Combustible Celluloid
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With: Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, Robert Prosky, Harry Dean Stanton, Kelly Preston, Christine Belford, Roberts Blossom
Written by: Bill Phillips, based on a novel by Stephen King
Directed by: John Carpenter
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 110
Date: 12/09/1983

Christine (1983)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Car Squash

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Many of our best directors have taken on works by Stephen King, and here is John Carpenter's attempt, based on King's novel published the same year. I love Carpenter, and I like Christine well enough, but I'm not as enthusiastic about it as I am about other King films. Maybe it's because the story is fairly ordinary, or maybe it's because its depiction of a bullied high school outcast is too brutal. Nevertheless, Carpenter was at the top of his game here, and his handling of suspense and tension is superb.

Though the idea of a haunted car was certainly unique (more or less), the idea that it possesses its driver, turning him into a newly confident monster is not. We get endless scenes of Arnie Cunningham (future director Keith Gordon) being bullied, and then acting crazy, with all of his friends and family wringing their hands over him. His newfound power allows him to land the prettiest girl in school (future "Baywatch" babe Alexandra Paul), but she quickly grows frightened of him. Likewise, concern over Arnie causes his best buddy Dennis (John Stockwell) to become badly injured during a football game.

But Carpenter clearly loves the car. Scenes of Christine luring and killing her victims, and then pushing out her own dents and cleaning up any damage, are still pretty cool. It's always a shame when the visual effects, and the movie's monster, should be more interesting than the human characters, and it's always odd when a movie like that still works, but that is certainly the case here. Carpenter conjures up another great, creepy score for this one, and the great Harry Dean Stanton appears in a couple of scenes as a nosy cop.

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