Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: Christine
Leave it to director John Carpenter to bring you a movie that has such a ridiculous premise but somehow makes it truly frightening and enjoyable. And not to mention horror author Stephen King for taking such a basic idea and flying with it. Granted not all of King’s work will be blockbuster material but you do get certain stories that can make such a chilling yet interesting flick. This is where Christine comes in. Probably the only killer car movie I can think of that is flat out absurd on paper but when watching it, makes for a very well made and if not near masterpiece. I know this isn’t Criterion material but man, a huge part of me feels like this movie should.
Keith Gordon plays a nerdy teen named Arnold who obviously doesn’t fit in with school. And yeah, this is sort of a minor problem of the movie. If you know King’s work, you will come across a character once in a while that does have similar qualities. Or even stories like this. The nerd that keeps getting picked on, the bullies that hassle him, the one best friend that is a jock but tries to stand up for him and the overzealous parents that want what is best for him but obviously show no sign of freedom for their kid. Cliched and predicable but even King’s channeling of these cliches can make for something interesting. In the vein of horror, you know something will happen to these tropes and cliches while curious to see where it goes.
And it just so happens, Arnold pines over not a girl but a car. That’s right! A 1958 Plymouth Belvedere that is believed to be cursed seeing the previous owner died in it. But he doesn’t care as the kid fixes her up like new and starts to have a huge obsession over it. So much so that Arnold starts to have a complete transformation and sees his hot rod as a girlfriend (ironically much less like the girl he tries to date.) Now he becomes rebellious, demented and all out insane. Here is where Christine gets really interesting.
Its not the car or even the other characters. Its Arnold’s obsession and how it consumes. It was almost like he made a deal with the devil just to have this new personality just to get the car of his dreams. Keith Gordon does a surprisingly good job channeling from the shy and geeky to suddenly turning into the greaser from Hell. Every time he’s on screen, you feel like he’s a time bomb waiting to explode considering what lies behind that jet black hair and devilish smug is something dark and demented. Viewers always have this fascination with dark characters as well as villains and this kid fits the bill if your looking for something like that. The transformation Arnold goes through is engaging while also frightening to watch. As you see him seep into madness, you wonder if there is any humanity left and horrify at how much control he gets over his parents while also how insane he becomes.
But of course, the real star of the movie is Christine herself. Lord knows how many Belvedere cars they had to dig up in order to make this automobile alive. Its never explained but the car has a mind of its own as it manages to kill the bullies that taunt Arnold and anyone who gets in the way of her relationship. The movie could have removed this supernatural element and it would have been standard. But the idea of a living car killing people is crazy but this movie really makes it scary at times. One such highlight is when Christine destroys a gas station and emerges covered in flames while chasing down another bully. The imagery and sight of a car on fire meshed with the electronic score by John Carpenter himself and collaborator Alan Howarth really make for an intense scene like this.
Can Christine be destroyed? Maybe. There are rules to this metallic beast which makes for great suspense. If you even try to smash or break the car, it simply unbends itself and regenerates like it was off the assembly line. Again, another get testament to how amazing practical effects can be. In today’s world, CGI would be an easy thing. But the fact they went through 20 cars just to make an elaborate special effect like that is astounding. If it wasn’t for the special effects, this would have been a run of the mile horror. But seeing how much effort they put into making you believe this car is alive really works.
Now is it a perfect movie? Not completely. As said, there are stock characters that are sort of uninteresting and the pace can be a tad slow. But with most of Carpenter’s films, there’s something interesting about the main characters he crafts with themes of isolation that are common in Escape from New York or his remake of The Thing. What works best is the special effects and the main character. Without these two elements, it would have been a basic teenager story about sex and stuff.
What Christine becomes is a psychological thrill ride that really delivers on entertainment and scares. Half of the time, we do get moments when we wonder if it is the car killing these people or perhaps Arnold is behind the wheel. We never know that until the very last minute when they pull a small double twist that really leaves a lot of thinking to the viewer. Was Arnold controlling Christine or was Christine really controlling Arnold? At the end of the day, there never is a clear answer and perhaps that is good. The important element of horror is the unknown. And when you have something you can’t answer for find a solution to, that is when things get really frightening. And who would think something that could have been goofy and stupid could make for amazing popcorn entertainment. Thankfully, Sony decided to release this on official Blu-Ray nationwide(after a limited run with the Twilight Time label sold out fast). I don’t just give this a high recommendation but a personal “buy it” just to have something around the house in case of a slow night. Full of thrills and dark atmosphere, don’t just watch Christine but own it.
Posted on October 27, 2015, in Horror-Wood 2015, Uncategorized and tagged 1983, Adaptation, Car, Christine, Horror, Horror-Wood, Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon, John Carpenter, Keith Gordon, Killer car, Novel, Plymouth Belvedere, Stephen King. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.