One can learn several important things from crap-auteur Bill “Monster-a-Go-Go” Rebane’s 1987 film Twister’s Revenge! First, no matter how awesome one might think it is, taking the concept of Knight Rider and applying it to a monster truck is absolutely not awesome. Second, there is a good reason why some of the world’s greatest detectives–Jim Rockford, Starsky and Hutch, Hardcastle and McCormick, Tenspeed and Brownshoe, the Scooby Doo Gang–were not known for conducting their investigations with a monster truck. And third, monster truck action does not translate well to film.
Twister’s Revenge! also has a misleading title. It is not, as one might imagine, a SyFy Channel original sequel to 1996′s disaster classic, Twister. It is, in fact, not a sequel at all. Instead, it is the story of a young man named Dave (Dean West) teaming up with his artificially intelligent enhanced monster truck, “Mister Twister,” to rescue Dave’s wife and Twister’s creator, Sherry (Meredith Orr), from the clutches of some incredibly inept kidnappers.
To Rebane and his screenwriters’ credit, this movie jumps right into the plot: on the way to the local rural Wisconsin fair, Dave stops by a junkyard and explains to the owner that he has several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of equipment invested in his monster truck, and three locals overhear. The three–Kelly, Dutch, and Bear–then hatch a plot to steal this valuable equipment and somehow make money off of it.
However, they didn’t count on the fact that the truck in question has been enhanced by Dave’s fiance, Sherry, so that it is independently intelligent, with its own personality. Sherry is a wealthy computer genius, and it makes total sense that the cutting edge of artificial intelligence technology would be integrated with a monster truck. Dave shows off Mr. Twister’s special skills by driving over cars at the local fair–something that all the other, apparently non-intelligent, monster trucks do on their own. Dave even brags about the great stunt that Twister just did, but unless we’re missing a scene, nothing that we see makes Twister appear to be any more special than any other monster truck.
Following the local fair, Dave and Sherry get married, and they drive off from the church in their awesome honeymoon van. Little do they know that the three idiots are on their trail (sort of). The honeymoon actually consists of parking the van in the beautiful Wisconsin countryside, followed by some sex in the back (was the Dells completely booked up?). Before the marriage can be consumated, however, the bad guys manage somehow to kidnap Sherry and hold her for ransom.
Dave decides to take revenge, and as he prepares to find his new bride, he also discovers that Twister has developed his own personality. Twister would like to participate in the investigation as well, using his combination of heightened computer intelligence and monster truck skills to rescue his creator.
Twister’s contributions to the investigation consist almost entirely of driving over cars or through buildings. This movie presents, through Twister, an interesting existential conundrum: can a monster truck, no matter how intelligent, ever transcend its monster-truckness? The answer, according to this film, is “no,” and therein lies the tragedy. This remains the case even when some dramatic tension arises later in the film, as Twister professes his love for Sherry and creates a bizarre love triangle between man, woman, and monster truck. Twister is always destined to be alone.
The genius (if such a word can be used here) of Rebane’s film is that the plot is merely an apparatus upon which the director can hang various scenes of the monster truck in action. However, aside from wrecking cars and buildings, a monster truck just isn’t all that useful in an investigation of this sort. Dave can’t really use it to tail his suspects, nor is it an effective method of intimidation. The bad guys pretty easily run away from it, or just duck under its giant chassis.
Even the climactic battle, in which the bad guys suddenly have their own tank equipped with artillery shells, should be awesome, but it isn’t. The sort-of chase that happens between the two vehicles wrecks a lot of Gleason, Wisconsin–the town in which the movie was made–yet the police never get involved. Perhaps the town just needed to get rid of a bunch of old buildings and cars. In the end, that may be the entire purpose of the movie: a kind of radical effort at civic improvement, with the movie itself only being a secondary benefit.
I can imagine few things that would look more awesome on paper than a movie about a super-intelligent monster truck. In fact, if you told me that the movie ended with a face-off between said monster truck and a tank, I would be completely ready to lay down my hard-earned cash to see such an extravaganza. However, not only does Twister’s Revenge! fail to live up to that potential, it also proves that such potential is illusory. One really can’t blame director Rebane for allowing his reach to exceed his grasp here.