No Strawberry Girl, She’s Plymouth Fury. CQB 241.
Christine is directed by John Carpenter and adapted to screenplay by Bill Phillips from the novel of the same name written by Stephen King. It stars Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, Robert Prosky and Harry Dean Stanton. Music is by Carpenter and Alan Howarth and cinematography is by Donald M. Morgan.
How Do You Kill Something That Can’t Possibly Be Alive?
1983 was a busy year for Stephen King adaptations to the screen, along with Christine there was also Cujo and The Dead Zone, so for fans of the legendary author there was plenty to chew on. Christine tells the story of a possessed car that takes over the life of the school nerd, with devastating consequences. As a story that’s pretty much all there is to it, the beauty of the pic is how Carpenter ensures the car really does have a malevolent life of its own. The theme at work such as automobile obsession and the bonkers love story at the narrative heart, are not sacrificed for cheap shocks and gimmickry, but Carpenter rightly made the car the star and she doesn’t disappoint.
Christine’s move from being a knackered old banger to super shiny speedster runs concurrent with Arnie Cunningham’s (Gordon) transformation. Where once was the misfit being bullied, is now a supremely confident dude, he even dates one of the school babes. But with Christine’s love and protection comes great danger, and this lets Carpenter craft some super scenes. From self healing to fiery vengeance, the director brings his lensing skills to the party. Music, unsurprisingly for Carpenter, plays a key part as well. A ream of 50s Rock “n” Roll tunes play out of Christine’s radio to align with what is unfolding on screen, while the score is distinctly Carpenteresque.
Cast are very good in their efforts, though more of the wonderful H. D. Stanton should have been a requisite. Unfortunately the screenplay doesn’t afford many character instances to run smoothly, it sometimes feels like the studio demanded that Carpenter hurry up to the next Christine is evil scene instead of building the character bridges! However, it’s a film that may be undeniably 80s in tone of film making, but it has aged surprisingly well. Suspenseful, exciting and devilishly playful, this is another Carpenter movie worthy of re-evaluation. 8/10
One of the most intriguing coming-of-age stories in cinema, and this tends to be overlooked, both as a Stephen King story and horror film, in place of the more sensationalized frolic and mayhem of works such as ‘The Shining’, ‘Carrie’, ‘Misery’ and ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, which is a crying shame, because: a) John Carpenter is probably the finest director (at least Top 3) ever involved with King adaptations; and b) it perfectly conceptualizes, like earlier short experimental films by the likes of Kenneth Anger, the downright uncomfortable sleaziness and fetishism that has existed, mainly in America, between men and their cars.
Keith Gordon does some really fine acting here (as he did previously for Brian De Palma in ‘Dressed to Kill’) as all possible dynamics along the range from nerd to psycho. It’s impressive that, while growing up in film, he obviously learned some of the tricks of the trade from such cinematic greats (at least of American film of the past 50 years) and ended up becoming a decent film helmer himself.
9/10 for me; Grade A Carpenter. It simply isn’t top-tier for me, of his oeuvre, because I know he, like Sir Alfred Hitchcock, De Palma and other greats, is capable of cinematic perfection (Halloween, The Thing, etc.).