Christine

Boy meets car, boy loses car, boy gets car back. Hmm, Christine is a different kind of love story—in this case, the object of an adolescent boy’s affection is his red 1958 Plymouth Fury.

Well, maybe that’s not so weird. The kid’s pretty lonely, and the car is the only thing on which he can lavish his attention. Its name—her name—is Christine.

Christine is a horror movie as well as a love story, however, and the terror twist here is that the car is possessed by the devil. Actually, we don’t ever find out exactly what the car has that makes it so mean, but whatever it is, it likes rock ‘n roll and murder.

Christine’s previous owner was haunted by a history of violent death in the family—and they all died, over the years, in the malevolent car. When 17-year-old Arnie (Keith Gordon) buys Christine as a broken-down pile of junk, he doesn’t care about the history of the car—he just knows that he has some mysterious connection to it.

He fixes up Christine so that she’s all shiny, and in the process, he starts to change himself. The whimpering nerd is banished, and a veritable Mr. Hyde emerges. It isn’t long before Arnie, in his new swaggering persona, is dating the prettiest girl at Rockbridge High—and taking her to the drive-in, courtesy Christine.

Arnie used to be bothered by bullies. But Christine flexes her chrome and—no more bullies. In fact, Christine may be doing her job a little too thoroughly. The local police are staring to sniff around, wondering why all the creeps who once bugged Arnie are being found with tire tracks on their letterman’s jackets.

This premise, based on Stephen King’s best seller, might have been a lot of fun. But the movie is so straightforward and one-note that it becomes rather boring.

The director, John (Halloween) Carpenter, whose early promise as one of the leading lights of the New Hollywood is dimming rapidly, does not seem to be particularly engaged by the material. He tries to develop the idea of Arnie’s loneliness being answered by this seductive machine, but that really gets skipped over pretty quickly. Not much is allowed to stem the flow of car stunts and chases.

And even the stunts and special effects aren’t unusually impressive. The teen crowd may be disappointed by Carpenter’s customary restraint when it comes to the more graphic elements of gore ‘n guts that have been the bread and butter of so many horror movies lately.

Christine herself, it should be said, is a hot number. Whether cruising down a highway in flames or dramatically reconstructing herself after absorbing a pounding from the local toughs, she’s a formidable machine. But it doesn’t say much for Christine to point out that she has more personality by far than anyone else in the film.

First published in the Herald, December 10, 1983

I would have guessed that sometime in the last 29 years I would have given this movie another look, but apparently I had other priorities. At this moment in Carpenter’s career I was perpetually disappointed, so maybe I’d see the movie with kinder eyes today.

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2 Responses to Christine

  1. Idle Primate says:

    You might see it with kinder eyes. I love Carpenter and was an adolescent when this was new, so those are biases, but I think it is a good thriller of a horror, and I also think it is legitmately a good movie, genre trappings aside. The depiction of teen years, coming of age and how people and their relationships drastically change in this time, the geography of youth at the time–and the swan song of cars being a cultural centricity, especially among young people, it all combines to make for an engaging movie before ever considering it as a horror film–to my thinking. And all from the absurd(but not King’s most absurd) premise of a haunted overprotective car. Perhaps too, with age, the film becomes a kind of time capsule which adds value that would not have been there when it was new.

    *I’ve just discovered your site while looking to read reviews of The Plague Dogs, and since reading that one been poking around. I get that the post, and site are old and possibly abandoned. It is a nice archive of film reviews from a period seminal to me, so thanks.

    • roberthorton says:

      Thanks for the comment. I really am looking forward to re-seeing CHRISTINE, but haven’t done it yet. I am a Carpenter fan – just used a clip from THEY LIVE in a class last week.

      The site isn’t abandoned, but my hiatus stretched on longer than expected. I have actually been thinking in recent weeks that I’ll start adding reviews again when I’m finished teaching this summer. I hope you keep reading.

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