I think I’d only ever seen this movie once before, and that would have been on VHS back in the 80’s when I was watching pretty much ever horror movie, good, bad or indifferent, that I could get my hands on. During this period the levels of gore that could be gotten convincingly on the screen had improved leaps and bounds – gone were the days when a splash of vivid red blood could get the viewer’s stomach churning and now with the relaxation of censorship rules and improvement in special effects horror was booming. Christine is not heavy on gore, in fact it’s fairly tame in those terms, but it was based on a book written by Stephen King and for a teenage horror fan King was the dogs bollocks.
My memory of the movie was that I don’t think I liked it that much, maybe I thought it was too slow and maybe I was disappointed with the lack of the gruesome stuff – hey, remember that yucky stuff matters when the viewer at a certain age. And so when I saw the film on a budget DVD, I thought I’d like to see it again. After all, I’d loved the original novel and these days, as an older film viewer, I find that story, acting and all those other little things matter to me far more than a few splatters of gore.
And you know what – I enjoyed the movie a heck of a lot more this time around.
The rock and roll soundtrack for one thing is excellent and the nuances of the movie are far clearer to me now that I watch films in a more mature way. Take Keith Gordon for a start – although the film is set in the Eighties, he transforms from a nerd into a super cool dude when he gets ownership of Christine – the cherry red Plymouth Fury that looks sleeker than any car – and when he becomes this super cool dude there is something of a Fifties vibe to the style he adopts. It’s not obvious and in your face but is a subtle hint of his possession by the car named Christine. It is also apparent now how timeless the 50’s period was – the kids dressed in the 80’s styles look incredibly dated but there is something contemporary, even now, of the way Arnie dresses and looks. The music was much better too – I’d much rather hear Chuck Berry than another 80’s power ballad.
And what a performance from Keith Gordon – Ok maybe the transformation from hopeless nerd to super cat happens a little too quickly, but when he turns nasty, being all of nine stone soaking wet, he really pulls it off and not for a moment do we doubt him. It’s an incredible performance and although the supporting cast are decent, he steals the entire show. Some of the more touching character scenes come when Arnie is alone with Christine and, although touching, these are incredibly creepy.
Director, John Carpenter really understands suspense – think of his original Halloween or Thing re-make – and he moves the movie forward at pace, dropping hints as he goes along but never allowing the viewer to get the whole picture until the end, and even then we don’t have the full picture. One thing I did miss was the ghost of Christine’s former owner – Carpenter ejects this character from the movie. The character was such an important element of the book, but when watching the movie I found myself sucked in and nothing mattered other than the story itself.
Christine then is a pretty good horror thriller – it riffs on the teenage love affair with cars and for anyone who has ever projected a personality onto a car, Christine is one sexy but scary bitch. Stephen King’s nostalgia for the 50’s which often shows up in his books, is running through the DNA of this movie, and it’s all the better for it. The way Christine’s period radio always seems to tune to a rock and roll station really works in the framework of this picture and enhances the feel of the piece – as Christine knows, the devil’s got all the best tunes.
If you’ve never seen Christine then take her for a spin, and if you’ve seen it before then it’s maybe time for another ride.