to be because it failed no matter what it was supposed to do." And there you have it. The Car is the AMC Pacer of vehicle horror movies.
Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I didn't get this movie for free. Nobody hates me that much.
-Doug Brunell (America's Favorite Son)