Dir. John Carpenter (1983)
An adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, in which a Plymouth Fury is very aptly named.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Full disclosure: This is a film that I had never seen before, which was slightly embarrassing as a huge fan of both John Carpenter and Stephen King. It also comes with the best tagline for a “killer car” movie ever: Body by Plymouth. Soul by Satan.” That’s rad as hell. The movie is about a nerdy guy named Arnold who buys a wrecked Plymouth Fury and is transformed through ownership of the car into a cool guy, dating the hottest girl in school and becoming the envy of every guy. There’s something up with the car, though, because it starts killing people who stand in Arnie’s way. As his relationship with the car deepens, his connection with the outside world begins to sever.
The movie isn’t nearly as violent as a lot of the other films made by Carpenter, and they had to add some “fucks” to get the movie to be rated R. They did that because they were afraid people wouldn’t go see it if it was rated G, which doesn’t seem like it would be the needed with a film by Carpenter adapted from Stephen King. The dude that sells Christine to Arnie is the same guy who played Marley in Home Alone, the old guy who saves Kevin from the Wet Bandits. He seemed like such a nice guy in Home Alone, the hell is he doing with a demon car? Arnie takes the car home, where his parents are extremely pissed off that he bought a car without asking them just weeks after he got his license. I imagine that most of the teenagers who went to see this movie in theaters thought those parents were lame as hell, but I gotta be honest… my teenage kid blows his savings on a rusted out heap that he wants to park in my driveway, we’re gonna have some issues too. Not to mention, the whole demon thing, which brings it’s own set of problems.
Christine is evil because her owner prioritizes her over everything else. In the book, she inherits her evil from her previous owner, who then essentially projects that possession on Arnie. In the film, this subplot is left out, and instead she just becomes an obsessive object that has been possessed since she came off the assembly line. This gives her a more malevolent presence and makes the whole plot a little less based around the failures of the human condition. The scene with the flaming Christine stalking a running victim is a perfect representation of the car’s malicious intent. Carpenter’s usage of music to signify Christine’s moods is an excellent way to humanize the car as well as to give personality to something that would otherwise be incapable of characterization. The malevolence present in these song choices do more than just personify the car: they are creepy and meaningful for the scene in which they’re used.
Like when Christine plays “You’re Mine” as Arnie’s girlfriend nearly chokes to death.
It’s a movie that would otherwise have had a lot of the problems that other King adaptations have had, but in Carpenter’s hands it comes together a lot more coherently. It’s as well made as any of Carpenter’s other films, and the acting is very well done as well. Keith Gordon’s portrayal of Christine’s high school-aged owner who is descending into madness is very believable, and he begins to take a lot of the characteristics that Christine would later show (but, ya know, human, and not a car). After Christine is destroyed, you can feel the madness as it permeates Arnie’s entire character. He falls in love with the car as if he would a woman, and his lustful gaze as the car repairs itself belies his deepening connection with the inanimate object.
I mean, it’s a good-looking car for sure, but I’d be hard-pressed to choose it over Alexandra Paul or Kelly Preston.
The movie, overall, is pure 80’s, with everything from the cinematography to the choices in casting checking every box on your 80’s Bingo card. Movies about evil objects are so easy to get wrong, and even more difficult to portray in a serious light. Most movies where a car, a bed, or a house are evil come off more cheesy and/or funny than horrific, and while Christine does start at a disadvantage simply from the plot of the movie, John Carpenter could make a houseplant scary. He has no problem with the aptly named Plymouth Fury. Christine is often forgotten when discussing adaptations of King’s films, and it absolutely shouldn’t be because it’s a helluva ride (pun intended.) Check it out if you haven’t, and give it another watch if you have.
Who this movie is for: Fans of 80’s horror and Stephen King, People who think John Carpenter is the best director of all time, Motor vehicle enthusiasts
Bottom line: Christine is a cult classic for a reason, and Carpenter is as good as ever in making a film about a killer car. Filled with 80’s nostalgia and some great special effects, Christine is a worthwhile addition to the world of Stephen King movie adaptations. As a huge fan of King, Carpenter, and 80’s films in general, this one was right up my alley. It’s not as good as some of Carpenter’s other films, but it’s still a fun film that’s a worthwhile watch. If you haven’t seen it, you pretty much have to. John Carpenter IS the best horror director of all time, and his name should be more highly considered as one of the best directors in American history, period. Christine isn’t his highlight, but it’s a damn good film.