These Are the 5 Most Haunting Movie Cars in American Cinema
Strap yourselves in for a Halloween treat, because these U.S. classics are bringing the tricks.
Being Halloween, you might be inclined to settle in this evening and cue up a horror movie on Netflix while you pass out candy to trick-or-treaters. Given that you're reading The Drive, we can assume you're a car enthusiast, so you'd probably like your nightmare fuel to have four wheels and piston power.
We've got your back today with five of the spookiest cars ever to star in scary movies. Specifically, we're talking V8-powered (with one possible exception), rear wheel drive, body-on-frame American iron. We're not sure exactly what makes that particular configuration so alluring to horror movie directors, but we think the success of a certain John Carpenter film might have something to do with it. Here are five of our favorites, in no particular order:
1.) Christine — 1958 Plymouth Fury
We'll get the obvious choice out of the way first. Prolific horror writer Stephen King is no stranger to having cars feature in his stories, like From a Buick 8 and Maximum Overdrive. However, it wasn't until John Carpenter's film adaptation of his story Christine that the car became truly terrifying.
In the book, the blood-red 1958 Plymouth Fury is possessed by the evil spirit of Roland LeBay, its previous owner. In the film, however, the car itself is a manifestation of pure evil. As the characters discover, it's damn near impossible to kill what was never truly alive in the first place—a point driven home by the chilling final shot, where a crushed and cubed Christine begins to slowly restore itself again to hunt down its victims.
2.) Death Proof — 1971 Chevy Nova
Anyone who calls themselves a child of the '80s is familiar with all-time good-guy Kurt Russel. However, in director Quentin Tarantino's 2007 cult classic Death Proof, he slides into the driver's seat of this sinister flat black Chevy Nova as the villain, Stuntman Mike.
While most movie stunt cars (and their drivers) are content to live and die behind the scenes of their respective films, the entire plot of Death Proof revolves around the Nova and its driver. Stuntman Mike takes sadistic pleasure in using his death-proof car to kill a string of attractive young women—until he meets his match.
3.) Evil Dead series — 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88
A pale yellow full-size Oldsmobile from the beginning of the Malaise Era is hardly the sort of thing to strike terror in the heart of viewers. The personal car of director Sam Raimi, this Oldsmobile became the on-screen ride of Bruce Campbell's chainsaw-wielding antihero Ash.
While not the scariest car on the list, it's certainly the most prolific—and the most versatile. The Delta 88 has done it all, from towing a trailer to traveling back in time to the year 1300. It's been upgraded with armor, guns, a spinning propeller, and even a bulldozer attachment at various times.
Best of all, it has a glovebox big enough to hold the Necronomicon between the owner's manual and your registration documents, plus a trunk cavernous enough to fit several years' worth of Fangoria back-issues and a formidable arsenal of demon-hunting weapons. Groovy.
4.) A Nightmare on Elm Street — 1958 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible
This might seem like an odd choice given the focus of this list. Even though the car in question is on screen for just a brief scene at the very end of the first Nightmare on Elm Street, it's as bone-chilling as anything else in the film.
With Freddy Krueger seemingly defeated, Nancy wakes up from her nightmare, stepping outside into the sunshine with everything seemingly back to normal. Her mother's decided to stop drinking, and her friends are alive and well, pulling up to the curb in a shiny red Cadillac Series 62 convertible.
After Nancy hops in, the tattered convertible top springs up, upholstered in ugly red and green stripes like Freddy's sweater. The windows roll up, trapping them inside as the car rolls away before Freddy attacks Nancy's mother. It's a chilling reminder of the extent of Freddy Krueger's evil power, ensuring a long future for the franchise.
5.) Tie — The Duel & Joy Ride — 1971 Plymouth Valiant & 1971 Chrysler Newport, respectively
These two Mopars share a spot due to the simple fact that they both represent an entirely different kind of terror for the viewer than either Christine or Ash's Olds Delta 88. Both films revolve around a motorist messing around with a trucker, either through mean-spirited pranks or road rage, and paying the price.
For Americans, cars have almost always symbolized personal freedom, the ability to take to the open road whenever you want and drive wherever you want to go. Something like a big Chrysler Newport can glide over the road and make you feel like the king of the road; that is, until you encounter something even bigger, like a semi tractor-trailer.
Pursued by these giant behemoths, the cars that once symbolized freedom for their drivers become metaphorical prisons, or even coffins. Undermining the safety, independence, and autonomy of the things we take for granted every day is a classic horror technique, and is used to great effect in both films.