CHRISTINE: the killer car movie that could

(USA, 1983, John Carpenter)


Without a doubt, the best ‘killer car movie’; CHRISTINE explores the male American obsession with the automobile. Although his work declined in the 1990s, John Carpenter is the last of an almost extinct breed: a modern master of the subversive B movie and an unapologetic maker of intelligent and unpretentious genre films. In tackling Stephen King’s novel, he understood that on screen cars aren’t exactly scary – the only inanimate objects that can elicit terror on screen are ones that have been anthropomorthized. Yet he resists the temptation to play the flimsy premise for laughs. On the other hand, in his directorial debut MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, Stephen King hung a green goblin mask over a truck grill to make his machine more menacing. The results were a feeble attempt at comedy horror; King has not directed since. Carpenter takes the silly source material seriously and turns his film into an interesting character study and bizarre love triangle between man, woman, and automobile.

An awkward, bullied teen (well played by future director Keith Gordon) becomes obsessed with Christine, a dilapidated old car he buys cheap and meticulously restores. The teen is transformed by car ownership although the film’s fairly simple message is that in the end your beloved possessions own you. Their relationship is symbiotic: he needs Christine just as much as Christine needs him. With her, he gains self-confidence, becomes popular and even begins dating the prettiest girl in town. But his social transformation from misfit to cool kid elicits a price as Christine turns out to be a jealous and murderous lover. Part of an initial wave of artistically successful King adaptations (CARRIE, THE SHINING, and THE DEAD ZONE) before they started going downhill fast (FIRESTARTER, SILVER BULLET, and CAT’S EYE).


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