She was born in Detroit…on an automobile assembly line. But she is no ordinary automobile. Deep within her chassis lives an unholy presence. She is CHRISTINE – a red and white 1958 Plymouth Fury whose unique standard equipment includes an evil, indestructible vengeance that will destroy anyone in her way. She seduces 17-year-old Arnie Cunningman (Keith Gordon), who becomes consumed with passion for her sleek, rounded chrome-laden body. She demands his complete and unquestioned devotion and when outsiders seek to interfere, they become the victims of Christine’s horrifying wrath.
I remember reading the Stephen King novel ‘Christine’. I liked exploring the inner life of the main character and his parasitic relationship with his car. Frankly, it echoes and amplifies the reality of some of the most ardent car owners I’ve seen or heard of. And yet, not being a fan of cars, the book left me a bit cold; it was well-written, but hardly engrossing.
Similarly, the movie leaves me feeling entertained, but unchallenged and unriveted. It’s a good movie, yes, certainly, but it’s basically the story of a guy whose life unravels when he becomes addicted to his car. It could be the story of anyone with an addiction, I suppose, except that Christine is possessed and she gets jealous – so not only is the owner an addict, but he has a stalker on his heels as well.
The lead actor is key in the enjoyment of this film. Since it’s mostly about him, his home life, his social life, his well being, …etc., it’s essential that the actor can embody all the changes that his character goes through. Unfortunately, Keith Gordon only manages to convey the character’s weaker, more nerdy side; the transformation from nebbish to cool, self-assured and charismatic, doesn’t play out very well. At no point did I buy into the notion that he had become cool and dangerous; despite it all, he still looked like a dweeb.
Aside from this issue, however, everything is pretty much solid, including the rest of the cast. There’s even an excellent choice of music, both in the tunes playing on the car radio and in the score, which was co-authored by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth. The tunes, especially, were so appropriate for each sequence and even expressed what the car was “feeling” or saying at key moments. I don’t remember if this was in the book, but it was decidedly a great touch. The score was appropriately eerie and dramatic – for a synth-based set.
Another highlight of the film was the special effects. I thought that it was tremendous to see the effects done for “real”, not with CGI – as it is pretty much always done these days. It’s truly awe-inspiring to watch the car change, get destroyed, rebuild itself, …etc. It makes you wonder how they pulled it off, and I really hope that the special features show us how it was done. Quite seriously, it wouldn’t have looked nearly as good today; CGI rarely looks fully convincing.
So, bottom line: John Carpenter put together a good interpretation of the original story. It was never my favourite King book, and neither is the film, but fans would be hard-pressed to thumb their nose at this version of ‘Christine’.