in Review, Shocktober

Christine (1983)

It’s staggering how many of Stephen King’s stories have been adapted for the screen. There have been some great ones and some not so great ones. Christine probably sits somewhere in the middle. I mean there’s only so much you can do with a movie about a killer car. So considering the premise, Christine succeeds in providing plenty of chills and spills. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when you have horror auteur John Carpenter at the helm.

Set in the late 70s, Christine is the story of Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon) a nerdy young man with only one close friend from childhood, a jock named Dennis (John Stockwell). Arnie is tormented at school and lives a demeaning existence until his discovery of an old red-white Fury car that he buys for practically nothing. The car is beat-up beyond all belief, but Arnie works hard to fix it until it’s brand spanking new. He receives help from a crusty old man played by Robert Prosky who lets Arnie work on the car and store it in his garage. As the car goes through a transformation, so does Arnie becoming a rebellious motorhead. Eventually, the car takes control and starts to “take people for a ride”. If you know what I mean… I mean they get killed.

Christine does a fine job of building up these characters and making them likable. Keith Gordon and John Stockwell are both characters we get behind early on and care about. There’s nothing particularly cliched about the story or its progression. Of course, John Carpenter’s direction and music give the film an atmospheric touch. I was surprised and still am by how competent of an adaptation this is.

Christine was a modest success and received fine to mixed reviews upon it’s release. Honestly, I think it’s a lot better than most give it credit. John Carpenter actually made a car scary, that’s something. Christine may not be one of the more notable King-adaptation-titles, but it’s frightful fun and does the source material justice.

John Carpenter contemplates whether or not this movie needs Kurt Russell.