Happy Halloween, everyone! This spooky season, I’m going to write about an idea I’ve kicked around for a while, and one that I thank our own Michael Massie for helping me flesh out: how we could convert classic racing films into horror concepts. We’re on the heels of the playoff race at Martinsville Speedway, which (like the photo above) is entirely perfect for the season at hand: the race ends under the lights, chaos usually unfolds and there’s a number of Halloween schemes on track.
I’m tempted to keep the trend rolling, maybe with a piece next week on what horror movie characters NASCAR drivers would be, but let’s stick with this for the time being as a precursor to that. With the general fall vibes so many of these horror movies have, I think I’m justified if I keep the theme going in a couple weeks once the championship festivities have concluded.
Regardless, I’m a huge fan of horror, and had the chance to interview the legendary Danny Trejo, Gremlins director Joe Dante and so many more at Nightmare Weekend Richmond 2023 (all of which are available on my podcast). This month, I’ve knocked out some pretty big blind spots this time around during my yearly October horror marathon, from Tucker & Dale vs. Evil to Braindead to Gremlins.
I also welcomed on Frontstretch‘s own Alex Gintz on my latest episode to talk about the underrated found-footage film As Above, So Below, which weaves in elements of Dante’s Inferno with the Catacombs of Paris (terrifying in and of themselves), cave exploration and the philosopher’s stone. It’s a criminally underappreciated classic that we both love.
Back to the topic at hand: what if racing films fell into the horror genre? Let’s see how this pans out. The Final Destination already incorporated racing into such a movie, but it’s brief and also never actually happens.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby -> Hallowdega Slayings: The Murder of Ricky Bobby (and Others)
INT. TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY — NIGHT
The film fades in on a deserted, gloomy night in Alabama at Talladega. Scuffling is heard, and we cut to a shot of the infield garage, where a crewman is slowly pulling himself along the asphalt. We hear a revving, with some maniacal laughter … and then a stock car roars into view, flattening the crewman and cutting to black.
And we’re off. You gotta start something like this off with the cold-open kill, a hard cut to a title card and then roll the opening credits.
Frenchman Jean Girard has come over from Formula 1 to pursue stardom in NASCAR, but he’s not doing as well as he thought he might, so he turns to venting his frustration on his teammates and competitors, which leads to some testy situations.
Driven to the brink by his frustration, Girard begins wrecking everyone who stands in his way. His team joins in on the action, sabotaging other cars behind the scenes as the season progresses. Any crew member of Girard’s that grows a conscience, begins to balk at their actions or threatens to report them to NASCAR mysteriously disappears before they can do so.
And imagine, for a moment, that the final foot race still pans out. Girard is a bit more psychotic than he is in the actual movie, while Ricky Bobby is still pretty unaware of everything going on. He doesn’t see Girard attempting to shove him until the last second, and then gets pushed in front of a car going full speed.
If we’re sticking with a horror-comedy angle, maybe Girard goes to shove Ricky Bobby, who trips and falls before he can be pushed — and Girard instead loses his balance and falls in front of the oncoming car himself.
Cars -> Cars: The Unrated Cut
I mean … the idea of Cars lends itself to horror pretty easily. How do these anthropomorphic cars come into being? More significantly: when there’s a crash, such as the horrifically violent, airborne accident Strip “The King” Weathers suffers at the end of the movie, what does that DO to a car physically and psychologically?
We need to have a psychological thriller-drama about the effects that being a car and suffering that kind of damage to one’s physical being has on the cars. At face value, the car bodies are their bodies; it’s not a matter of being thrown around inside a car or possibly being ejected from it. That’s these cars’ corporeal beings taking that abuse when they wreck.
Also coming to mind: the huge crash at faux-Bristol Motor Speedway early on. If these cars feel pain like that, it’s a legitimate massacre.
Days of Thunder -> Nights of Thunder
I’m imagining a Christine-esque situation, where Cole Trickle ends up driving a fully indestructible Chevrolet Monte Carlo (but still directed by John Carpenter). That’s scary by itself — a racecar screaming around the track with no regard for competition while also being able to almost immediately repair itself (no DVP issues there), all the time simultaneously corrupting its driver and giving him a more arrogant, volatile personality.
Sure, Cole is pretty full of himself for a good chunk of the actual movie, but what if instead of maturing he becomes a much worse person with a total lack for humanity, like Artie in Christine?
I can’t think of a better way to have the movie end, though. In the spirit of Christine, a bunch of the drivers corner Cole and machine on-track somewhere and methodically crash into them demolition-derby style, eventually culminating in Cole’s death and the destruction of the car.
… or does it?
Herbie Fully Loaded -> Herbie’s Fully Loaded
Fully loaded armaments on board the No. 53, that is. Sure, the 2005 film is a family-friendly affair, but alter the framing to focus on Lindsay Lohan’s character truly not knowing what she has.
Maybe Herbie’s a psychopathic car like Christine, or maybe there’s a full array of weapons under the hood and in the chassis — machine guns in the headlights, like some of James Bond’s Aston Martins; oil sprays out of the back bumper to send the competition spinning; saw blades on the sides to cut opponents’ tires. It’ll be silly no matter what, if we’re keeping the spirit of the original movie.
Matt Dillon can still play the sort-of-villain (rhyme intended) in this movie — he’s had a couple turns in horror himself, most notably in The House that Jack Built. But in this case, are we rooting for him? Does Lohan’s character truly realize what Herbie is and join forces with Dillon to destroy it?
Only the movie, that will never happen, could know.
Ford v Ferrari -> Ford v Ferrari
Same title, just more violent. Henry Ford II vs. Enzo Ferrari launch an all-out campaign to best one another, involving sending spies into each other’s facilities, crashing each other on track and eventually concludes with a one-on-one race to the death between the two industry titans.
I don’t have much for this one, but it felt necessary to include and the idea was too fun to leave out.
Rush -> Rush
No changes needed. Formula 1 drivers in the 1970s were essentially driving rolling coffins or bombs, whichever terminology you’d prefer. Death found so many of the drivers during that decade, exemplified in the hybrid Francois Cevert – Helmuth Koinigg-replica crash in which we see a decapitated corpse in the driver’s seat. That’s horror movie stuff right there.
About the author
Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.
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