There's so much wrong with this movie, and it all starts in the opening scene.
Detroit, 1957. Plymouth Furies are rolling off the assembly line to "Bad to the Bone" - a song that wouldn't be recorded for another 22 years by George Thorogood, who - at this time during the movie - was three months shy of his fifth birthday. Surely there was a song from the 50s that could have been used here to imply Christine's inherent evil, no?
During this, one of the workers steps up to Christine, opens her hood and leans down to inspect the work. The hood slams down on his hand, showing us that Christine isn't just alive, but a mean-spirited bitch as well. Okay, she's established. We can move on. But, no! We're then treated to the sight of another worker climbing inside Christine, flicking the radio on and ashing his cigar on her front seat, where he is later found dead. I'm not sure what the point of this second bit was, apart from setting her up as mean and spiteful as well, but that seems silly in light of the hood-chomping bit. We could have used one or the other here, we didn't need both. So five minutes in and Carpenter has already wasted half that time.
Then there are the "teens". They're meant to be about 17 or 18, and most of them were born in '61 or '62, making them only 20 or 21 when the movie was filmed. Still probably got carded at that stage, so Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Kelly Preston and Alexandra Paul don't stick out. But William Ostrander, who played Buddy Repperton, was closing in on 24 at the time, and not a young-looking 24, either. He could have passed for Stockwell's dad in this. But it's Stuart Charno who tips the scales - born in 1956, he was closing in on 30. There is no excuse - unless they've got the eternal youth of an Emmanuel Lewis or Ellen Page - for casting someone this old to play a high schooler.
It's also rather unclear as to when Arnie became aware that his car was spontaneously regenerating. He's seen fitting her with hubcaps that he'd scavanged from Darnell's junk yard, but Darnell himself points out that Arnie's work is backwards, as he'd fitted the car with new wiper blades, but had yet to repair the windshield. How much of this work was Arnie doing, and how much was due to Christine's regeneration? Halfway through, after she's trashed by Repperton and his pals - why she didn't repair herself before anyone showed up that morning, either, is never explained - she starts to regenerate right before Arnie's eyes. He says, "Show me," and she goes to town, implying that he's just learning of her abilities. But the paint - autumn red - that he apparently used on her hasn't been available for years, implying that she regenerated even that from the beginning. Now he had to know about that, yeah?
There were some good things about it. The performances by Gordon, Stockwell and co. fit perfectly to their stereotype (although Arnie was maybe just too much of a geek for me to believe he's taking shop courses), and Ostrander made a great bully - but might have been better suited to a prison movie or something at the time. The soundtrack that comprised Christine's "voice" was classic, as was Carpenter's score, specifically the "love theme" that sounded just a wee bit like the wedding march. And the lens flares that accompanied Christine's rampages were effective as well.
I want to see it remade. I want to see age-appropriate teens. I want to see the plot-holes filled in, sanded down and painted over.
And I want to see Keith Gordon direct it.
Oh Lord. I admit I was a bit shocked when Steve said he wanted to continue our mini-Stephen King marathon with Christine. First, I felt like I'd just seen it, though we last watched it five years ago. And, second, I was fairly sure we picked out its numerous faults back then, too. But, we went ahead anyway, and were (not surprisingly) disappointed.
This is one of those movies I know all too well. I first watched it as a kid, maybe about 10 or 11, and bits of it are seared into my memory...
Top 3 Things From Christine That Haunted 10-Year-Old Me...and those things remain scary and weird to me. But I was less discerning then, and had yet to really understand what an ego-maniac John Carpenter could be, and how bad a director he could be, and just how poorly King translates when key elements of his stories are withdrawn from screenplays. Steve's main pet-peeve here is Arnie's lack of real development from nerdy wiener to Jim Stark-like mini-bohunk who gets the girls and snaps at everyone around him. That's a major oversight here. His affair with Christine lacks punch. She needed him as much as he needed her, and apart from a few tiny moments, we never really get that sense. That deep sense that they belong together for their own reasons.
1. The excessive use of the word, "cunt": This was the first time I'd ever heard the 'c' word in a movie. I remember just being freaked out by it. I've never, ever heard (or read) the name 'Cunningham' without inserting the 't' in my mind.
2. Roberts Blossom: For the longest time, I thought he was wearing a torn-up straight-jacket. He's just so damn creepy in this, even though he's very much the seer, the voice of reason. Still, he sells Arnie the car, so he's actually too blame for pretty much everything here.
3. The lights turning on down the alley!: What's more scary than that? The car just chasing these punks. She stares and she waits. It's so fucking scary. It's such a pity much of the film isn't great, because some of Carpenter's scares are impressive, even all these years later.
This is more an easy scare-'em-up picture than a true examination of the effects of nerddom on the weak. Or whatever. The movie is more pick-the-plotholes now, though. Why didn't Christine kill the vandals when they started wrecking her up? Exactly when and how did Arnie learn of her powers? And on.
I like this movie for its cheesy goodness, but hate it for so many other things, too. Still, a bad Keith Gordon movie is still a good night in.