Spoilers, start your engines.
Yes, it’s another John Carpenter film and this one is another cult classic. The romance between a young man and his car is taken to the obvious movie extreme – a car possessed by evil. Actually, the film doesn’t follow the evil origin in the Stephen King novel and just plainly presents the 1958 Plymouth Fury as evil right off the assembly line. The premise that a car can become a conduit of evil is not a concept too hard to believe, after all they have been the object of adoration, status, pride and consumerism.
Christine (1983) was directed by John Carpenter and written by Bill Phillips, based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King. Arnie (Keith Gordon) is a shy, withdrawn teenager that gets bullied constantly in school and only talks to his friend Dennis (John Stockwell), a popular football player. One day, Arnie finds an old car that looks like complete junk and restore it to its former glory. According to the old man that selling the 1958 Plymouth Fury is named Christine. Arnie becomes obsessed with the vehicle and becomes more boasting, self-assured and outgoing.
Dennis gets distracted during a football game when notices Arnie coming out of Christine with the new girl in school, Leigh (Alexandra Paul). That distraction causes him getting a career-ending injury that incapacitates him for months. That incident doesn’t seem necessarily caused by Christine, but then after Leigh turns down Arnie’s advances at a drive-in, she ends up choking on a burger while Christine locks Arnie out and turns up the radio and the inside lights. Leigh manages to unlock her door and gets assistance from a bystander, but from then on she refuses to get into the car.
Things turn out for the worse after Christine is vandalized by a group of bullies, jealous of Arnie’s new status. After the incident, Arnie snaps at Leigh and at his own family. The car seems beyond repair, but as Arnie whispers his love for Christine, she starts to magically repair herself. Now the movie switches onto revenge mode as Christine starts hunting down the people who did her harm. Arnie then becomes a suspect of the killings and is confronted by Detective Junkins (Harry Dean Stanton).
The theme of love and obsession between a young man and his car runs throughout the film, but we also see a lot of unabated anger. When the bullies first pick on Arnie, stealing his lunch and pulling a switchblade on him you kind of wonder why they need a weapon when it’s four against one. Just plain old hostility waiting for a target, basically. Of course you know they’ll all get what’s coming for them – and then some – by the time that Christine enters the picture, specially after they vandalize the car.
It almost feels like a genre film sometimes, in the way that the enemies are setup to become fodder later. We get some really impressive scenes, including the mother of all fantasies, a car that repairs itself without anybody touching it. Christine chasing down the lead bully while she’s completely on fire. The fact that the radio station in the car only plays old time Rock n’ Roll. And of course, the songs are selectively chosen as a commentary to whatever is going on.
Yes, there are couple of flaws here and there. Modern horror audiences will just want the killing to start already, but I appreciate that the film takes it time setting up Arnie, Dennis and of course – Christine. Unfortunately, Leigh doesn’t get much time to shine at the beginning. She does participate along with Dennis in the final duel and gets to deliver the closing line at least. Keith Gordon as Arnie delivers the best performance as the young man who becomes enamored with his automobile although the object of his affections is a stone cold killer. Based on her tune selection, it seems Christine loved him back.
Highly recommended as late 70s horror and genre film specially for those movie fans that are also fans of classic cars and early rock n’ roll music. It’s rather clean for a horror film, without too much gore in sight. The effects are all practical and look impressive to the day. Some performances are better than others, but it’s a horror film so they are well within decent status. I know some liberties were taken with the material so that the audience would focus on the car itself as the antagonist, which worked the best for the movie version. Definitely a movie worth to take out for a spin.
That will do for now.