Christine is available to rent or buy now.
In the sprawling landscape of Stephen King on film, one film rarely gets the attention or praise it richly deserves. That film is John Carpenter’s 1983 adaptation of Stephen Kings Christine, published the same year as the film’s release. Of course, there may be a simple reason why Christine lacked the attention it deserved, as 1983 was one hell of a year for King’s books on screen. This was the year that saw the beautiful darkness of The Dead Zone and the biting terror of Cujo. And while The Dead Zone will always stand out as the best King adaptation of 83, Christine surely deserves far more attention.
The story of a boy and his first car is as American as apple pie. After all, how many movies have we seen over the years where the car represents an extension of a boys manhood – the shiny, polished paintwork of a car or truck, a ticket to freedom, sex and popularity. However, in most cases, the vehicle is a mere extension of a need to belong—the car’s presence, symbolic of the testosterone-fuelled tribulations of male teenage life. In Christine, King took his love of the 1950s adolescent car drama and twisted it into something far more horrific; a slasher film where the car is the killer. Here, the classic drive-in date night takes on a whole new meaning as the car itself stops any girl from getting too close to its golden boy.
READ MORE: CARRIE
For those who haven’t taken a trip with Christine, King’s classic coming of age horror follows a similar rhythmic beat to Carrie while equally embracing a Twilight Zone world of terror. In fact, Christine owes much to a Twilight Zone episode from 1964 named You Drive. Arnie (Keith Gordon) is an outsider; his school life, miserable, as he is subject to daily bullying and intimidation. But, at least Arnie has the popular and handsome Dennis by his side; their friendship, born in childhood. However, despite the support of Dennis, Arnie longs for independence and popularity, blaming his problems on his overprotective parents and the lack of his own wheels. Therefore, when he spots a 1957 Plymouth rusting away in a yard, he immediately sees an opportunity.
Arnie quickly buys the dilapidated car despite Dennis expressing concern about the vehicle’s state. However, undeterred, Arnie begins to restore Christine to her former 50s glory. But, as Christine comes back to life, Arnie undergoes a metamorphosis of his own. Gone is the unpopularity, the greasy hair and unconfident demeanour. Here we have a new Arnie, ready to take on the world with Christine by his side. Christine is Arnie’s secret love, his best friend and ultimately the root of his eventual downfall.
READ MORE: THE SHINING
The film rights to Christine were snapped up before the book had even been published, highlighting just how famous King had become since his 1976 film debut. But, unlike Carrie, Salem’s Lot and The Shining, Christine held a far more comic book-inspired horror. Here, King’s love of 1950s nostalgia dovetailed with the classic story of a possessed object. And it is here that Carpenter ensures the car is the star. Its headlights, beaming as it revs up for murder while its radio plays 50s Rock-n-Roll classics. While at the same time, Arnie falls into a supernatural rabbit hole of no escape – his life consumed by Christine and her twisted love. Here Carpenter plays with Arnie’s need for popularity to devastating effect as we watch him gain everything he desires only to lose himself in the process.
Often copied but never bettered, Carpenter’s Christine is nothing short of an absolute blast. Its polished physical effects still gleaming nearly forty years after its release. Meanwhile, its soundtrack, cinematography and performances hum like a well-tuned engine. Christine is not only classic King, but it is also classic Carpenter, so buckle up for one hell of a ride. Because Christine is one film that doesn’t run out of gas halfway through, in fact, its horror continues to shift gears until it’s cruising to perfection.