Friday, October 14, 2016

Christine

3/4

Starring: Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, Robert Prosky, Harry Dean Stanton, Christine Belford, Robert Darnell, William Ostrander

Rated R (probably for Horror Violence and Language including Sexual Dialogue)

One of the most important days for a teenager is when he gets his first car.  It's a sign of maturity, freedom and status.  I remember when I got my driver's license.  I was really happy because I could be like all the cool kids who had his own car (I had to share mine, for a time, with my brother, but never mind).  "Christine" takes this understanding and twists it into something genuinely horrifying.

Arnie Cunningham (Gordon) is the school's dork.  He's shy, awkward, has no success with girls (probably because his parents are doing their best to keep him from growing up).  He has only one friend, the hunky football hero Dennis Guilder (Stockwell).  One day after getting humiliated by Buddy Repperton (Ostrander) and his cronies, Arnie spies something that catches his eye.  A 1957 Plymouth Fury is sitting in the backyard of an old geezer with a "For Sale" sign in the window.  Dennis rightly sees it as a piece of junk, but Arnie is instantly smitten and buys it.  Through painstaking work, he restores it to pristine condition.  That's when his personality starts to change.  At first Dennis is impressed: he loses his glasses, he dresses better, and is dating the school hottie Leigh Cabot (Paul).  Soon, however, it becomes apparent that this isn't a case of having a car giving a kid no one took seriously a confidence boost, but that the car is alive.  And woe betide anyone who gets between her and Arnie.

Let's get the obvious out of the way: even for a horror movie, this is a ludicrous idea for a story.  It's "The Love Bug" from hell.  What moron thought that this could actually work?  And yet, it does work.  It works because director John Carpenter plays it absolutely straight.  He takes a "take it or leave it" approach to the subject.  If you take the leap of faith and accept this silly premise, then it works.  If you don't, well, you probably wouldn't watch the movie in the first place.

The performances are strong, which goes a long way into selling the film's premise.  Leading the pack is Keith Gordon, whose character demands a wide range of ability.  From geeky doormat to cocky stud to obsessed maniac, Gordon doesn't miss a beat.  Nor does he lose sight of the character we grew to care about.  John Stockwell is excellent as the golden boy with a heart.  He's adorable and charismatic, but we also understand why a heartthrob like that would be friends with a loser like Arnie.  Strangely, both actors have gone behind the camera in their later years.  Gordon would direct films such as "The Chocolate War" (his first film) and the film version of "The Singing Detective."  Stockwell went on to direct summer movies such as "Blue Crush" and the underrated "Into the Blue."  Their co-star Alexandra Paul, doesn't impress.  She's cute, but displays little range as an actress.

Like I said, this movie is what it is.  If you accept the premise, it's a good little thriller.  If not, try and find something more realistic.  Like "Alien."

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