John Carpenter in Review: Christine (1983)
Plot: A high school geek buys a beat up Plymouth Fury and fixes it up. Unbeknownst to him the car has a life of its own and has started to influence the behavior of its owner.
Arnie (Keith Gordon) is a nerdy high school student who doesn’t really excel at social situation, naturally. He only has one friend who he has known since childhood who happened to grow up to be a popular jock, Dennis (John Stockwell). After a particularly emasculating run in with a bully, Arnie ends up making a snap decision and buys a rusty, beat up 1958 Plymouth Fury from a local weirdo. This car starts to invigorate Arnie’s spirit.
The most original thing about Christine is Christine herself. She is an old glossy red Plymouth Fury. She has a mind of her own and expresses herself through old timey rock and roll she broadcasts over her radio. At night, she drives around driver-less to attack those who attack her owner. Afterward, she is able to fix all the dents and breaks that she cumulative during her nightly terrors.
The rest of the characters Carpenter parades are a collection of stereotypes. Arnie is the definitive geek. He is clumsy and terrible at mundane tasks despite his above average intelligence. He soon evolves into a moody angst-ridden wannabe. He becomes more confident and out-going, and his outward appearance starts to mirror that. He lost the glasses, and he started dressing nice and in darker colors. The longer Arnie has the car, the more arrogant and volatile he becomes. His best friend is the good intentioned high school jock who is somehow able to be friends with most people in school. Stockwell, among the entire cast, seems to feel the most comfortable in his own skin making his stereotype somewhat workable. The bullies who attack Arnie are essential ’80s douchebags or guys who would probably be the target of said douchebag if they weren’t so dedicated to his bad behavior. The love interest is about as bland as can be despite the entire school seemingly talking about her like she is some kind of Amazon. It is an odd direction Carpenter would take since he proved he was more than capable of making a relatable cast in his previous work. In fact, beside his awesome synth score, it is probably his greatest strength.
Despite the cast flaws, Christine succeeds at depicting its killer gimmick past superficial novelty. This new twist on the slasher picture is still a very entertaining flick, I just expected a little more from the guy who made the essential slasher flick in the first place.