Hell on Wheels
A boy and his car. It's a familiar American tale of passion, and it was Stephen King's bright, best-selling idea to retell it as a horror story. What if a high-school nerd named Arnie Cunningham fell madly in love with a '58 Plymouth Fury? More to the point, what if she-for the Fury is a female named CHRISTINE-loved her owner jealously, possessively, madly, in return? CHRISTINE, as you can doubtless guess, is a very nasty Plymouth indeed. On the day of her birth, on a Detroit assembly line, she bumps off an autoworker. By the time she falls into Arnie's enamored hands she's killed another entire family. She doesn't just run over people, either. She locks her victims inside and gases them, or crushes a chest against the steering wheel. Trash her and she'll put herself together again. Bang on her door and she'll start the radio playing "I hear you knockin' but you can't come in." CHRISTINE'S radio plays only '50s rock and roll. One thing you have to say about her: she's true to her roots.
It's to the credit of John Carpenter, who directs CHRISTINE, that he sees the comic side of King's metaphor. The story of a killer car in love is not all that scary on the screen, so he doesn't try to bowl the audience over with gore (as he tried in THE THING) or terror (as he succeeded in doing in HALLOWEEN). CHRISTINE is a tight, modest job, a silly but not unwitty variation on the old Charles Atlas fantasy of the scrawny kid who transforms himself (with a driver's license, not exercise) into an Elvis-like avenger of his teen humiliators. With the very talented 22-year-old Keith Gordon as Arnie, giving some fresh and funny turns on alienated youth, and a strong supporting cast including newcomers John Stockwell and Alexandra Paul and veterans Robert Prosky and Harry Dean Stanton, CHRISTINE has just enough comic energy to carry this fable to it's crash-bam conclusion.