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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 28.57%
Average: 7.79%
Pretty Bad: 11.69%
Total Crap: 5.19%

2 reviews, 65 user ratings

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Christine (1983)
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by Jack Sommersby

2 stars

By far one of the least impressive of the Stephen King adaptations. Well, it's better than "Firestarter," but not by that much.

The haunted-car movie Christine is neither here nor there, which is quite the disappointment being that it's based on a best-selling novel by Stephen King and directed by John Carpenter. Decently made and written, it's not a disgrace in either department, and the acting is uncommonly nuanced for the genre; but it eventually chucks its better qualities to adhere to conventions of genre, which is its least successful element. For a while the movie is an unexpected pleasure as we're introduced to an array of interesting three-dimensional high-school characters interacting among each other and their environment in believable ways; it's 1978, twenty years after the possessed title character, a gorgeous red 1958 Plymouth Fury, has come off the assembly line, but not before it's slammed its hood down on an auto worker's hand and suffocated another worker to death after he's carelessly let his cigar ash fall onto the seat. The central character is Arnold "Arnie" Cunningham (Keith Gordon), a seventeen-year-old nebbish whose black-frame glasses and crummy wardrobe suggest a parody of a nerd; his best friend since childhood is Dennis (John Stockwell), a handsome and popular varsity football player. Their relationship, which is very naturalistic, never forced, is the chief pleasure of the movie: Gordon and Stockwell, both gifted, play off each other beautifully; you believe in Arnie and Dennis' devotedness to one another despite them being polar opposites, and it's that rare horror movie that concerns itself with this kind of dramatic underpinning. Seeing the dilapidated-looking Plymouth for sale by the owner who's named it Christine, Arnie is immediately smitten with it, though Dennis tries to talk him out of it -- he says the offering price of just two-hundred-and-fifty is still too much. Because Arnie's over-controlling parents balk at him making such a buying decision without their consent and refuse to let him keep the car at home, he takes it to the repair-shop/junkyard of the crusty Darnell (Robert Prosky). Little by little the devoted Arnie fixes the car up to pristine condition, and in the process his confidence in himself improves -- he shucks the eyeglasses, dresses better, and even succeeds in taking out the school's most soughtafter girl, Leigh (Alexandra Paul). But his ultra-obsession over Christine worries Dennis and Leigh (to criticize the car is to criticize him). And the car demonstrates quite the malevolent nature to anyone who harms it (some school bullies) or starts getting more attention (Leigh, who's nearly suffocated inside it at a drive-in movie when Arnie's gone to get popcorn).

Director Carpenter deserves some kind of credit, I guess, for avoiding cheap visceral violence, choosing to cut away right when bloodletting would normally ensue. But the man responsible for the excellent Escape From New York and outstanding The Thing seems to be working on autopilot -- his instincts seem off (in fact, they don't seem to be much of anywhere), and the movie possesses not so much as an iota of atmosphere, tension or suspense. Carpenter's approach is awfully respectful and cerebral for what is, basically, pulpy material: he doesn't get into the scenes and bring anything viable out of them; and when the second half is playing out we're still waiting for things to get started. (Did Carpenter throw a motor rod during filming?) I never thought I'd be praising the lackluster 1977 The Car, but at least its title villain, black-painted body and windows, exuded some genuine menace, whereas Christine, with its bright cherry-red exterior and glowing interior, is no more threatening than a smog-spewing Edsel. The cinematography by Donald M. Morgan (who, ironically, lit the hilarious Used Cars three years prior) is also too good-looking -- we long for a truly eerie image with some graphic vitality to come along rather than impersonal travelogue photography that serves little visual purpose. (The scene where the temporarily burned car drives itself back to Darnell's garage comes close, but then the unthreatening Darnell is slain by it, which makes little contextual sense being that it's Darnell's spare parts that have helped in the rebuilding of it.) When Christine is enacting its rampage against those who've wronged either it or Arnie, we couldn't care less, with the grand finale of Dennis facing off against it with a bulldozer weakly staged and geared more toward fancy special effects with Christine quickly repairing itself. Maybe a director like David Cronenberg, who fascinatingly melded the flesh and the mechanical in Videodrome (which was released earlier in the year), could've given the story premise some kind of nasty, perverse kick; with Carpenter's impersonal approach barely scratching the surface we're left taking the story strictly at face value, and it isn't nearly enough. Christine lacks verve, not to mention wit. You'd think a high-school student finally coming into his own only after attaining the second most-sought-after American material possession that happens to be evil incarnate would be good for a few satirically pointed jabs, but the complacent moviemakers have striven for a bland inoffensiveness that drains the pleasure right out of the picture. A lemon, this Christine.

Worth watching on disc just for the informative and entertaining John Carpenter/Keith Gordon audio commentary.

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originally posted: 04/19/13 08:35:03
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell read the book instead 2 stars
4/24/16 Ken Very good film 4 stars
9/03/12 roscoe very good, but a killer car can't be scary, create suspense, or be unpredictable. 4 stars
10/29/11 Sharon Rose Dated but still holds up, a great take on one of King's best stories, very fun! 4 stars
2/02/11 chaotik tom A MUST see. 5 stars
8/02/10 Jeff Wilder The book wasn't one of King's better efforts. But it was more effective than the movie. 2 stars
1/06/10 art "yet another great film FROM JOHN CARPENTER","yeah-sure" 1 stars
7/09/08 ray lamborghini you must be joking m8!!! 5 stars
7/09/08 art A LEMON 1 stars
6/11/08 R.W. Welch Okay but too far fetched. Tell your teen who wants a car to watch this flick. 3 stars
4/14/08 action movie fan good fantasy horror special effects are great and story is engrossing 5 stars
10/21/07 Mustangman This is a kick-ass movie, but the book was a little better. 5 stars
4/22/07 mb Entertaining 4 stars
3/27/07 The Professor This movie has a great build-up and some fantastic revenge scenes. Christine is mean. 4 stars
2/10/07 Steven Isakson This movie is one of the only horror films I will ever want to watch. 5 stars
9/13/06 Booksworm Read the book. Seen the movie. Both are great. 5 stars
4/30/06 John Replace the car with lamborghini 1 stars
3/07/06 T Bird Love that car!!! :-D 5 stars
9/13/05 Total Crap Not scary at all. But if haunted cars are your thing, rent it. 3 stars
7/07/05 J King and Carpenter work great together. 5 stars
4/19/05 Bonnie James DO not read the book first to enjoy this movie. The book is better. 3 stars
1/17/05 Jeff Anderson This is some of J. Carpenter's best work. K. Gordon and J. Stockwell are both phenomenal 5 stars
10/19/04 John considering the rather silly premise it works surprisingly well 4 stars
8/24/04 Kyle That radio playing only 50's songs is enough to creep you out! Great fun! 5 stars
8/23/04 lionel alguien me puede decir el nombre de algunos de los temas que aparece en la movie 5 stars
3/21/04 Andrew Great 80's horror film 5 stars
2/24/04 Harmoney Very well done movie. A very scary concept, what would you do if your car was possesed? 5 stars
1/26/04 Eric Saw it very young and loved it ever since. introduced me to the Rolling Stones 4 stars
12/18/03 Andrea J. Hernandez I Love it very much is one of my favorites movie I ever seen the car cute 5 stars
11/26/03 Raul Great! 5 stars
11/05/03 American Slasher Goddess Another great one from Carpenter. 4 stars
10/30/03 Moparman Simply amazing movie. A true horror classic. 5 stars
10/05/03 Samuel Justus decent! 3 stars
5/15/03 Tom Fleeman This is a fine example of a good all american spooky movie. It is a classic. 4 stars
3/17/03 G-man great 5 stars
1/14/03 Cypher Vayne Not much to say, thise movie was just sweet. 5 stars
12/17/02 Owen Mr. Weinberg, The Thing was scored by Morricone last I checked 4 stars
11/06/02 Daniel Raises major goosebumps! The constant oldies on the radio is what gets me. 4 stars
6/19/02 Charles Tatum Excellent direction and musical score 5 stars
4/04/02 cat Another great SK book turned to film. I wish I had a demon car that could get out dents. 5 stars
11/29/01 The $1.98 Pyramid The car gets jealous and has feelings for Arnie. Enough said. 3 stars
10/26/01 Sthenno John Carpenter's direction makes this a decent film.Good car effects and acting. 4 stars
10/23/01 Andrew Carden Just Doesn't Really Click. What Starts Out As An Amusing Premise, Gets Really Silly. 2 stars
8/06/01 badfish This is a great movie period! 5 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk One of the best Stephen King adaptions by a master of the craft. 5 stars
8/03/01 James Anatidae Think Herbie the Love Bug with a mean streak and indestructible. Creepy! 5 stars
7/05/01 Dean Cool and very silly at the same time. Overall, average. 3 stars
5/24/01 Erik North Worthy horror/suspense film--not much blood, and plenty of atmosphere 4 stars
5/09/01 Amanda ( I am making a Christine Firkins Website. If you ahve a digetal cameral E-mail me 5 stars
4/17/01 Semour Buts It kicked @$$ 5 stars
4/11/01 Jennifer Grace This movie is the best in the world.I hope that I can get a car like Christine! I luv Arnie 5 stars
3/19/01 Jessica A really good movie 5 stars
2/09/01 Dark Sol The characters have feelings, and so did Christine felt for Arnie. Like a soap opera. 5 stars
1/18/01 Destruction Worker Was the first horror movie I saw! 5 stars
1/11/01 Matthew Holden Christine Firkins: Was awesome is there any sites where i could get pictures 5 stars
12/16/00 Zach Burkemper Best Movie Ever, Sweet Car 5 stars
10/16/00 Ben A'Court I would love to meet christine firkins 5 stars
9/08/00 Mr.Magoo very good 5 stars
6/12/00 Dimlight People that don't like this movie are shitters. 4 stars
11/11/99 Andre I agree the repair of herself is great where's the next one? 5 stars
5/24/99 Ah Dooey How does anybody find a car possesed by a ghost is scary beyond me. 4 stars
5/19/99 Lucas jackson I thought it was a great movie,that car is awesome and has one hell of a bad temper 4 stars
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  02-Jul-1983 (R)
  DVD: 28-Sep-2004


  02-Jul-1984 (MA)

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