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By Jamie Suckley • July 31st, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 3/5
Columbia Pictures

Original release: March 2nd 1984
Running time: 110 minutes

Director: John Carpenter
Writer: Bill Philips
Composer: John Carpenter and Alan Howarth

Cast: Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, Roberts Blossom, Harry Dean Stanton


How good would it be if cars could drive themselves? Of course this idea sounds initially brilliant but wouldn’t anyone else be perturbed if the cars actually had a mind of their own; and I’m not talking about cruise control. John Carpenters 1983 cult classic Christine is a perfect example of why we should be in charge of the steering wheel.

Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name and year, the film opens in Detroit, 1957, where a number of 1958 model Plymouth Furies are shown on a car assembly line. One of them stands out, a bright red and white vehicle, which we establish is an evil malevolent character when one worker is injured and another is choked to death when he drops cigar ash on the seat.

Twenty years later in 1978, Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon) is a typical high school nerd who is picked on, dominated by his parents and doesn’t have many friends. His luck changes when he buys a run down 1958 fury for $250 from George LeBay (Roberts Blossom) who informs him the car’s name is Christine. Believing that the car cares for him, he devotes his time to restoring her to mint condition. As his obsession for Christine begins to distance him from his parents, his best friend Dennis (John Stockwell) and girlfriend, Leah (Alexandra Paul), his personality changes from the shy, insecure boy he once was into an arrogant over-confident version of his former self.


When Christine is vandalised by school bullies, murders begin to take place, and as Dennis and Leah uncover the truth about the car and its previous owner, they realise that they must save Arnie and bring him back to reality before they too face the wrath of Christine. Having read the novel I was disappointed by the changes to the origin of the car. In the novel Christine’s implied to be possessed by its former owner Roland LeBay. Carpenter’s film focuses more on her being a jealous, vengeful and protective car.

“It also represented the most rapidly produced film from a king text. Shooting began within days of the novel’s publication and the film was released within a year” ¹

There was a time when major horror film directors couldn’t escape working on at least one King adaptation. Following in the footsteps of Brian De Palma, Tobe Hooper, David Cronenberg and George A. Romero, it wasn’t long until Carpenter put his mark on one. With a screenplay by Bill Phillips the film isn’t particularly gory, but it establishes itself with an eerie atmosphere through the synthesised musical score, setting and build up of tension and clearly reminds the audience of the traits that Carpenter is known for as a director.

For its time, the special effects are what defined it for me. Roy Arbogast who had previously worked on Close Encounters of The Third Kind (1977), The Thing (1982), and Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi (1983), and a number of other films, was responsible for the mechanical effects. The moment the audience realise that the car has the ability to reconstruct Christineitself back to mint condition, even after being damaged, is really memorable. It wasn’t just these effects that made Christine monumental; even the cars radio turning on by itself and tuning into fifties rock and roll when fuelled with vengeance was a cheap but great effect to use.

The action sequences are deemed today as hilarious, from the flaming car sequence to the moment Leah is choked whilst sat in the car (but doesn’t die). The most memorable includes one of the bullies being cornered into a tight loading bay where he thinks he’s safe. But of course he’s wrong, and Christine forces herself into the tight space, damaging her exterior in the process and crushing him. Regarding this scene Arbogast said; “what you saw was basically what really happened…. We weakened the metal by acid-washing it, so it would peel back. But the alley walls were poured concrete that had hardened.” ¹


  • Collins, Michael R, (2006) The Films of Stephen King, Wildside Press [1]

Over the years, and similar to A Nighmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), the film has been referenced as having an underlyining homosexual subtext. If intentional or not, Dennis sends hints of a repressed gay desire for Arnie in the way he reacts to his new transformation. The friendship seems complex but never fully develops on it. To be fair what 80s film doesn’t have some sort of homosexual reference? It highlighted the fears of coming out, the AIDs hysteria and the fears teenagers had about accepting who they were.

Christine isn’t my favourite King adaptation or Carpenter’s best work, but it certainly isn’t the worst. If anyone’s seen The Langoliers (1995) or Ghosts of Mars (2001) you’ll understand what I mean. It’s an old-fashioned possession story. If you can distance the film from the novel then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.


Jamie Suckley

Jamie Suckley

Jamie, editor for Cult Movies at Static Mass, is a 24 year old media studies graduate from Sheffield, who likes nothing better than watching films. If he was to star in a horror film he’d like to be the first one killed (think Drew Barrymore in Scream).

He has a keen interest in horror which started when he was a child. Due to his hyperactive behaviour his cousins made him watch films they thought would calm him down- They were wrong! It was watching Hellraiser and Killer Klowns from Outer Space that his passion for horror began. Over the years this developed into a passion for zombies, madmen, mutated animals and all things gore.

When he’s not working, in his dream world, worrying about zombie epidemics or watching films, he can be found on Twitter sharing his thoughts and bringing his dream world into reality.

You can follow Jamie on Twitter @JamieSuckley.

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