John Carpenter and Stephen King, in theory it’s a match made in heaven. After all, Stephen King has spent the last half-century writing terrifying tales, while Carpenter gave us some of the best horror movies ever made.
Yet their one collaboration will probably never end up on anyone’s list of the best John Carpenter movies and is often overlooked when discussing the great adaptations of King’s work. We’re talking, of course, about Christine, one of King’s creepier tales, which Carpenter adapted for the silver screen back in 1983.
Part coming-of-age story, part ghost movie, Christine tells the story of Arnie Cunningham a young man who becomes enamored with a classic red and white 1958 Plymouth Fury named Christine. When Arnie’s personality starts to change, though, his friends come to believe he’s being possessed by the car.
While the film received pretty solid reviews at the time and earned double its reported $10 million budget, Christine’s never really caught the public attention like Shawshank Redemption or The Shining have (Editor: is it fair to compare it to two of the best movies ever?) Indeed, King once admitted it was one of only two adaptations of his work that bored him
“I may just be the most adapted novelist in modern times… and I don’t say that with pride so much as with a kind of stunned bemusement,” he told Salon while promoting the 2003 adaptation of Dreamcatcher. “Several honorable adaptations have come from this thirty-year spew of celluloid… and the best of those have had few of the elements I’m best known for science fiction, fantasy, the supernatural, and pure gross-out moments… The books that do have those elements have, by and large, become films that are either forgettable or outright embarrassing.”
“I’m thinking chiefly of Christine and Stanley Kubrick’s take on The Shining — should have been good, but just… well, they just aren’t,” he continued. “They’re actually sort of boring. Speaking for myself, I’d rather have bad than boring.”
Now of course, King’s hardly the best judge of what makes a good movie (We’ve seen Maximum Overdrive sir!), but he’s not the only one to talk down Christine. Carpenter himself has admitted he doesn’t really understand why it’s thought of so highly in cult circles.
“I know there’s some rumblings about its anniversary,” he told Total Film (via GamesRadar). My question is ‘why? Carpenter then goes on to admit he only took the film because he’d been fired off the King movie he wanted to make, Firestarter. When the Total Film team mentioned the upcoming reboot, his only words were, “Oh boy. Well, good luck to him. It will probably be better.”
If you’re a big fan of Christin, though, don’t worry, Carpenter doesn’t hate the film. During an interview with Consequences of Sound, he admitted, “I’m proud of [Christine]. I’m proud of the performances in it, and I’m proud of some of the sequences with the car. Sure, I like it. It’s not my best movie, but it’s not my worst movie.”
I mean, he’s not wrong. That’s where we come down on Christine. It’s a bit like 3.6 Roentgen. Not great, not terrible. (Shout out to the three Chernobyl fans who got that reference.) Anyway, if you like Carpenter’s work, then why not check out our list of the best science fiction movies that may or may not feature The Thing? We’ve also got a guide explaining the best way to watch the Halloween movies in order.
If you’re looking for something King does like, then we recommend reading about the From season 3 release date, or check out our list of the best movies or our guide to all the new movies coming in 2023.