|Just a reminder--someone drove this car while it was on fire!|
1) The first thing that strikes me is how quiet this film is for a Carpenter film. The music cues are few and far between during the first hour, and we don’t hear that signature Carpenter synth whine until that hour is almost over.
2) Good ol’ Keith Gordon. It’s obvious that Arnie is something of a nothing role, and the script is very confused as to whether he’s meant to be a dupe of Christine or a willing co-conspirator (something we never get resolved, even up to his ultimate fate), but Gordon does everything he can with this role. What little there is that elevates Arnie from a series of stereotypes is all Gordon.
3) This is another film which is specifically meant to be a period piece (it’s set in 1978), but is not enhanced in any way by its setting. I suspect Carpenter does this to remain ‘true’ to the novel, but there’s nothing in the novel that demands that period be used. And given how almost everyone is styled in the 80‘s (check out the hair on Alexandra Paul’s Leigh!), it’s a pointless exercise.
|"But Mr. Kot-tah said I could beat on the nerd...."|
4) You know, I would accept the seriousness of the bullies in this movie if they weren’t played by a bunch of goofballs. William Ostrander’s portrayal of Buddy, in particular, is laughable; the man comes off as Cosplay John Travolta. Thankfully, their presence is limited and their tickets punched before they get too annoying.
5) You wanna know why I love practical effects? Because there’s an immediacy to these set pieces you just can’t get with CGI. When you realize that at one point in this movie an actual human being drove a car that was set entirely on fire after another human being blew up an actual gas station, you appreciate what you’re seeing all the more.
6) I really liked Robert Proskey’s Darnell. While he comes off as very antagonistic, it’s obvious that he’s not. This makes his death after Christine’s killing spree an indicator of how evil ‘she’ is, as he’s drawing his shotgun to get at the perceived thief, not the car itself.
|"Stupid movie...I'll become a director and show everyone how|
to direct with style....stupid movie...."
7) Some people just have old faces...right, Harry Dean Stanton?
8) I find it fascinating how Carpenter has Gordon visually go through different levels of classic 50‘s rebellious teen. He goes from typical geek to the windbreaker of James Dean to the leather of Marlon Brando the deeper into his mania he gets. It’s like Arnie becomes symbiotically linked with Christine and is pulled backwards in time psychologically by her.
9) I’m not sure if Carpenter resisted the urge for Alexandra Paul’s Leigh and John Stockwell’s Dennis to grow romantically close in the third act (it’s been years since I read King’s novel, but my gut says he did pull the trigger on this)...but it never quite works out. Now granted, this might be because of Paul’s rather stilted performance, but there’s still a whiff of ‘it’s in the script’ to this development.
10) I think that the film benefits from Christine being established as evil right on the assembly line, as it throws out all the ambiguity of the book’s reasoning for her becoming this steel-and-glass ghost. By just letting us know that Christine is a malevolent entity right from the start, she becomes a motorized version of Michael Meyers, and we accept that its malevolence just exists.
Overall...not the greatest of Carpenter’s films, and arguably the beginning of his decline, it still has some merit thanks to the practical stunt work and the performance by Gordon.