Vic’s Review – “Christine” (1983)
“Hell hath no Fury like a Fury scorned”
Directed by John Carpenter
8 Plymouth Furies Out of 10
How can you make a film about a killer car scary? Well, you adapt a novel by Stephen King, change it around a bit and give the project to John Carpenter. Carpenter to this day proclaims that this film was just a routine paycheck. He sells himself short which is a classic pattern of true cinematic genius. Keith Gordon stars as Arnie Cunningham, a picked on, nerdy high school kid who befriends a popular jock named Dennis, played very believably by future film director John Stockwell. Rounding out the cast are Harry Dean Stanton in a very slick performance as a police detective and Alexandra Paul as Arnie’s soon to be love interest.
But how does Arnie get cool enough to date the hottest girl in the school? Well, after a day of getting his ass handed to him he drives home with Dennis and sees her. Who? A piece of crap, rusted out ’58 Plymouth Fury. He immediately falls in love with the real star of the film — Christine. At first she’s ugly, worn out and dilapidated, much like Arnie, and he sees her as a project. So he decides to fix her up at Robert Prosky’s garage. Prosky steals every scene as Darnell, who has the best line in the film-”You can’t polish a turd.” But Arnie does polish this turd.
Christine obviously works on different levels so I won’t go too much into it. But is does play well with the loner becoming a force to be reckoned with angle. And this is what Carpenter excels at. His take is pronounced, accurate and even emotional. Arnie is obsessed with the car which magically fixes itself. And has an odometer that goes backwards. Cracks in the windshield that reduce in size. Stockwell and Paul’s characters see the change in Arnie and they attribute it to Christine. How can one be jealous of a car? Well, Carpenter is all over this film. The cinematography, not by Dean Cundey mind you but Donald Morgan is exceptional especially when Christine is barrelling after teenagers. All the stars give very real performances and the car itself is basically what makes the film work and Carpenter shows her off like the very best kind of car porn. And he succeeds with Morgan’s great scope and vision. Arnie does become an asshole a bit too fast for my liking though and we want to really relate to this kid but by the end you kinda want Christine to run him over as well. Arnie is lucky to have friends that care about him but he is to obsessed to notice. It ends in a very cool Christine versus a tractor showdown. After watching her fix herself (the coolest part of the movie) she succumbs and is crushed into scrap. And Arnie suffers for it. Please observe the nuances of Christine. Many Carpenter fans are polarized by this film. It isn’t scary enough. The ending sucked. Blah blah blah. Christine is smooth, fast and terrible. Hell hath no fury like a Plymouth scorned.