John Carpenter is one of those filmmakers who is so prolific that he has great films that only his fans are really aware of. Christine is a great example of such a film that simply doesn’t have the reputation it deserves. Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, Christine is a nostalgia horror that carries that trademark Stephen King style that permeates film adaptations like Stand By Me as well as King-inspired imitators like Stranger Things.
Christine’s plot revolves around young Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon). When he spots a beat up Plymouth Fury for sale, he feels drawn to the vintage car. He buys it against the advice of his best friend Dennis (John Stockwell), determined to restore the car to its former glory. Unfortunately the car, fondly named Christine, has other plans. In a twist not quite as adorable as a Herbie movie, Christine has a mind of her own, and a violent one at that.
The film is as much a parable about oppression and rebellion in teen years as it is about a possessed car. Arnie’s parents are habitually angry at him despite his apparently clean record as a person and a student. In response to his parents’ overbearing treatment, he exhibits disobedience channeled through Christine. As he becomes more attached to the car, Arnie’s personality changes in dramatic ways. In addition to rebelling against his parents, he alienates himself from Dennis as well as his girlfriend Leigh (Alexandra Paul).
Dennis and Leigh realize the transformative effect the car is having on Arnie and they set out to destroy it. Christine’s final confrontation is an exhilarating showdown that pits man against machine, but still captures the insane nature of the plot. By the end of the film Christine has become an entirely independent character and her characterization is as compelling as any human on the screen.
Christine may not rank with The Thing or Halloween among Carpenter horror cannon, but it deserves a spot as a more than worthwhile entry into his filmography. It is not by any means a “lesser” film, and it adequately fuses Carpenter’s style with King’s storytelling. Christine is a gripping coming-of-age action-horror worthy of viewing on an October night.