'Smash: Motorized Mayhem' is a documentary directed by Kevin Burroughs and narrated by W. Earl Brown. It follows three competitors and a track promoter as they prepare for an annual school bus race in rural Florida.
“Do you know what happened after the second school bus was ever built?” asks the narrator. Apparently, the answer is: the first bus race. It’s hard to explain the pure fascination that overcame me as I watched a bunch of brightly painted school busses zooming past, scraping against, and ramming into each other as the film began. It was a sight like no other, and as random and strange as it may have seemed at first, it was downright fun! I’ve personally never been a huge fan of NASCAR or racing in general, but school bus racing? That I could get into.
It’s not hard to see why the niche sport is so popular in the rural Florida community. The racers all make it very clear: they love what they do, and they do it for the fans. It’s not just about winning the race; it’s about staying in the race and possibly knocking out some competition in the process. The fans go absolutely wild when a bus rams into another or a bus gets turned over, which happens pretty often. The track itself isn’t your typical track either— it’s in the shape of a figure 8, making it that much more dangerous and that much more exhilarating for the crowd. The racers admit that the ultimate crowd-pleaser is when two busses are approaching each other perpendicularly and neither bus driver decides to hit the brakes, making for an extremely close call or a terrible T-bone. “It’s not a demolition derby, or it’s not supposed to be,” laughs one fan.
The drivers themselves all have interesting stories that the documentary is built around. One driver has always dreamed of being a famous racer since he was 13 years old. He loved the racetrack so much that he even proposed and got married on one. Another racer is an actual school bus driver by day, and a school bus racer by night. All the drivers put an exceptional amount of time and effort into making sure their busses are in shape for the race; it’s truly a labor of love for these men, and the passion for what they do shines through the film.
The racing may be exciting, but it’s the carnage that the fans love. Who knew that it would take a bunch of steel busses crashing into one another to bring a community together? Interestingly enough, the documentary points out that some people may enjoy the bus races so much for their cathartic appeal. For people that hated riding the bus to school everyday or for others who just hated school in general, watching these busses go at it can be sort of liberating, which was an intriguing thought.
People with a need for speed will enjoy this unique documentary that brings viewers into a niche racing community that they would have never imagined existed. Others will enjoy it for the pure fun of watching giant school busses go at it. Whichever category you fall into, you’re in for one heck of a ride.
'Smashed: Motorized Mayhem' is available on VOD and iTunes March 21.