1983, Columbia Pictures Corporation/Delphi Premier Productions/Polar Film
Stephen King (original novel)
Bill Phillips (screenplay)
Donald M. Morgan
Keith Gordon (Arnie Cunningham)
John Stockwell (Dennis Guilder)
Alexandra Paul (Leigh Cabot)
Robert Prosky (Will Darnell)
Harry Dean Stanton (Detective Junkins)
Christine Belford (Regina Cunningham)
Roberts Blossom (George LeBay)
William Ostrander (Buddy Repperton)
Steven Tash (Rich)
Stuart Charno (Don Vandenberg)
Malcolm Danare (Moochie Welch)
Stephen King’s demonic car comes to life in this exciting John Carpenter-directed thriller.
In 1957, a red Plymouth Fury is built. However, on the assembly line, two accidents are caused, killing one of the victims. Twenty-one years later, Arnie Cunningham is a young nerdy high schooler who is bullied both in school and at home. At home, his mother is always berating his for some of his actions while in school, Arnie is the constant victim of a gang led by Buddy Repperton. The only friend he has is popular football player Dennis Guilder, who gives Arnie rides to school every day. One day, Arnie comes across a rundown Plymouth Fury, which is for sale by its first owner, George LeBay. Despite reservations from Dennis, Arnie buys the car, which George calls “Christine”, to the chagrin of his mother.
Arnie decides to take the car to a local garage where he works on the repairs himself. Arnie soon goes from nerd to a confident young man and even finds a girlfriend with Leigh, the most popular girl in school. When Buddy and his gang learn of the location of Christine, they destroy the car. Arnie soon learns the car has powers and rebuilds itself. It is apparent that Arnie soon finds himself connected to the car and seeks revenge on the gang. Meanwhile, Dennis and Leigh begin to worry about Arnie’s temperament changing to something neither expected and know the car is responsible. Will they be able to save their friend before his spirit is totally stolen by the mysterious car?
Stephen King is truly a legend with his tales of horror. It takes the right director to make his works come to life on the screen properly. Tobe Hooper did it with the miniseries Salem’s Lot and Stanley Kubrick did it with The Shining and now we have John Carpenter, the creator of Halloween, with this tale of the demonic car Christine, who possesses the soul of a nerdy teen who buys the car. Bill Phillips’ screenplay, combined with Carpenter’s stylistic vision, truly makes for a great film adaptation despite some obvious differences between novel and film.
The film is also driven by the performances of its young cast, notably the trio of Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, and Alexandra Paul. Gordon is simply great to watch as our nerd turned cocky Arnie Cunningham as we see him transition in a precursor to the subgenre nerd gets even horror film. Stockwell plays the concerned best friend who doesn’t get his friend’s sudden transformation with his attitude while Paul plays the love interest who in a now classic scene nearly falls victim to the car’s “jealousy” when she is alone in the car while Arnie steps out at a local drive-in.
The victims in the film are usually the ones who in one way bully Arnie. The high school gang are brutal and are led by William Ostrander’s Buddy, who sports a look that resembles a poor man’s John Travolta and his cronies are the typical bullying types who one will know will eventually get theirs. Even the garage owner, who tends to give Arnie a hard time at times and is well played by Robert Prosky, is destined to meet a fate as Christine is just the type who will do anything for “her” owner. As for the gang, the “revenge” scenes are well done, notably the famous gas station sequence in which the car, set ablaze after an explosion is chasing down a potential victim and fits perfectly with Carpenter’s haunting score.
Christine may not be as faithful in terms of adapting a Stephen King novel, but John Carpenter’s vision truly makes for a film adaptation worth seeing.
WFG RATING: A-