written by Bill Phillips
based on the novel Christine by Stephen King
directed by John Carpenter
Anyone who knows me is aware of my admiration for director John Carpenter. The other day I reviewed his latest album Lost Themes (2015) for PPCORN, so once again I got into a Carpenter roll which included showing his underrated 1983 gem Christine to my wife. It’s still as good as I remembered it.
Christine came at a time in Carpenter’s career where he was firing on all cylinders, a period of roughly seven years that includes the seminal Halloween (1978), the cultish Escape from New York (1980), his undisputed classic (really, don’t dare dispute it) The Thing (1982), and even 1984’s Starman, a film that has the honor of having my favorite last shot of all time (I told you I was a fan). In any case, this adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about a murderous 1958 Plymouth Fury highlights Carpenter’s innate feel for minimalistic suspense.
In Carpenter’s hands, the potential B-movie trappings of a killer car movie take a backseat to the more insidious horrors of teenage life, as awkward virgin Arnie Cunningham (a stellar Keith Gordon), bullied by a gang of thugs at school and babied by his overprotective parents at home, finally becomes a man though the purchase and restoration of the titular car. For Christine is one evil machine, and its power turns Arnie into a confident asshole, someone capable of standing up to his mother, landing the hot new girl in town (Alexandra Paul), and more importantly, getting bloody revenge against the ruffians who’ve made his life hell. It’s an adequate fantasy scenario for any geek who’s ever wanted to survive high school.
Ok, I go overboard a bit. It isn’t exactly Shakespeare. But I get goosebumps every time I watch the scene where Arnie whispers “Ok, show me” to Christine and the car proceeds to rebuild itself in front of his eyes to the electronic throbs of Carpenter’s eerie/romantic score. For Christine is not just a ride, it’s Arnie’s first woman, and what Arnie feels for it (her) is as strong as any hormone-filled first crush. Sometimes, love can be a killer… literally.
Carlos I. Cuevas