Logline: A teenage boy’s personality changes drastically after he purchases a ’58 Plymouth Fury that seems to have a mind of its own.
Christine is commonly regarded as one of John Carpenter’s lesser films so I had no expectations before watching it. To my surprise, I loved the film and would argue that it is one of the filmmaker’s finest works. Christine marks the first and only collaboration between two horror greats – John Carpenter and author Stephen King.
On paper, the film’s premise sounds incredibly silly. A teenage boy becomes possessed by a car. In the hands of John Carpenter though, the material never seems ridiculous and is highly entertaining. The film strikes the perfect balance of horror, comedy, and teen angst. The film wisely takes its time to establish the characters, their relationships, and the world they inhabit. Keith Gordon is fantastic in the lead role of Arnie and his transformation is completely believable. Harry Dean Stanton and Robert Prosky are a delight to watch in supporting roles.
Christine features excellent direction from Carpenter and there are some gorgeous shot compositions. The cinematography by Donald M. Morgan is stellar and the film is quite beautiful. Furthermore, Christine, a ’58 Plymouth Fury, is a sleek and gorgeous car that manages to be menacing at the same time. The visual effects are wonderful and still hold up to this day. The film also features one of Carpenter’s best scores. Composed with frequent collaborator Alan Howarth, the score is quintessential Carpenter with its synthesizers and roaring bass line. The soundtrack also features a melange of great rock ‘n’ roll tunes from the 50s.
Christine is a film rich with great scenes. One of my favorites is when Christine rebuilds herself for the first time in the garage in front of Arnie. Being that this is an 80s movie, the film features a giant explosion at a gas station. It is a great scene, though and includes one of the film’s most iconic moments. Christine, in flames, pursues Buddy (William Ostrander) down an open road. The finale, in which Dennis (John Stockwell) and Leigh (Alexandra Paul) attempt to destroy Christine with a bulldozer, does not disappoint.
Christine received a lukewarm response from critics at the time and was a disappointment at the box office. It has since become a cult classic but has never been given the recognition it so rightfully deserves. Christine is one of John Carpenter’s best films and one of the best adaptations of Stephen King’s work. A film that comments on America’s obsession with cars and conjures up nostalgia for the 1950s, Christine needs to be reevaluated. It is a true Carpenter classic and a unique piece of 80s horror cinema.
Rating (out of ****): ****