Review: John Carpenter

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SHOCK reviews Sony’s re-release of Carpenter classic CHRISTINE on Blu-ray

John Carpenter’s slick adaptation of Stephen King’s urgent boy-and-his-car love story from Hell CHRISTINE earned the auteur the critical and commercial accolades denied him with his previous picture, THE THING (which famously, bombed in ’82 and is now, of course, considered one of the greatest horror films of all time). But strangely today, perhaps due to the property locked hard into King’s brand, CHRISTINE doesn’t often come up in conversations about Carpenter’s best work. But it should.

No doubt SHOCK readers, being the schooled horror and dark fantasy entertainment aficionados that they are, don’t need a terribly heavy-handed reminder about what CHRISTINE is all about , but for the handful of humans that aren’t savvy to the story, here goes:

Like the book on which it was based, the film tells the tale of socially awkward teen Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon, five years past his appearance as lovable goofball in JAWS 2 and three years after his techno-nerd hero turn in DRESSED TO KILL) who, after purchasing and restoring a wrecked, red 1958 Plymouth Fury (nicknamed Christine), begins to radically change his behavior, much to the dismay of both his parents and best friend Dennis (John Stockwell). As Arnie falls deeper into a wormhole of automobile-influenced evil, Dennis investigates and discovers the car’s sordid, spectral history of obsession, death and destruction.

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Carpenter uses the story to hang some of his most festishized imagery to date, almost pornographically letting his camera fondle CHRISTINE while vintage ‘50’s rock ‘n’ roll bounces around in the background. This is an exercise in pure, menacing style and while the director’s own obsessions cause some of the emotional explorations of the characters to be shoved to the sidelines (as the love interest, Alexandra Paul has almost nothing to do except get angry – and almost choke to death – and the most interesting aspect of the book, Arnie’s relationship to his parents, is only touched on), he fills the screen with some remarkable performances.DERANGED star Roberts Blossom near steals the film as the sinister old junkyard bastard who sells Arnie Christine and later reveals the truth about the phantasmagorical Fury; Robert Prosky (GREMLINS 2) is larger than life as the crass, greasy garage owner Darnell and Willaim Ostrander’s malevolent Buddy Repperton is one of the screen’s most vile thugs. And Gordon (now a successful director) is magnificent in the central performance, even if he doesn’t quite get evil enough; indeed his jump from schlub to stud is so brisk that the psychology of the character’s metamorphosis and eventual descent into madness is somewhat fuzzy.

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Carpenter directs Gordon after the decimation of Christine.

Sony’s new Blu-ray release is handsomely packaged (love the blue metallic cover) and marks the first time CHRISTINE has been available on Blu since Twilight Time’s limited edition went out of print a few years back. Both the crisp 1080p transfer and the special features are virtually identical to Twilight Time’s, with many of them ported over from the now 20 year-old DVD release. Key among them is a dynamite commentary with Carpenter and Gordon that is sweet, lively and interesting. No wonder JC opted not to do another commentary; this one is all we need.

CHRISTINE is like a dream-state impression of the book, littered with pulsing music, classic pop tunes and unforgettable imagery. It’s not a perfect Stephen King adaptation by any stretch, but it is a near perfect John Carpenter movie…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O08w8CegEeg

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Weekend: Oct. 17, 2019, Oct. 20, 2019

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