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Christine was released in a time when horror movies were being pushed out of Hollywood like they were cookies. It was not only a height for horror films, but also a height for director John Carpenter, where he was getting work year after year. However, like many of his movies in the 1980’s, Christine is a film that seemed to be lost in the mix of other films of its decade until it later caught on as a cult film in the 90’s thanks to the video rental business and the VHS. Although met with a good amount of positive reviews when released, including ones by the late Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, Christine was more often seen as another dumb teen horror flick and another lackluster addition to the list of Stephen King adapted movies.
Christine is my overall personal favorite film that John Carpenter directed, because I feel there is a lot to tell under the shell of this somewhat overlooked flick. I was mostly inspired by one of my favorite YouTubers, Chris Stuckmann www.youtube.com/channel/UCCqEe… to look over the film for this.
After a simple but rather tense opening credit sequence of Christine revving her engine furiously, George Thorogood’s hit song Bad to the Bone booms onto our opening scene of Christine rolling off the assembly line in Detroit, and it is here that we see how demonic she is, as she brutally crushes one employee’s hand with her hood, and then mysteriously suffocates another after he drops his cigar ash on her fresh upholstery. One of the main differences from the book, I should mention, is here Christine has her own personification, not an evil dead spirit controlling her, which I think works much better which I will get back to later. This scene, along with many more, provide slow tense build up to these reveals is masterfully executed, and no stupid loud noise to give a cheap jump scare.
Fast forward 21 years in 1978, where we’re introduced to our main characters: Arnie and Dennis. Relying just on casual small talk between the two in Dennis’ car, as well as the following scenes in their high school, we get the feeling of who these characters are, but they’re gently and naturally massaged in. These feel like real people, not like cardboard cutouts like you’d see in most horror movies of the day. We’re also introduced to Leigh in this scene, as well as the reactions of most of the males in the school. I’d say that Beamus would be a typical horny teen, but coming from a guy who has many friends like him, he actually feels pretty relatable.
Soon, we get introduced to the bullies in this movie, led by Buddy Reperton, who seems to resemble Jim Morrison fused with John Travolta. In this scene where Buddy destroys Arnie’s lunch, you can tell by Arnie’s expressions and body language that he’s dealt with this abuse a lot before, so that’s great acting by Keith Gordon, and I can tell that in some of the schools I attended, there were a few instances where knives were brought to school. After a brief, but tightly edited fight scene with Dennis, Buddy and another bully Moochie, who bears a striking resemblance to Jonah Hill, Buddy gets expelled.
On their way home from school, Arnie sees Christine, and it’s love at first sight. Keith Gordon has said that when playing this part, he tried to think of Christine like the most gorgeous woman in the world, and also sees potential to be beautiful. In a way, Arnie sees himself being made beautiful by making Christine back to pristine condition because for once he has something to be proud of. This is where the movie really relates, as most people know, as us Americans really obsess about our cars, even to this degree. We then get introduced to George Lebay, played superbly by Roberts Blossom, the brother of the original owner. It is here where we get just a little exposition to Christine’s backstory with her original owner, and we hear the word ‘shitter’ for the first time. This will be very important later and is perhaps the most memorable and quotable word of the whole movie.
So, an infatuated Arnie buys Christine, and naturally gets into a very well scripted spat with his parents, especially his parents. When he drops the F-bomb, you can see how Arnie has already starting to change, and get the feeling that Arnie always has been the ‘good boy’ up until this point, but like most teens has that angst lingering inside.
Arnie takes Christine to the local junkyard to stay, where we get a hilarious performance by Robert Prosky as the grouchy Will Darnell. Later, as Dennis drives Arnie home, we get a little scene of Arnie and Dennis that again feels very natural, and one where any one feels like they can only confide in their best friend can relate to. As Dennis drives away, we hear Bonnie Raitt’s song ‘Runaway’, which briefly sets up for the once strong friendship between Dennis and Arnie to be put to the test.
As Arnie is slowly getting Christine back in shape, we see him slowly changing more as he ditches his glasses. After Arnie is offered a little pay to work for Darnell, we get a small scene of Arnie sitting in Christine, lightly massaging her dash, while Johnny Ace’s song ‘Pledging my Love’ plays on Christine. This is the first scene where we really see how Christine communicates with people, especially Arnie. I guess it’d go without saying that the choice in music is exceptional.
After a scene where Dennis fails to hook up with Leigh, Dennis comes over to Arnie’s to see him talking back to his parents much more aggressively, dressing better and cussing much more blatantly. It’s also here in this scene and later when Dennis goes back to Lebay’s that we learn more about Christine’s past. The tension is slow, but extremely well delivered, especially as Lebay expects Dennis to know what he meant when he said the car ‘came back.’ We’re then followed by Dennis sneaking into the garage, and once again Christine communicates by playing ‘Keep a Knockin’ telling Dennis to get lost. It’s also here we see that Christine’s odometer has run backward. I’ll get back to this later.
During the school’s big football game, Dennis is on the field when he’s distracted by not only Arnie kissing Leigh, but Christine in perfect condition. Here the music takes over for a few moments, before Dennis is injured enough to almost be paralyzed, thus putting him in the hospital. After a bit more talking with Arnie explaining him standing up even more to his parents, he finishes it off with the creepy line “Has it ever occurred to you that part of being a parent is trying to kill your kids?”
Then we come to the drive-in theater scene, where Leigh soon confesses she hates Christine, because she feels Arnie loves her more. This is also a relate able scene for women who have boyfriends who obsess over their cars. After Leigh smacks Christine’s seat, what follows next is the first moment where we see the intense jealously truly inside Christine. In a pretty tense buildup of Arnie stepping out to fix Christine’s windshield wiper, the music suddenly comes on playing ‘We Belong Together’ and the interior fills up with a ghastly white light, and Leigh in utter surprise, suddenly starts choking on her hamburger and Christine locks her inside. In a very well thought out execution, the white light not only increases the creepiness of the scene, but also well shows off the terror in Leigh’s situation of choking to death void of help.
After a fellow viewer rescues Leigh, Arnie is left on rather bitter grounds with her. When he leaves her at her house, next comes on of my favorite scenes in the movie. Arnie tries to start Christine, but she won’t start. It isn’t until Arnie soothes her bitter feelings with words of comfort that Christine finally responds, playing ‘I Wonder Why’ by Dion and the Belmonts, requiting her feelings for Arnie, almost like a ticked girlfriend saying she forgives him. As Arnie leaves Christine in the garage, Buddy and his gang sneak in to essentially beat the shit out of Christine. Naturally, when Arnie comes in the next morning to get his wallet, he’s horrified. The terrific score here gives indication that this would be the car equivalent of a girl being raped. Just as good is the sudden reaction as Arnie takes all of his hate out on Leigh in a legitimately real scene of Alexandra Paul actually being stunned, and he calls her a shitter now.
Next is another pretty shocking, at least for the time period, moment of Arnie even more aggressively mouthing off to his parents, so much that it concludes with him almost choking his dad. It’s another one of those well directed dramatic build up scenes as Arnie becomes even more evil like Christine.
Then we come to what has become the most famous scene in the movie, as Arnie, heartbroken and feeling empty, is trying to slowly piece Christine back together with words of encouragement. Then, Christine is able to show off her true potential, as she fixes herself in what it is made to be the car equivalent of a girl doing a strip tease, which I feel has come now because she has fed on enough love from Arnie, and what I referred to earlier about Christine’s odometer running in reverse. The more the odometer runs backwards and the more love Arnie devotes to her, the stronger Christine is getting. It’s here, too, that cements the bond between Arnie and Christine. Like I said earlier about Christine having her own personification works much better since the ghost of Roland controlling the car would be a little...homosexual.
Next is the first scene in what the rest of the movie will be about, and what is to me the best scene in the whole movie. Moochie sees Christine on the nighttime streets, in shots very much like we saw of Michael Myers in Halloween. This execution is what really helps the movie ignore its otherwise absurd premise. John Carpenter isn’t treating Christine like a car, but like Michael Myers, where Christine now is the unstoppable ‘shape’ that can do things or get in places normal people, or in this case cars, can’t. I really have to say that this movie has my absolute favorite John Carpenter score, and it really makes this movie legitimately chilling. It just goes to show how important music is. Now, there are synthesizer sounds, but unlike many other horror movies, they don’t use it for a cheap jump scare where there is no danger present. After a pretty tense, incredibly well shot, tightly edited, and entertaining as hell chase scene, especially in the inescapable narrow alleyway, Christine finally kills Moochie by cutting him in half against a forklift loading bay too small for her to fit in. This is another one of those cases in Carpenter films where sometimes what we don’t see is even scarier, and much more thoughtful in execution. That, and the fact that Carpenter received a lot of bad criticism the year before for having ‘too much of it’ in the Thing. And for those who think that Moochie could’ve just jumped on Christine’s hood, I personally doubt it since he’s fat and after all that running, he’d have no more energy to do it. Besides, I feel Christine would just pop her hood open if he tried.
Next come a few more scenes as we see Arnie cemented as being cocky and almost unfazed by what Christine is doing. His morality and kindness we saw in the beginning is almost gone, and it’s only going to get worse from here. Something else I should bring up is as Arnie becomes just as sinister as Christine, his clothing also changes to reflect it, from his James Dean inspired coat to his all black and leather vest wardrobe. We also meet Detective Rudolph Junkins, played terrifically by Harry Dean Stanton, which leads to more cynical words from Arnie as Junkins tries to connect him to the murder. An interesting thing is the music score here John Carpenter made to fit into any scene, sort of like Guille's Theme.
After a small scene with Arnie trying to contact Leigh, which shows the sides of his Jekyll and Hyde persona seeming to briefly battle one another for control, we cut to Christine chasing Buddy and his two friends until they reach a small gas station, where Christine slams into Buddy’s Camaro. To me, this is Christine’s ideal choice in revenge for Buddy prior to murdering him to make him feel the same way Arnie felt when he trashed her. After ramming the car into the station, and killing Buddy’s pals Don and Richie, the whole thing is set ablaze by a blow torch and leaking gas from Buddy’s car. I’d love to point out here this is one of the few times in a horror movie where a big fat explosion occurs that actually makes sense. The explosion doesn’t just pop out of nowhere for no reason. The scene ends with Christine, who is smothered in flames, chasing Buddy down the road until she runs him over, leaving him to burn to death in a rather grizzly fashion. It’s a simple, yet effective chase sequence of switching back and forth between Buddy and Christine’s point of views coupled again with Carpenter’s score that gets faster and faster as Christine gets closer. Some people think it looks ridiculous that Buddy runs in the middle of the road, but if you look around, it’s a very empty setting with no trees, buildings or anything for miles to find safety in. Where would he go?
When Christine comes back to the garage burnt to a crisp, Darnell, who knows Arnie is away in his car, slowly and tensely comes over to see who’s behind the wheel of Christine. In a very nicely put together sequence of events, we see Christine is driver less. This is something that is brought up earlier when we see Christine in her first hunting sequence where her windows are tinted black. On a practical level, it’s obviously done to hide the fact there’s a stunt driver and extra equipment inside, but it’s a little extra detail where John Carpenter wanted to keep the mystery relevant until the end of the movie whether Arnie was with Christine or not, and here it ‘seems’ to tell us it’s the latter. Anyways, next comes the only scene I really have to nitpick, where Darnell gets into Christine’s burnt interior…for some reason. If it had looked as if he climbed in to make sure no one else was hiding in the back or something, than that would’ve been better. But, so be it, and Darnell is killed as Christine suffocates him between the steering wheel and the driver’s seat, as ‘Bonnie Maronie’ plays, another nice little detail.
When Arnie comes by the next day with Darnell’s Cadillac, Junkins appears again to tell Arnie about the deaths of Darnell as well as Buddy and his friends. Another small moment occurs, as Arnie is about to tell a little bit of the truth to Junkins, but he looks back at Christine, almost like she’s telling him ‘No.’ Meanwhile, Leigh comes over to Dennis’ house to talk to him, where they both feel Christine is the reason Arnie’s changing, and plan to get rid of her. As Leigh leaves the house, we see Christine coming up behind her, almost as if she knew Leigh was there. When Dennis rides shotgun with them, we see Arnie at what is to me his absolute most unstable and farthest from reality he’s been before the climax. His face is almost completely white, his eyes have dark bags under them, and his pupils look totally lifeless. To add to that, Arnie gives a rather twisted, but oddly enough quite motivating speech about love, and we see just how far Arnie would go to be with Christine forever, all the while Christine’s odometer continues to spin in reverse. It all ends after Arnie briefly plays chicken with another driver, and he repeats almost the same words as Lebay did at the beginning of the movie: ‘Oh there is nothing finer than being behind the wheel of your own car…except maybe for pussy.’ Arnie calls all of his enemies 'shitters of the world' as I brought up earlier, too, indicating everyone one not on his and Christine's side is another shitter. All of this, plus the fact of how it’s a complete 180 degree shift from how Dennis and Arnie were in the beginning of the movie driving to school showing how far from reality this movie got into, makes this one of the best scenes in the entire film.
The next night, after gouging into Christine’s hood for Arnie to meet at Darnell’s the morning before, Dennis and Leigh get a bulldozer ready and prepare to trap Christine, in a pretty slow tension soaked scene. As Leigh prepares to go to the office, Christine’s lights flash on from a pile of garbage in one of the best scares of the movie, because once again it’s not a fake out jump scare with no danger actually present. It’s here that Christine is anthropomorphized to her fullest, not only to bring out her monster like aspects, to show her at her most powerful and her most desperate all at the same time. This is evidenced after Christine totals a small car, damaging her front enough to look like a bloodthirsty shark. After Christine backs off to fix herself again, we catch a glimpse of Arnie behind the wheel, totally white faced and totally under her control. Christine rams through the office to kill Leigh, but instead ejects Arnie through the windshield, killing him with a shard of glass through his chest. As Arnie’s life slowly fades away, he touches Christine’s grill, in his way saying his final goodbyes to the woman he loves. Christine’s lights then turn off as does her engine, as if she’s completely heartbroken and devastated as Arnie dies in front of her. Next, as Christine tries to kill Leigh one more time, her behavior almost looks suicidal. The way she rams against the support, and throws herself in front of the bulldozer, almost as if she realizes she has nothing more to live for now. This is indicated as the bulldozer crushes Christine and begins to mount her, her odometer starts going from zero to 99999. As the bulldozer runs over her over and over, Christine’s dying song is ‘Rock and Roll is Here to Stay’, indicating she will never die for good. Which leads to the final shot in one of the best endings to a horror movie I’ve seen, as Dennis and Leigh look on with Junkins at the crushed cube that was once Christine, and ends with a piece of her grill slowly bending back into shape. Fortunately, though, there were no sequels.
So, I hope you like my thorough examination of John Carpenter’s Christine, and hopefully, if you didn’t enjoy it the first time around, you might want to give it another shot or see it another light than you already did even if you enjoyed it. I still find this to be one of the most underrated movies ever made, and one of the best directed movies I’ve encountered, especially by the great John Carpenter. This movie definitely deserves a 10 out of 10 and is one of my die hard favorite movies.
My name is Thomas. I'm one of those boys whose bookish, quiet, relatively-smart and likes to help those who are my freinds. I live somewhere in New Jersey, but hope someday to live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I rarely use profanity. I basically go by this rule, if I see something I like, I watch/buy/read it. I like a lot of music ranging from the 50's to the 00's, but I usually prefer 80's and early 90's hits. I'm a huge movie buff, and I like to watch a lot of different films, from comedy to horror. One day I hope to either make my own cartoon, TV show, or movie - maybe even (voice) act one day. My interests are a mixed pack, it ranges from cars to movies, trains to good-looking girls, and other suggestive stuff XD
25) Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
24) Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
23) Trading Places (1983)
22) Finding Nemo (2003)
21) October Sky (1999)
20) The Lego Movie (2014)
19) Station Agent (2003)
18) Tombstone (1993)
17) Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
16) Holes (2002)
15) The Fugitive (1993)
14) Men in Black (1997)
13) Back to School (1986)
12) Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
11) Argo (2012)
10) Jaws (1975)
9) The Dark Knight (2008)
8) Rango (2011)
7) Ghostbusters (1984)
6) The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
5) American Graffiti (1973)
4) Back to the Future (1985)
3) Unstoppable (2010)
2) Christine (1983)
1) Drive (2011)
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