The Car

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The Car Movie Poster Image
Cheesy '70s horror with domestic abuse, stereotypes.
  • PG
  • 1977
  • 96 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Movie centered on a demonic car on a killing spree. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

One of the characters physically abuses his wife but is later given the chance to help stop "the car." 

Violence

The car forces characters off cliffs, knocks a character off a bridge, kills a character by driving through her house, runs characters over. One of the characters physically abuses his wife, shown verbally berating her, and the woman is shown in the police station with a bruised face from the abuse. 

Sex

One of the lead characters is a teacher, and it's brought to her attention that one of her 13-year-old students is drawing nude pictures of her; the drawing is shown, with female nudity (buttocks). A hitchhiker expresses his wish that he gets picked up by a "34-year-old nymphomaniac." 

Language

Occasional profanity. "Chickens--t," "bulls--t," "bitch," "ass," "damn," "hell." Middle finger gesture. Arrested man addresses a Native American police officer as "Tonto" and calls him a "savage." This same Native American police officer is told to solve a case so he can go back to "do(ing) what you people do best." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One of the police officers is a recovering alcoholic who falls off the wagon when "the car" starts to wreak havoc in his jurisdiction; he's shown sneaking a long swig of a bottle he keeps hidden in his trunk. Talk of going in a bar to drink. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Car is a 1977 horror movie in which a mysterious car goes on a killing spree in and around a small Utah town. While the car sends people to their death in a variety of ways -- sending people off bridges, cliffs, drives through a house, etc. -- there isn't much in the way of blood and gore. A local man physically abuses his wife, and she's shown in the police station filing a report with her face bruised and beaten. This man, after getting arrested, uses derogatory terms toward a Native American police officer. While trying to solve a case, this same Native American officer is told by another officer to finish the case so the man can "do what you people do best." The lead female character is a teacher, and it's brought to her attention that one of her 13-year-old students draws nude pictures of her, and one is shown with brief nudity (buttocks). Occasional profanity ("bulls--t," "bitch," "ass"). One of the police officers is a recovering alcoholic who falls off the wagon when the car begins wreaking havoc in his community. 

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What's the story?

In THE CAR, the peaceful desert town of Santa Ynez, Utah is thrown into chaos when a mysterious black sedan arrives and begins a killing spree. After two teen bicyclists and a hitchhiker are killed by this car, the police try to stop it (and the presumed driver), but when the chief of police is run over and killed while crossing the street, it's now up to Captain Wade Parent (James Brolin) to lead his fellow officers. After nearly running over Parent's girlfriend, a teacher, and her students as they practice marching for an upcoming parade, the black sedan ramps up its murderous rampage. As high-speed police chases and gunfire don't stop the car and the situation becomes even more desperate, Parent settles on a plan to stop the car once and for all, and find out who, or what, is behind its homicidal impulses. 

Is it any good?

While not a good movie in the conventional sense, this has a cheese factor that cannot be denied. It's a ludicrous premise -- a malevolent car with no driver or backstory to speak of settling on a small town in Utah to go on its killing spree (as opposed to more populated areas). There are a few b-stories that attempt to pad the flimsiness of the story while the audience waits for the next demonic vehicular homicide. The killer black sedan's gymnastic abilities are laugh-out-loud hilarious. Quirky hitchhikers, short shorts, feathered hair, and James Brolin sporting a Burt Reynolds 'stache -- there's no doubt that The Car is a slice of kitschy 1970s cinema. 

However, like other movies very much of past decades, some of that datedness ventures into bad behavior that wouldn't be brushed aside today. For example, one of the characters who is drafted to help stop the car is shown verbally and physically abusing his wife, culminating in a scene in which the woman files a report in the police station with a bruised face, but declines to press charges, and is then shown getting yelled at outside the station. This man also hurls a couple slurs at the Native American police officer. And yet, when given the chance to be a hero, the police allow this man to step up and do his part to save the town from the car's merciless attacks. These aspects to the movie mar its so-bad-it's-good vibe.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about horror movie violence. How does the violence in The Car compare to other horror movies you've seen? 

  • How does the movie address the issue of domestic/spousal abuse? How do you think it would be addressed differently if the movie came out today? 

  • How might this be an example of a movie that's "so bad, it's good?" What are some other examples of movies with this kind of appeal? 

Movie details

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For kids who love horror

Themes & Topics

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