01/21/2019 15:12

Film: Christine

Year: 1983

Director: John Carpenter

Writer: Bill Phillips

Starring: Keith Gordon, John Stockwell and Alexandra Paul



This was a film that I had sought out in college when I was determined to watch all the films based off works by Stephen King. He is my favorite writer and that was something I was doing to get more acclimated with horror films I hadn’t seen. It was a bonus when I learned that John Carpenter was the director.

Synopsis: a nerdish boy buys a strange car with an evil mind of its own and his nature starts to change to reflect it.

This starts off back when the car was first built in Detroit, Michigan. It is 1957 I believe and the car is a Plymouth Fury. The day it is coming off the assembly line, one man is maimed by its hood and another is killed inside. This isn’t in the original novel but was added that this car was evil from the beginning.

It then shifts to the present. We get introduced to our main characters. We have Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon) who is the nerdy guy. He has overbearing parents who try to shelter him. His best friend is a jock, Dennis Guilder (John Stockwell). He does what he can to protect this friend even though they are from different worlds. I like this aspect of the story. We normally see that when two friends hit high school, they go their separate ways as they explore different things. These two have stuck together and I thought it adds an interesting element.

Two major things happen on their first day. Arnie is bullied by Buddy Repperton (William Ostrander) and his two friends. Buddy pulls a knife. Dennis and Arnie point this out to a teacher and Buddy is expelled. This will come back into play later. The other is that a beautiful new student starts there, Leigh Cabot (Alexandra Paul).

On their way home, Arnie sees a car for sale. It is the Plymouth Fury we saw in the beginning of the film, but it has fallen into disrepair. Arnie buys it off the old man who tells him that the name of the car is Christine. Arnie’s parents won’t let him keep it there so he must go to the local junkyard that also has a ‘do it yourself’ garage. A man named Will Darnell (Robert Prosky) allows him to keep it there, but for a price.

Arnie starts to fix the car up and gets it to look almost brand new. He also arrives at a football game with Leigh. It is at this game that Dennis gets hurt. Arnie is acting different too. That night Buddy and his friends destroy the car. It doesn’t stay like that and it is out for revenge.

That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I’ll start is that I’m assuming most everyone has seen this at least once as well. This isn’t top tier Carpenter on people’s list, but I think having the combo of King, Carpenter and practical effects, it isn’t hated either.

With that out of the way, where I’ll then go is that my last couple viewings, I’ve found a solid deeper meaning to what we get that I didn’t pick up on until being older. The interaction of Arnie with his parents we see that they are quite controlling of him. It causes him to rebel. He says to Dennis that he thinks part of it is if he starts to do more adult things, they lose him as their son. I have friends with overbearing parents so that is an interesting way to look at it. It makes sense.

Another good thing is the changes that Christine brings. There is this idea that she is overbearing in a different way, but like his parents. She gives Arnie the energy and even makes it to where he doesn’t need his glasses. The novel is interesting in that Arnie I know is covered in zits and might be overweight. The car helps to clear all that up. It becomes a symbiotic relationship where they need each other. It doesn’t go as deep as that in the film, but we get enough through Arnie’s outbursts.

There is something I have an issue with and it is the relationship between Leigh and Arnie. It happens rapidly and ends much in the same way. I just think that could have been fleshed out a little bit, as she doesn’t seem to be all that needed with what we get. Most of it is just to show that he has become confident thanks to Christine, but seeing how they came together and when things were good would have helped. I understand that King’s novels are lengthy and need to be condensed to make a movie is part of that as well.

This brings me to the pacing of the film. This was something during my last viewing, I had an issue with. This is a slow burn. It is backloaded with action. This makes sense though since we need Christine to be rebuilt slowly initially and need Arnie to change. Once both have, that is when it picks up. This wasn’t an issue for me this most recent watch.

There are two things that carry this and one is the acting. Gordon embodies the role of Arnie. The only thing that would make this better is seeing the effects Christine has on him as Arnie changes would be better. We get he has low self-esteem and glasses, but maybe the acne could have helped as well. Stockwell is good as his jock friend. I’m glad they didn’t go stereotype here and make him human. I like the dynamic between him and Arnie as well as later with Leigh. Paul is gorgeous, but I think she is underdeveloped. More for her would help as well, especially when things are good with Arnie. I like Prosky as this jerk who allows Arnie to use his garage. He is so ornery that is funny. I also want to shout out to Harry Dean Stanton, who is the detective when the murders start. Same goes to Ostrander, Steven Tash, Stuart Charno and a young Kelly Preston as well for rounding out the film with their acting.

Something that really blew me away for this film was the effects. It is amazing how they could destroy the car and make it look like it was fixing itself. I have read up a little bit at what they did, using hydraulics and I’m assuming shooting it one way and then playing it in reverse. Whatever they did, it was great. Seeing this car do things that it probably shouldn’t be able to do was good as well. I’ll also credit the cinematography here as well. Carpenter just knows how to shoot a film.

All that is left then is the soundtrack. I noticed that Carpenter did the music along with Alan Howarth. For the most part we get old Rock ‘n Roll songs, but I like how they incorporate the lyrics to how the car seems to be talking to the characters. That is also from the novel if memory serves. We also get great musical cues that this duo is good at. This isn’t the best score that they have done, but I thought it was still solid. It fits what was needed and helped to build the tension of the scenes.

In conclusion, this is a solid adaptation of a King novel. I like the idea of a car being something of evil from the beginning. There is deeper commentary that I appreciate now as a more seasoned cinephile. I like that the car can fix itself, but also make Arnie into a better looking and more confident human. The problem does become though him becoming worse because of it. This is a well-made movie. The effects were great while the score of the film was good. The acting was solid as well to bring these characters to life. This isn’t my favorite from Carpenter, but this is a good film. I would recommend giving it a viewing if you haven’t for a while.


My Rating: 8 out of 10