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    Great review Helen – love reading your reviews. Think I’ll give this one a watch!
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Christine: Carpenter and King’s Abhorrent Auto

Filed under: — Brandon Engel on October 29th, 2014 11:10:44 pm



In the history of Stephen King novels adapted to film, some have fallen short by a wide margin, some have become immensely successful, and others still become relatively obscure over time. Then there are those films like The Shining, which didn’t receive much praise upon its release, but has since gone on to be regarded as one of the greatest horror movies of all time. One of the major issues for Stephen King fans with The Shining, and indeed, for Stephen King himself, were the philosophical/spiritual incongruities between King and director Stanley Kubrick.

And then you have a film like Christine. While the film is generally not held in the same high regard as a film like The Shining, Christine does succeed in bringing the similarities of two artists’ works into focus the best. Writer Stephen King and director John Carpenter shared some literary and artistic interests that dovetailed nicely in the context of Christine. Drawing on their love of comics, horror, pop culture, and fifties nostalgia, Carpenter and King created a film that reflected the spirit of the 1980s and anticipated some concerns that still resonate today.

The film tells the story of a bully-battered teenage nerd named Arnie (Keith Gordon) who ends up purchasing “Christine” — an old, beat-up 1958 Plymouth from an old man. We come to learn that the car is possessed. It has the power to reconstruct itself, and it’s willing to destroy anyone who comes between her and Arnie.

Both King and Carpenter grew up as big fans of EC horror comics, and that is clearly reflected in Christine. EC comics often featured storylines with ironic twists or slightly political angles drawn from real life. Several of Carpenter’s films, including The Fog, The Thing, and the horror anthology Body Bags were reminiscent of the EC comic style. King of course paid direct tribute to the films with his collaboration with George A. Romero, Creepshow. The most notable point of connection between EC and Christine is the concept of living automata — objects which come to life to wreak havoc among humans.

Some of the EC comics influence also comes from contributor Ray Bradbury. Several of his stories were adapted for the series and King became a big fan of Bradbury’s actual novels and short stories. Another influence of Carpenter’s, though, ended up meshing well with King’s approach to stories. Carpenter admired the films of Howard Hawks and how he integrated natural, lifelike dialogue into his movies. Again, this conversational style allowed the period-specific dialogues from King’s novel to flow relatively smoothly on the big screen.

In the case of Christine, King and Carpenter portrayed some characters who receive ironic paybacks after treating people poorly or just being bad people in general. Also, this comic book sensibility helps the film encourage a willing suspension of disbelief, which is important since the movie is about a jealous, autonomous car with something akin to free will.

Politically, the movie also expresses a sense of concern about technology and how humans will interact with it in the future. While not exactly a Luddite message, it does reflect social concerns about technology and its grip on people that are still relevant today. The film’s plot does, however, question society’s priorities when it comes to material objects, status, and what is “cool” as viewers watch the protagonist undergo a complete transformation. And however silly the notion of a killer car might have seemed to viewers in the eighties, remember that nowadays, corporations are fighting to realize self-controlling automotives, and people are also coming to rely upon fully automated home systems like the Brinks security setups that enable homeowners to synchronize the functionality of their household appliances. That’s right: our appliances are conspiring!
Despite its seemingly far-fetched plot, critics liked the movie. The first part of the movie, in particular, showcased what Carpenter could do with characters when given a seemingly outlandish idea to run with. The movie also plays on visions of teenage life behind the wheel, dating and high school politics. After all these years, though, it might seem slightly dated to some people. But where the film is most successful is not in the superficial narrative about a killer car, but in the meta-narrative about humanity’s struggle to suppress its destructive impulses. It’s not about the evil that dwells inside of the car. It’s about the evil within everyone, even (or especially) the seemingly docile nerd who can never get a date and always has his lunch money stolen.

Demons, Aliens, Renegades, and Slashers: The Grim Imagination of John Carpenter

Filed under: — Brandon Engel on September 10th, 2014 08:09:38 pm


John Carpenter has created some of the most terrifying movie monsters in the history of cinema, but he’s also managed to make films that are moving emotionally, and he has continually defied what audiences have expected from self-aware genre films. What’s more, he could achieve all of this on a miniscule budget, with casts comprised primarily of unestablished actors. In fact, he helped to establish some performers, including Jamie Lee Curtis.

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Mistaken For Strangers (2013)

Filed under: — Helen on August 3rd, 2014 04:08:15 pm

mistaken for strangers posterMistaken for Strangers was supposed to be a rock documentary about the popular band ‘The National’ as they embarked on their 2010 tour, but it turned out to be something much more original and stirring.  Filmed by Tom Bernenger, the younger brother of ‘The National’s’ lead singer Matt Berninger, as he is invited to come on tour with the band and work as a roadie for them, Mistaken for strangers is more a film about sibling rivalry and self discovery than a music documentary. It not only shows the not particularly exciting off stage antics of a rock/indie band, but it shows how brotherly love and patience can be tested by jealousy and being in close proximity to one another. 
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Lovelace (2013)

Filed under: — Helen on May 5th, 2014 04:05:36 pm

lovelace film posterLovelace is the story of Linda Lovelace, the woman who starred in the 1972 porn classic Deep Throat, which was one of the first porn films to gain popularity with the mainstream public. Shortly after  leaving the porn industry, Linda went on to campaign against the porn industry and become an advocate for women’s rights and Lovelace outlines the reasons why.
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Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Filed under: — Helen on January 27th, 2014 08:01:47 pm

inside llewyn davis film posterInside Llewyn Davis comes at a time when piracy and the internet are making it harder than ever for musicians to make money out of their music. People are buying music less and less from shops and getting everything online at a cheaper rate. With this and the still recent financial crisis in mind, this film about a struggling musician is a story bound to strike a chord with many people. Llewyn’s efforts to get himself heard has the potential to resonate with any person who has struggled to find work  in a changing marketplace. 

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Bernie (2011)

Filed under: — Helen on January 15th, 2014 11:01:55 pm

Bernie_posterBernie is the true story of Assistant Funeral Director Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), who after confessing to the crime of murdering his friend and employer  Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) and concealing it for months, received the support of almost the whole town of Carthage, Texas. Their wish for Bernie to be found innocent was so strong that the District Attorney actually had to have the trial moved to another town in order to ensure  a fair trial.
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Beautiful Creatures (2013)

Filed under: — Helen on December 6th, 2013 04:12:29 pm

beautiful creatures film posterBeautiful Creatures is a romantic fantasy film centred around a small town character who falls in love with a mysterious stranger who has supernatural powers.  Sound familiar? It’s impossible not to draw comparisons between this and Twilight, as the central story is almost the same, just with the genders being reversed. The supernatural character is the girl, and she is a witch or ‘caster’, rather than a vampire.
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Captain Phillips (2013)

Filed under: — Helen on October 25th, 2013 01:10:34 pm

captain phillips posterCaptain Phillips is the story of an ordinary man who finds himself caught up in extraordinary circumstances. Based on real events that took place in 2009 when an American cargo ship was hijacked by Somali pirates and the Captain was held hostage for days at sea, Captain Phillips is a gripping thriller that successfully manages to maintain tension throughout. That is an impressive  feat considering a large portion of the film is set in the confined space of a small lifeboat.
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Blackfish (2013)

Filed under: — Helen on September 15th, 2013 04:09:01 pm

blackfish film posterBlackfish is a documentary about the captive killer whale Tilikum, who has a proven track record of killing people. During a performance at Seaworld Orlando in 2010, he grabbed his trainer during a performance and killed her.  The tragic event got media attention worldwide as it made people question not only the moral debate of keeping whales in captivity, but also the safety of the humans working with them. Can any amount of training prepare someone for what to do when a killer whale does something unexpected?
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A Field in England (2013)

Filed under: — Helen on August 5th, 2013 09:08:49 am

a-field-in-england-movie-posterA Field in England grabbed headlines when it was revealed it was  to be launched simultaneously across a number of mediums, including cinemas,Film4 tv channel, and DVD. This innovative release method ensured the film got wide publicity, as this was the first time in the UK a film had used this experimental release method. The film itself is also extremely experimental, blending 17th century civil war history, with hallucinogenic drug taking. It is also shot in black and white, giving a surreal effect, which adds to the film’s overall bizarreness. This movie feels more like a piece of art than a film, but it was so weird,  it merits discussion.
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