Bad to the Bone: John Carpenter’s Christine


I turned on the TV earlier today to see what movies were playing on such channels as AMC and TCM and found that I had tuned in just in time for the beginning of John Carpenter’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Christine. Though I’d never heard of the movie, I decided to give it a try because, until today, I’ve never seen one of Carpenter’s films.

Christine, combines the usual cinematic depiction of high school with an unusual plot twist reminiscent of a cheesy 1950s B-movie. The movie’s title character is a 1958 Plymouth Fury, that, like Herbie in The Love Bug, seems to have a mind of its own. But the mind of Christine is much more demented than Herbie’s and Carpenter’s film is much darker than the innocent Disney classic. From the very beginning of the movie, Christine claims victims, even while be assembled in an assembly line. Someone sits in the car, the radio turns on, and that person is found dead soon after. Those who own Christine become obsessed with her and the movie’s main story is set in into motion when two high schoolers discover the car and one of them immediately offers to by it from the owner. The teen takes the car home to his parents, who are furious that he bought a car without consulting them and as the story progresses, the car consumes more and more of his life.

I’ve included plot information, something I usually try to avoid in my writing, because knowing the plot is critical to understanding the point of this review. Perhaps without King’s or Carpenter’s intentions, Christine is fascinating because it can be interpreted both literally and allegorically. Literally, it is an interesting film with horror elements, but it could represent something different. I found that the more I thought about the movie afterwards, the more it seemed like it could be translated as a critique of American consumerism. Though I’m not sure it was intended by anyone involved with the film, Christine depicts (in exaggerated fashion) the way that we can become obsessed with certain objects as well as the way that we begin to fashion our view of ourselves based on our possessions.

I found much more meaning and entertainment in my first John Carpenter viewing than I had anticipated. There are a few powerful images and genuinely thrilling moments. The concluding line of dialogue is a very memorable quote and the rock and roll genre is used wonderfully. I don’t think it is a great film; it has little ambition and few surprises, but Carpenter is successful with most of what he tries. Obviously, this could have easily been an incredibly corny film. However, the filmmakers tell the story in a way that avoids laughs. Because Christine unfolds so eerily and proceeds with a stubborn lack of humor, the audience is convinced to take it all seriously, and what they will ultimately find is a rewarding experience.


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