Yesterday I pretended to be a sorcerer who could conjure up a scary monster. I’m sure none of you were fooled, but I was still pleased to discover the “foul fiend” was a vegetarian. I really hate Brussels spouts and was more than willing to let it take care of that stinky menace for me.
There’s a different menace that awaits the lead characters in this movie. Fast cars, dangerous driving, bad hair. If I didn’t know better, I’d think a James Bond picture was ready to roll.
Instead, it’s Christine, a Stephen King classic. At least, I hear the book is. Is the film? Doesn’t matter. I’m watching it anyway. John Carpenter’s films tend to be enjoyable and it’s been a while since I watched this one.
I like the fact that instead of opening credit music, they went with car engine noise and then opened the film itself with some wonderful classic rock to foreshadow just how “bad to the bone” the villain of the piece would ultimately be. I also like how the songs picked to play on the new (in 1957) car’s radio suit the car’s “mood” and desire to maim and kill anyone who doesn’t appreciate it.
The rest of the film takes place in the late ’70s and Keith Gordon plays Arnie, the inept geeky dork of a guy whose best (possibly only) pal, the athletic Dennis (John Stockwell — played Billy Hazzard in “North and South” which is why I recognized him, I discover), thinks his duty for their last year of school is to get Arnie laid. The new girl, Leigh (Alexandra Paul), is quite a looker, but Arnie’s hardly the guy she’d typically look at. Arnie’s the guy whose lunch gets stolen in shop class. Arnie’s the one who is teased and humiliated, probably every day. It’s nice that Arnie at least has a friend who’ll have his back, even if he can’t stop the shit from happening, though. Everybody needs a trusted friend like that.
The punk acting is pretty hilarious and I think the boys from West Side Story were more convincing, but it sets up the other problems Arnie will have shortly, that the buying of Christine seems destined to fix, so it gets a pass.
Arnie finds space at a local garage/junk yard where he can work on his baby in peace away from his authoritative and disagreeable parents. Judging by the authoritative and disagreeable owner of the place, he’d almost be better off in his folks’ driveway. But, it turns out that while “you can’t polish a turd” you can misjudge a garage owner who turns out to be willing to give Arnie a job in exchange for any parts he needs.
Having the possessed car has changed Arnie. His obsession with it and the freedom he has to do his own thing has changed from a pathetic chicken-shit nobody to someone more self-assured, confident and arrogant. And better dressed and girl-worthy.
While Arnie feels like his relationship with Leigh is progressing smoothly into baseball metaphors, Leigh’s feeling jealous of his love for the car and is too pissed off about that to want to make out with him while in it. It turns out Christine doesn’t really want her there either and tries to kill her. She survives but it’s hardly the best end to their date and Arnie’s acting like he’s two different people – one caring and sweet, and one appalling and vaguely Wolowitzy.
The punks get a fun scene destroying Christine for a revenge rampage thing. Arnie’s shocked when he sees what they did to her and goes suddenly psycho over it, scaring the shit out of Leigh. He goes a bit psycho on his folks as well, blaming them for the destruction because they wouldn’t let him keep the car at home where it would have been safe. Arnie later vows to “show those shitters what we can do” but Christine beats him to it by fixing all of the damage herself via some awesome reversed time-lapsed filming. This allows Christine to go on a bit of a revenge rampage herself. (Wonder how many cars got damaged for the making of this movie? Wonder what else people found to complain about in terms of this film?)
It’s good to see the police interested in the evidence that seems to point to Arnie having something to do with it all. Some horror movies are all about the destruction like there would never be any real life repercussions afterward. (Which reminds me, Cracked did a hilarious thing about Big and how it really should have ended.)
It’s also good to see Arnie’s friends caring about him and wanting to help him kick the car habit. Too bad the car wants Dennis and Leigh to end up like meat pancakes more than it wants to keep Arnie alive. That’s gratitude for ya.
All in all, not terrible, but not really stellar either. Ah well. It still beats most of what I watched last year in terms of quality so I’m ahead of the game.