John Carpenter’s Christine [1983]: A thrilling entry in the killer car subgenre of horror that’s as polished today as it was at its time of release.

Introducing its sinister intentions within the opening scene, keeping its ominous vibe alive for the entirety of its runtime, and unleashing absolute terror when the occasion calls for it, Christine is a masterly directed horror from John Carpenter that makes excellent use of genre elements to build suspense, and is far more engaging & nail-biting than it looks.

Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, the story centres on a vintage 1957 Plymouth Fury with a mind of its own that’s found in a used, battered & dilapidated condition by an awkward, introverted & nerdy teenager who eventually buys it. As he spends more time at the local garage, repairing his car all by himself, his whole personality begins to change.

Directed by John Carpenter (Assault on Precinct 13 & They Live), the evil nature of the automobile is established in the opening scene only after which the story jumps 20 years ahead where the main plot surfaces. Despite sounding ridiculous on paper, the story manages to be surprisingly effective as Carpenter relies on mystery surrounding the vehicle as well as the overall eerie ambience to deliver the chills, and succeeds.

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Every time the camera focuses on the violent vintage vehicle, a sense of apprehension builds up in that particular moment and the mayhem caused by it only amplifies the film’s uncanny tone n feel. Camerawork is smooth & efficacious, the build-up isn’t forced, pacing is steady, and the tension is palpable. Carpenter also contributes with a thrilling score which, along with incorporated songs, infuses flavours of its own.

Coming to the performances, the cast consists of Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, Robert Prosky & Harry Dean Stanton, and they all chip in with wonderful inputs. Gordon delivers the most interesting performance of all, and finely articulates the change his character undergoes as plot progresses. Stockwell is in as his best friend & provides good support, Prosky almost steals all his moments, while Paul ably plays her part.

On an overall scale, Christine is a welcome entry in the killer car subgenre of horror, and is another impressive yet under-appreciated gem from John Carpenter that, just like most of his films, enjoys a cult classic status today. It’s tense, it’s thrilling, it reeks of terror, and it delivers the goods in a gripping & entertaining fashion. In short, showing zero signs of wreckage, Christine appears just as polished today as it did at its time of release. Definitely recommended.


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