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Killer Car Movies: “The Car” (1977)

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The Car
Imagine this, but substantially more evil
Photo: GPS 56 via CC

Vampires, witches, ghosts, zombies, and… vehicles? As strange as it sounds, there exists an entire genre of freaky flicks in which cars, trucks, and other forms of manmade transportation strike back against their drivers. The News Wheel is celebrating Halloween by shedding some much-needed light on some creepy killer car movies. Next on our list is The Car from 1977.

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The story of “The Car”

Perhaps no other film in the “killer car” genre has been given such an on-the-nose name. No fancy monikers, no made-up words, and no clever alliteration: this 1977 horror flick is simply called The Car. But what it lacks in descriptive titling it more than makes up for with good old-fashioned chills, thrills, and even a few spills.

The Car tells the terrifying tale of a small town besieged by a demonic vehicle with no discernable driver. The matte-black coupe — actually a heavily modified 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III — starts killing people with the ferocity of a wild animal. The town’s chief deputy, played by James Brolin, attempts to solve the mystery as the body count increases.

Why it’s scary

Admittedly, this flick is a bit on the campy side. Unlike the care and seriousness with which Steven Spielberg crafted Duel, The Car feels more like a lower-budgeted drive-in flick. But there’ still plenty of legitimate fright and unease in this film, particularly where the car itself is concerned. There’s something unsettling about the shape, color, and blacked-out windows of the modified Continental. The vehicle — and the film itself — has an intangible air of evil to it.

The implication that the car is somehow demonic is a creepy concept. Without giving away the ending, it’s all but confirmed that the vehicle was literally possessed by an evil force. The real-life involvement of then-Church-of-Satan-leader Anton LaVey in the film’s production adds an extra layer of unease to the proceedings.

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While not a major success upon its release in 1977, The Car has since developed a sizable cult following. In 2019, a sequel entitled The Car: Road to Vengeance was released straight to VOD. But that’s a story for another time…