Thursday, October 22, 2015

Christine (1983 film)

Based on the novel by Stephen King, Christine is the story of a young teenager who buys a 1958 Ford Plymouth as he becomes obsessed with the car that comes to life and kills whoever harms him and the car. Directed by John Carpenter and screenplay by Bill Phillips, the film explores the strange relationship between a nerdy young man and his car which creates something that is scary and full of terror. Starring Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, Robert Prosky, and Harry Dean Stanton. Christine is a thrilling and exhilarating film from John Carpenter.

Set in 1978, the film revolves a young nerdy teenager who buys a beat-up 1958 Ford Plymouth from an old man as he would start to change in drastic ways while becoming obsessed with the car and kill anyone who insults or harms him and his car. For this young man, the chance of having a car doesn’t just give him the chance to have something of his own but also would mark a major change from this cowardly nerd to being someone that is no longer afraid but would also mark some very dark characteristics into his personality. Bill Phillips’ screenplay doesn’t just explore the change in the personality of its protagonist Arnold Cunningham (Keith Gordon) but also in how those who are close to him would react to this change. Especially as his best friend Dennis Guilder (John Stockwell) notices the change in his personality where Arnold manages to snag the new girl in town named Leigh (Alexandra Paul) as well as get the ire of the bullies.

The script would also indicate where Arnold was before he had the car as he was just this nerd that was doing whatever it takes to succeed in high school and always did what his parents told him. Upon seeing this beat-up car, Arnold sees this chance to find a new identity but one that has him being very antagonistic towards his parents as well as being neglectful towards Dennis who would get injured at a football game upon the moment he sees the change in Arnold with this car. Even as the garage owner Darnell (Robert Prosky) who would let Arnold put the car there in exchange for some work and such notices that something isn’t right. Once the story becomes more about the car that is called Christine and the number of victims it went after, it would also play more into Arnold’s own personality as he becomes obsessive, angrier, and also more controlling in what he wants to do with his life.

John Carpenter’s direction is very gripping from the way he opens the film which begins with an assembly line of workers checking on different models of 1958 Ford Plymouth where this one red Ford Plymouth would do something and it would then shift to twenty years later. While much of it is presented in a simple manner in terms of its compositions, Carpenter’s approach to the suspense is very slow once it relates to the car that is Christine. Carpenter’s usage of close-ups and medium shots do help play into some of the drama and suspense yet it is the moments involving Christine where the radio would light up playing an rock n’ roll tune is where things get very interesting. Most notably the sequence where Christine goes after Arnold’s enemies in such a way as it has this sense of terror but also glee considering that some of these individuals who tormented him are getting what they deserve. The film’s climax is intense where Carpenter’s usage of the wide shots and setting doesn’t just play into what must be done but also reveal exactly how far one must go to help a friend from this terrible obsession. Overall, Carpenter creates a very exciting and mesmerizing film about a teenager and the car that he loves.

Cinematographer Donald M. Morgan does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the sunny and colorful locations in the day to the more lavish usage of lights for some scenes at night including the scenes involving Christine. Editor Marion Rothman does fantastic work with the editing in its usage of rhythmic cuts as well as some stylish cutting to help build up some of the suspenseful moments including the scenes of Christine unleashing herself. Production designer Daniel A. Lomino and set decorator Cloudia Rebar do brilliant work with the design of Darnell‘s junkyard/garage which would be the place where Arnold would work on Christine as well as some of the places he would go to. Costume designer Darryl Levine does nice work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual as it sort of strays from the clothing that is often typical of the late 1970s.

Special effects supervisor Roy Arbogast does amazing work with some of the effects as it revolves around Christine coming back to life after being beaten and humiliated as it is among one of the chilling sequences in film. Sound editor David Lewis Yewdall does superb work with the sound to play into Christine coming back together as well as some of the sound work that goes on in the locations and in the suspenseful moments. The film’s music by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth is wonderful as it’s very low-key in its electronic setting with its usage of synthesizers and keyboards to help play into the horror and suspense while the soundtrack would feature not just old classics from Ritchie Valens, Robert and Johnny, Johnny Ace, Buddy Holly, Larry Williams, Dion and the Belmonts, Danny and the Juniors, and Little Richard but also songs from the 70s by the Rolling Stones and Bonnie Raitt and an anachronistic yet fitting song from George Thorgood and the Destroyers.

The casting by Karen Rea is incredible as it features some notable small roles from David Spielberg as the auto shop teacher, Stuart Charno, Steve Tash, and Malcolm Danare as a trio of bullies who torment Arnold, Robert Blossoms as the old man who sold Arnold the car which previously belonged to his brother, Kelly Preston as the cheerleader Roseanne who has a thing for Dennis, Christine Belford as Arnold’s mother who disapproves of Arnold having the car, and William Ostrander as the lead bully Buddy who torments Arnold and wants to cause hell to him until he becomes a target of Christine. Harry Dean Stanton is superb as the detective Rudy Junkins who would confront and question Arnold over some of these incidents as he knows something isn’t right. Robert Prosky is fantastic as Darnell as a junkyard/garage owner who reluctantly lets Arnold have Christine stay at the garage as he is a no-nonsense kind of guy that is also baffled by the car itself.

Alexandra Paul is excellent as Leigh as the new girl in school that catches the eyes of many as she would date Arnold until she becomes concerned with his ever-changing moods as she thinks it has to do with Christine. John Stockwell is brilliant as Dennis as this jock who is a friend of Arnold as he becomes concerned with Arnold’s newfound behavior and obsession towards Christine as he realized how much he’s changed and not for the better. Finally, there’s Keith Gordon in an amazing performance as Arnold Cunningham as this nerdy kid who buys this beat-up ‘58 Ford Plymouth as he becomes obsessed with this car where he becomes a much darker and more antagonistic individual as it’s one of Gordon’s finest performances.

Christine is a phenomenal film from John Carpenter. Featuring a great cast, a cool premise, a fun soundtrack, and some chilling moments in films. It’s a film that isn’t just one of Carpenter’s quintessential films in terms of horror and suspense but it’s also one of the finest Stephen King adaptations ever created as it is told with such unique style. In the end, Christine is a spectacular film from John Carpenter.

John Carpenter Films: Dark Star - Assault on Precinct 13 - Halloween - Someone’s Watching Me! - Elvis - The Fog - Escape from New York - The Thing - Starman - Big Trouble in Little China - Prince of Darkness - They Live - Memoirs of an Invisible Man - Body Bags - In the Mouth of Madness - Village of the Damned - Escape from L.A. - Vampires - Ghosts of Mars - The Ward

The Auteurs #60: John Carpenter Pt. 1 - Pt. 2

© thevoid99 2015


Dell said...

Christine is a wonderful film. As weird as it sounds the relationship between Arnold and Christine felt incredibly real and that just made the movie all sorts of creepy. Glad you love this one, too.

Roman J. Martel said...

Great to read a positive review of this film. It often gets forgotten when folks talk about John Carpenter films and Stephen King adaptations. As you pointed out Carpenter's direction is really good in this film. He makes Christine both seductive and terrifying, a true Fury! He also got some great and effective performances out of his actors. He also stays true to the King novel, but really makes it cinematic. This one is under appreciated for sure.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-Thanks. I enjoyed the hell out of it as I think it's one of John Carpenter's essential films. In fact, the run he had in the 80s I think is his definitive work from The Fog to They Live. Any filmmaker would kill to have a streak like that.

@Roman J. Martel-John Carpenter I feel is a filmmaker that doesn't get highly regarded as I think he's better than a lot of today's filmmakers and doesn't get his due. This film is an example of his brilliance as a filmmaker.

Brittani Burnham said...

Oh man, I haven't seen this film in ages. I remember liking it though. It was one of those I watched when I was really young because the guy at the video store actually let me rent it. lol

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-Wow, cool. It is still an amazing film and I think you should see it again if you're interested in doing a John Carpenter retrospective.

Dan said...

Definitely one of the best Stephen King film adaptations. I had the opportunity to interview Keith Gordon about one of his other movies a couple of years ago and threw in a couple of questions about working with Carpenter on Christine. It was lovely to hear him reminisce.

thevoid99 said...

@Dan-Agreed. I think Carpenter is one of the few filmmakers who understands Stephen King's work better than most filmmakers while doing something that is his own while retaining elements that is pure King.