Director: John Carpenter
Screenplay: Bill Phillips
Based on a Book by: Stephen King
Starring: Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, Robert Prosky, Harry Dean Stanton
Running Time: 110 min
BBFC Certificate: 18
Sitting down and struggling to think about how to open this review, I realised something surprising. This will be the first time I’ve reviewed a John Carpenter film (other than some mini reviews as part of a festival or Weekend of Trash). This is surprising as I’m a big fan of the director (anyone who listened to me guest on the Carpenter Retrospective LAMBcast will have learnt this – http://blueprintreview.co.uk/2015/11/blueprint-on-the-lambcast-john-carpenter-retrospective/). He may have struggled to match the quality of his earlier work since the late eighties (1994’s In the Mouth of Madness is his only post-80’s film I’ve seen that stands up), but for the first 14 years of his career he knocked out classic after classic (cult or otherwise), with greats like Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, Big Trouble in Little China and possibly his finest hour, The Thing. The latter, although now considered a horror masterpiece, was considered a misstep at the time though, doing poorly at the box office and receiving criticism for its levels of gore. Carpenter was disappointed and it caused him to play it safe for his next film, following a number of well known directors in adapting a novel from best-selling horror author Stephen King for the big screen. Where De Palma set the ball rolling with Carrie and Kubrick took on The Shining, Carpenter’s producer got his hands on an early manuscript of Christine, the story of a killer car, possessed by supernatural forces.
Carpenter and writer Bill Phillips decided to make a number of big changes to the hefty 500-odd page tome though. Rather than have the ghost of the previous owner be the source of the car’s evil, they decided to keep it more vague, much like in Halloween where the villain’s motivations are kept a mystery.
Backing up a bit then (forgive the pun), the film opens with uber-geek Arnie (Keith Gordon) struggling with life as a 17 year old. He’s getting bullied at school, is given grief by his dominant mother and, worst of all, hasn’t got laid yet. His best friend Dennis (John Stockwell) tries his best to help break him out of his rut, but something else ends up doing it for him. The two guys pass a shack where an old man is selling a busted up old Plymouth Fury named Christine, and Arnie falls instantly in love. He buys the car there and then, despite Dennis trying to talk him out of it. Arnie spends his days and nights fixing Christine and, as he does, his personality completely changes too. His milk bottle glasses are thrown aside, his hair and outfits become styled on The Fonz, he picks up the hottest girl in school, Leigh (Alexandra Paul) and he starts to act like a real asshole to everyone in his life, beginning by standing up to his parents who don’t want his car crowding their driveway. His new attitude and mounting obsession over Christine get too much for Dennis and Leigh though, who fear their friend has crossed over to a strange dark side. This is made worse by the fact that Arnie’s enemies, particularly those who didn’t treat Christine so kindly, are starting to drop dead in freak automobile-related accidents.
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