The Cars That Ate Paris (1974)

Genres - Comedy, Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Black Comedy, Horror Comedy  |   Release Date - Jun 1, 1976 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 91 min.  |   Countries - Australia  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Peter Weir's first film delves into the same post-apocalyptic Australian car culture as the Mad Max series, but it's more interested in absurdist social commentary than brutal action. The Paris townspeople have a creepy hive mentality about recruiting strangers to their world of broken bodies and broken car chassis -- you can almost hear them chanting, "One of us! One of us!" if you listen closely. Adding to the surreal quality is that, behind closed doors, the town elders are almost matter-of-fact in their agenda to ensnare outsiders by means of roadside booby traps -- without really articulating their reasons, which makes it chilling at the same time that it's blackly comic. Weir also has something to say about the burgeoning punk rebellion of the youth. There's an internal town conflict between the Paris adults and their never-seen teenage children, who are embodied only by the customized automobiles -- many of which are painted up like ghoulish monsters -- that do donuts through the streets and menace townspeople at night. The Cars That Ate Paris gives off the impression of a lot of fertile ideas that don't quite jell into something coherent. It serves as an excellent preview of one of Australia's preeminent filmmaking talents, but it bears the undeniable mark of "cult movie." Certainly, some people will find that designation a compliment, and The Cars That Ate Paris definitely has its legions of devoted fans.