Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Happening (2008)


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65

Starring : Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo
Writer and Director : M. Night Shyamalan
Rating : R for violent and disturbing image

M. Night Shyamalan had a pretty sweet reputation built for himself. „The Sixth Sense”, „Unbreakable”, „Signs” introduced him to the world as an imaginative director whose stories immersed, challenged and surprised. „The Village” came as a confirmation that he indeed was a one-trick-pony, whose original stories are told in pretty much the same manner. Needless to say, by the time „Lady in the Water” bored the life out of me, I was sure that he either needs to reinvent himself or find a new job (or at least drop the annoying cameos). „The Happening”, while far from being a reinvention, seemed to be at least a fun horror ride. Or at least that’s what I initially thought after seeing the trailers.

The first thing that was changed, fueling disappointmen or relief (based on the Shyamalan Hate-O-Meter every person has) is the absence of the trademarked surprise ending. In fact, the most crucial piece of information is revealed 20-30 minutes in. Shyamalan seems to move focus in other directions. The plot device is that of a biological attack on the US, a sort of airborn toxin that makes people literarly kill themselves (in imaginative ways I might add). The biological agent deactivates the brain’s self-preservation functions shut down. The infected victim cannot move at first, becomes incoherent and confused, and then simply off themselves any way they can : jumping off buildings, impaling, shooting, stabbing themselves etc. The attacks seem to originate from the park areas of the major cities of the East Coast. The story focuses on Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) who flees the city with his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel) his brother Julian (John Leguizamo) and his daughter. Their adventure across the East Coast is the focus of the film. I will reveal no more because I wouldn’t want to spoil it for everyone.

Shyamalan’s films have always been thrillers/horrors, but kind of clean in terms of violence and though their main goal was to scare, they were more than just horror films. Here, Shyamalan shifts more focus on violence. The suicides are pretty graphic and have a gross-out effect never before seen in his films. For example in a Zoo, a man jumps in the lions’ cage and calmly waits until the wild animals rips his arms off. It’s quite explicit, although even Shyamalan knows better than to shamelessly show off gore, so the point of view is that of a shaky phone camera complete with not- very-precise zooms. Another man lies down in front of his cart-size lawn-mower and you can see flesh spat out from the back of the machine, but it’s all witnessed from a considerable distance so it feels at once surreal and not very immediate. It certainly deserves the R rating, making for a bold change in style for Shymalan, but not a satisfying one.

Shyamalan’s stories are mostly a mix of sensationalism, philosphy and psychology mixed in various doses. Here, he kind of cuts down the complicated stuff, leaving more room for suspense and scares and much less for the actual story and character developement. There still is a subliminal message but it’s heavily diluted and too eco-friendly for my taste. The open space as opposed to the confined environments of his past films, leave room for outdoor exploration but not much inner exploration. It’s just people running from an invisible enemy which makes for good suspense but in this case lousy storytelling. The rythm is still slow. Shyamalan takes his sweet time but doesn’t offer much to make up for that. There is no big climax, no mind-numbing revelation. It’s actually kind of dissapointing once it comes to its conclusion. I miss the surprise ending.

The acting is definetly it’s weakest link. Mark Wahlberg is wrong for the part in so many ways it hurts. He’s supposed to be a biology teacher, but hearing him talk science is as convincing as Ashton Kutcher talking street. Zooey Deschanel does her alien-among-humans-blank-stare thing and it’s so dull and annoying that she should have been written off from the script before filming even began. John Leguizamo is the film’s biggest asset, but since he’s a supporting character, he finishes his part in the first half of the running time. He should have traded places with Marky Mark.

The cinematography is excellent doing the film more justice than it should, by generating subtle tension. It does not abuse style however, keeping it to a minimum, for the sake of realism. The mood they’re going for is to immerse the viewer in this apocalyptic scenario, unlike his previous films where it was like reading a story rather than living it. There are no hand-held shots however, thank God for that. I can’t stand shaky cameras. It’s becoming a trend now, with „Cloverfield” and the Bourne franchise, but it’s very irritating and headache inducing. I like clean, steady shots, so I can actually understand what’s going on. So, extra points for „The Happening” for holding steady.

In conclusion, it’s better than „Lady in the Water”, although considering how bad that one was, it might not be saying much. It’s still not worth getting excited about, but it’s a start. It certainly has some camp value. Maybe Shyamalan will get another chance to prove his worth. I feel he deserves it, but perhaps he is too content with writing stories that would easily do better as episodes of The Twilight Zone. I’m still waiting for a comeback Mr. Shyamalan !

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Crimson Tide (1995)


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9

Starring : Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini

Director : Tony Scott

Screenplay : Michael Schiffer

Rating : R for strong language

There are too few good submarine movies. The old ones were in the sweet old Second World War heroic tradition, very clean and neat. Then, in the ’80s, Wolfgang Petersen brought us „Das Boot”. That’s enough to forgive him about „Troy”. „Das Boot” is a classic war film, brutal and realistic, both a tribute to the young sailors who fought in the war and an unique work of suspense. No submarine related film has ever come close to equaling Petersen’s epic. But in 1995, „Crimson Tide” came very, very close.

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott team up once again after „Top Gun” and „Days of Thunder”, with much better results. The name of the submarine is the „Alabama” and it has nuclear capabilities. Its captain is Ramsey (Gene Hackman) and his second in command is Hunter (Denzel Washington). In Russia, rebel forces led by the extremist leader Radchenko, have taken hold of the country’s nuclear arsenal and they only need to decrypt the launch codes to be able to use them agains the US and thus start a Third World War. The Alabama is sent in to prepare to launch nuclear missles before the russians do, but the war brewing at the surface will explode on the command deck of the US nuclear submarine. Ramsey and Hunter are complete opposites in terms of opinion. Ramsey is the hardened commander with 25 years of experiente both in war and peace, and believes in harsh discipline, as per example when a fire explodes in the kitchen, he immediately begins a drill, to keep the sailors on their toes he says, but Hunter disagrees, to which Ramsey harshly replies : „We’re here to preserve democracy, not practice it.” Hunter is a young commander, with no actual combat experience. He’s smart and cares about his men, he knows how to be strict and popular at the same time, and does not share Ramsey’s gung-ho attitude. His opinion about the nuclear war can be summed up by the following line : „In the nuclear world, the true enemy is war itself.” After a russian submarine attacks them and cripples their radio capabilities, they receive an incomplete message which could mean that either they should launch their nuclear weapons, or abort their mission. Ramsey thinks they should strike while Hunter thinks they should wait for the radio to be repaired so they can receive the full orders. Since the situation between the two has grown tense, a simple exchange of arguments turns into all-out war, splitting the submarine into two sides fighting each other for control of the nuclear weapon, with the fate of humanity at stake.

„Crimson Tide” is probably Tony Scott’s finest film, one of the rare cases where his style doesn’t get in the way of the film, nor does it try to elevate the material. It’s just there to support it. The hyperactive editing, richly detailed frames, aggresive soundtrack, they are all there, but they are the most important element of the film. What matters now are the surprising script and the heavy suspense. Yes, it does contain the usual sub cliches, like for example when the captain is forced to seal a compartment with men still inside or when they are sinking helplessly to a critical depth, only to fix the engines at the last moment and rise to safety. But, except for those, the film doesn’t betray expectations, delivering a tense struggle between two sub commanders who are both right, and both wrong. Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman are extraordinary actors who can both add layers of quite detail to their characters, and explode with searing energy at the right moments, and the script does offer them some very nice scenes together. For example : a surreal dialogue about horse breeds during the very tense finale. Quentin Tarantino is said to have been called in to rewrite the dialogue so it would be more dynamic. And indeed, that previous scene example sounds just like something Tarantino would do ( there are also a lot of references to comic books and Star Trek ). The supporting characters are pretty well written into the story also by means of dialogue, avoiding to become stereotypes. The atmosphere of the submarine is also very immersive in the „Das Boot” tradition, with the cameras rushing through the tight corridors, the lighting creating a dark electronically lit environment, and the cinematography and sets creating the claustrophobic feeling that adds to the suspense. Extrme close-ups of sweaty faces lit up by the red or green coloured screens, crew members shouting through the radio, contrary to navy discipline, and the adrenaling pumping score by Hans Zimmer, add to the crazyness in typical Scott/Bruckheimer fashion, a trend that seems to carry on even to this day.

The film’s biggest asset is the fact that it’s more than an action film. It brings an interesting perspective to nuclear wars and the ridiculously huge responsibilities of a submarine commander and what can happen when the chain of command breaks down in a critical moment. In fact, since 1996, the executive decision of releasing a nuclear weapon is reserved strictly for the president of the United States of America. They must have seen this movie too.

The Hangover (2009)


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4

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Jeffrey Tambor, Rachel Harris, Heather Graham, Rob Riggle
Director: Todd Phillips
Screenwrite
r: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore, Todd Phillips, Jeremy Garelick

I was 15 minutes into this movie and I could not point to one single minimally redeemable character. In the background there was this vaguely familiar noise: my country’s most notable musical export, sung by Rihanna here, was even worse than the God-awful original. By the time it got to the “Who Let the Dogs Out”, I was not sure I could stay until the end. If only I knew there was more, that somebody would play a slow rendition of one of the most insulting pieces of “songwriting” in the history of music: “Candy Shop”, I would have run for the hills.

And just as I was getting ready for a quick exit and calculating my way out, “the hangover” happened. The characters woke up missing a tooth and the groom and with a surplus of a baby and a tiger. I was so curious I stayed until the end. The four men – Doug, Stu, Phil and Alan, all in different stages of their lives/relationships, spent a wild night in Vegas and they wake up not knowing what happened. My years of “Lost” taught me that “it’s all in their head, they’re drunk” or that “it’s all a conspiracy”, and I now know that watching TV can be hazardous for a healthy normal enjoyment of a big screen comedy. Luckily, my theories were soon shut down and |I was impressed by the outcome.

The movie is trying way too hard and its only props are some poor flat jokes of no substance and some questionable slapstick humor. And these are the good parts. There are also some unremarkable female characters that sometimes border extreme bitchiness, an unsuccessful and surprisingly pointless cameo by Mike Tyson, a tiny yet very mean Asian mobster caricature, and two of my cinema pet peeves – Bradley Cooper and Heather Graham. This whole glorious ensemble has only one positive outcome: the groom stand out as being the best man (no pun intended) out of this bunch, although that is not that impressive once you count his competition: a borderline functionally retarded individual who possibly is a repeated sex offender, a middle school teacher who takes the class school trips money as he screams at his students: “You do not exist!” and a dentist whose hairline is always beneath the hard pressed shoe of his hateful cheating girlfriend.

As they try to figure out their whereabouts of the previous night, they go through the longest day of their lives. There are some occasional funny moments, but they are rare and a little far fetched. Actually, the scene that made me laugh the most was the picture collage (deliciously intentionally amateurish) that shed some light on their misadventures, but not even that was not an original move, as I’ve seen it before in “What Happens in Vegas”. Oh yes, these movies are both set in Vegas and their humor relies on alcohol, and they both are played by popular actors that bring crowds into the cinemas. But “The Hangover” is a little bit better, more evolved, at least it has some well enough drawn characters and lacks idealistic romance, as the stripper is not a gold hearted naïve but a realist – “I am actually an escort, but as a striper I find customers more easily”. But did they need all those people to write this tired script?

Bottom line is: it is not groundbreaking comedy, it is not even must see material, but it is a decent waste of time accompanied by a few laughs that might just add up to the price of the tickets.  And if you are in a better mood than I was, you may actually enjoy it.

Wanted (2008)


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85

Starring : James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie.
Director Timur Bekmambetov
Screenplay: Michael Brandt, Derek Haas
Rating : R for strong bloody violence throughout, pervasive language and some sexuality.

Hands up if you’ve heard this setup before : leading man, common person, quite boring, dissapointed with life, unable to change, with a job he hates, deeply depressed, finds himself thrown into a world of fantasy, beyond known reality, where he learns to use super-human abilities to defeat the forces of evil, thus improving his quality of life and inspire a series of pointless sequels. Sounds familiar doesn’t it ?

Inspired by the graphic novel of the same name, „Wanted” tells the tale of Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), a nobody who can’t even find any hits regarding his name on Google, which is silly, because it should have at least returned some kind of name coincidence, but I guess reality can be tweaked here and there to serve the purpose of the plot. I’ll give it that, it’s depressingly funny. He work as an accountant (job he hates), has an annoying boss who uses a stapler as a form of non-verbal threat, and his best friend is messing around with his girlfriend. Life is bad for Wesley. That’s until he encounters Fox (Angelina Jolie) who saves him from some kind of super-assassin. That’s the part of the story where he finds himself drawn into a world beyond his imagination, a world of super-human hitmen at war with each other. The good guys are led by Sloan (Morgan Freeman) who receives orders on who to kill next from a supernatural loom. Yes, you heard me right, a loom, or better yet, The Loom of Destiny, as they call it. Wesley learns that his father, who he thought left him when he was little, was also an assassin, the best in the world, and was killed by the second best assassin in the world. So, Wesley undergoes harsh training to be able to join the ranks and avenge the death of his father. During these exercises he learns he has a special ability, which accelerates his heartbeat to aprox. 400 beats per minute, thus releasing obscene amounts of adrenaline which enables him to move very „Matrix”-like. Oh, and did I mention that he can also bend bullet trajectories, resulting in an awesome gun-fighting coreography. It will however be dismissed as ridiculous by anyone who will argue why they didn’t like the film. But it’s exactly what makes this an excellent action film, the fact that it has the courage to be unusual and freaky and just run with it. Further down the road, Wesley will realise that nothing is what it seems, that loialties are easily missplaced and that destiny a straight path never is.

As a cinematic achievement it’s alot like „The Matrix”. As a matter of fact, the comics themselves were probably inspired by the Wachowski’s legacy. The question is : does it try and/or succeed at surpassing its predecessor ? The answer is : yes. It’s not even that hard since „The Matrix” has lost some of its influence since the world has been flooded with copycats. Bekmambetov though is not jsut a copycat. His „Nightwatch” films, clearly influnced by a lot of Hollywood’s trend-setters, are trademarked in their own way, and so is „Wanted”. His style is over the top and cool. He has the audacity to fill the screen with a scene where rats are used as time bombs. It’s also infused with some very hardcore violence. Squeamish persons beware, gore runs aplenty. I personally think it’s a very hard R, especially since it’s ideas regarding assassinations being a form of balancing the universe are iffy. Of course it’s all so outrageous that it’s hard to take it seriously, but still, the film manages to squeeze in some twisted philosophy along the way. It almost makes „Fight Club” seem mild and harmless by comparisson.

No matter what your opinions are on this kind of outrageous entertainment, this is still a worthy entry in the genre. It’s dark, ambitious in scope, tightly focused, artisticaly shot, high-octane sci-fi action with plenty of humour and drama to go along. It’s also as original as it can be considering its influences, and even surprising. It’s in a league of its own, and it will probably repulse some and leave others wanting more. But no matter where you fit, this is still pop culture cinema at its best.

Eye for an Eye (1996)


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7

Starring: Sally Field, Ed Harris, Kiefer Sutherland, Joe Mantegna
Director: John Schlesinger
Screenplay : Amanda Silver based on a novel by Erika Holzer
Rating : R for language and disturbing violence which includes rape

Once in a while, when screenwriters lose their inspiration, they go back to the everlasting Hollywood formulas. The so-called revenge film, in which amateur vigilantes take matters of law into their own hands to punish a certain crime, mostly of a personal nature. From the old classics starring Charles Bronson, to the “Punisher” comics and films, and the more recent “Death Sentence” (from the director of “Saw”) and “The Brave One (starring Jodie Foster, directed by Neil Jordan), they bring about a discussion which is way more important than the commercial practices of Hollywood : how justified is the “eye for an eye” line of thinking and/or necessary in today’s society, a society filled with malice, where apparently everything is allowed.

This is the issue the film “Eye for an Eye” displays, under the directorial effort of John Schlesinger (“Midnight Cowboy”, “Day of the Locust”, “Marathon Man” and the horrid “The Next Best Thing”). Karen McKann (Sally Field) lives a very normal life with her husband Mack (Ed Harris) and her two daughters Megan and Julie. One day, coming home from work, she calls home to see how the preparations for her younger daughter, Megan’s birthday, and is surprised to hear Julie answer, who she thought was at school. While they talk, a man breaks into their home, rapes and kill Julie while Karen helplessly hears it all through the phone. The police apprehend the killer, a man named Robert Doob (Kiefer Sutherland), but because of a procedural error, the case is dismissed and Doob is set free. Karen cannot cope with this situation and is very close to see her life spiraling out of control. But, while participating at some support groups for bereaved parents she comes in contact with Sidney Hughes, a man who supplies grieving parents with the means to carry out their revenge against those whom the law set free. He supplies the weapon and plan, but Karen will be the one who will have to pull the trigger.

“Eye for an Eye” is peculiar little film. It’s biggest gain lies in the fact that unlike the usual cliché of the male vigilante, this time we get a middle-aged woman carrying out the revenge. On the other hand, everything else feels like a by-the-numbers thriller. There are moments that seem to be aiming higher, towards a psychological drama, but they’re quickly dissipated. The only complex character is Karen, convincingly portrayed by Sally Field, an experienced actress who’s onscreen presence lifts the material, even when it turns heavily melodramatic. There are scenes that provide more texture to her personality and add to her suffering. The rest of the characters are, however, poorly developed. Ed Harris’ nice-guy husband is simply furniture, Beverly D’Angelo’s best friend is conventional to say the least (boring and useless to be really mean), Joe Mantegna’s detective investigating the case is the usual poster-boy for incompetence, even though it’s clear that his hands are tied by the laws he serves, and last but not least Kiefer Sutherland’s villain is the classic stereotype whose only character trait is his outstanding cruelty, pushed to the higher limits of menacing behaviour only to justify his “death sentence”.

Maybe the most important aspect of this film could have been the interesting debate on veangeful capital punishment, especially as far as human psychology goes. But nothing is ever treated so seriously, perhaps because the director feared the possibility of debating what is supposed to be the film’s thrilling side. In one of the scenes, Kare asks Mack if he believes in the death penalty, and he answers that in Doob’s case he does. That’s about it regarding a discussion about that topic, as if justifying her later actions in order to simplify the moral aspect. I can appreciate the film taking a certain position on the problem and carrying on, I certainly wouldn’t want it to be too talky, but I would have liked a complex character asking complex questions, without it ending like it does in Hollywood, all clean and neat.

I don’t want anyone to believe they should avoid this movie. On the contrary, it should be seen at least once, for Sally Field, and the possibility of sparking an interesting discussion regarding the credibility or motivations of her actions. But, for a really good vigilante film, seek “The Brave One”.

Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009)


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9

Starring: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Simon Pegg
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Screenwriter: Michael Berg, Peter Ackerman, Mike Reiss, Yoni Brenner

It seems like everything is 3D now, when it’s not 6D. You take a regular old boring B class movie, the kind that you would watch only on TV and only if the other channels are on full teleshopping mode and outside it’s raining cats and dogs; you add 3 billion dollars in animated effects that take longer than the shooting itself, carefully calculated and implemented by those people (often more talented in their field than all the “star” actors put together)  who are always listed at the end of the movie and who nobody finds out about because nobody cares enough to read those crowded small lines in the credits; you add a trailer that sums up the movie so good that the people who watch it feel disappointed they paid that money to see the whole thing;  pay a fortune for a good looking and/or famous cast and it becomes MAJOR 3D SENSATIONAL BLOCKBUSTER followed by an infinity of exclamation marks. Like “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”, it does not have to be good or compelling, and its actors can give their best shot to win the Razzies, because nobody cares, the public comes to look through the square glasses.

And then there are the good movies: the ones that cannot fight constant internet downloading and the competition of better advertised flicks. The ones that are in a niche (like “Animation”, “Children”) and have little public to begin with and cannot afford to share it with “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”. So they do what they have to do: they take a few scenes, usually non-essential ones, they add a bit of 3D effects, they write the magic words all over the promotional posters and trailers: “3D!” and they attract the crowds. It has to be done, because now, with the big screen TVs and illegal download, anybody can watch a 2D movie in the comfort of their own home. For free.

“Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” is one of those movies. Although Rotten Tomatoes has it rated under 50%, I actually enjoyed every minute of it and I honestly think that if it hadn’t been for the previous “ice ages”, the critics would have been a lot more generous. The design and animation are breathtaking and they never fail to impress even somebody who is not a big fan of animation in general.  The steady hand is obvious, as it shows the confidence of a very tight and funny script. The characters are the same, so that people who came to see them would not be disappointed, but they all have a touch of new so that it does not get repetitive: Ellie is pregnant, Manny is an obsessed father-to-be, Sid’s maternal instincts kick in, Diego has a mid-life crisis, the twins are wackier than ever and Scrat falls in love. On top of that, the creators brought many exciting new characters: Buck, the jungle survivor who is a bit on the loony side and possibly married to a pineapple, a T-Rex family that gets separated by 1% chance and 99% Sid, and a lot of dinosaurs that should’ve been extinct at the time the story takes place, even the nut becomes a character: the poster child for abandoned mistresses everywhere. I laughed the whole movie and by the time that Buck was performing CPR on a pterodactyl I had tears in my eyes. The good kind. The “I’m so glad I came to see this movie” kind.

There was not much 3D though. Do not get me wrong, it is a piece of technically perfect animation, created with impeccable respect towards the audience and that is suitable for any age. But there are few 3D scenes that seem wedged in the picture and that could very well be extracted without hurting the story or the beauty of the flawless panoramic view at all. At the end, you feel sort of cheated. I did not think that at the time of the viewing because I was too busy laughing out loud, but after I got home I tried to remember some 3D scenes that showed actual space depth or scenery edging out of the screen and I was surprised to realize I could not name one. So it is flawlessly designed, but it is not 3D. Well, to me it did not matter too much, but, when asked, the first things about the new franchise child my friends (especially male ones) said were complaints about that.

Go see this movie if you are looking for a good laugh and if you are interested to see what the weasel embodiment of a combination between Ahab and Indiana Jones would sound like.  See it to find out what the gang is up to nowadays. See it to find out if Scrat can put aside his nuts for a flying red squirrel in one of the funniest parallels to married life, circles above any sitcom of the Bundy category. I don’t think you will regret it.

Christine (1983)


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7

Starring : Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, Harry Dean Stanton
Director: John Carpenter
Screenplay: Bill Phillips based on a novel by Stephen King
Rating : R

The relationship between man and car can be considered one of mutual interest. Man needs car for transport and mobility, and, strictly from an existential point of view, car needs man to own it, and use it. What happens though, if your car has special needs. What if it doesn’t just require you to drive it, but also to love it and care for it, for you to be owned by it, body and soul. You’ll probably say that’s absurd, but Christine will contradict you.

Who is Christine ? SHE is a red ’57 Plymouth Fury, top of the line back in the day, and she is also a living entity, expressing herself through old songs spontaneously blaring out of her radio. Cool, right ? Wrong ! As the opening shots taking place in the factory where she was built reveal (with “Bad to the Bone” rocking on the soundtrack), she is not very friendly with anyone who doesn’t treat her right. Thirty years later, in bad shape, dusty and forgotten, she is sold to a young highschool geek by the name of Arnie Cunningham. He spends a lot of time restoring her to her glory-days’ shape, and his efforts will not go unnoticed. Christine starts to bring Arnie closer to her dark core, possessing him and changing him. He becomes more aggressive, arrogant and over-confident, isolating himself from his family, his best friend Dennis and his girlfriend Leigh, and Christine starts to kill all those who stand between her and Arnie. Dennis and Leigh eventually realise the dark influence of Christine and they try to find a way to separate the man from the machine.

Carpenter is the undisputed king of B flicks. Without a doubt, if you need a director for a film about a possessed car, then he is the man for the job. Because of Stephen Kings’ popularity at the time, the film went into production even before the book came out. That’s proof that the Hollywood money-making machine never sleeps, just as Christine never does. Carpenter, also famous enough because of his previous successes with “Halloween”, “Escape from New York”, and “The Thing”, is always on top of the story with a steady-hand, never letting the awkward plot lose focus or seem too absurd. He dictates the rhythm, which is constant, tense, with a lot of carefully chosen frames, and some interesting practical visual effects for Christine (in some scenes she regenerates after suffering severe damage). It’s not really an action film, although there is at least one important chase scene to speak of, but it’s really more focused on atmosphere and plenty of ominous close-ups of Christine, which leaves the movie feeling a little empty. It’s also very clean in terms of gore, probably Carpenter’s most blood-free film ever. The leading parts are played mostly by unknowns, which adds to a sense of teenage innocence as no big names appear in the credits. They play their parts convincing enough to prevent you from throwing stuff at the screen. I would to say that the script does a similarly good job, but it falls short when it comes to going all the way with ideas like the “special” relationship” between Arnie and Christine, or the illusion of power and the transformations it implies, but the truth is, the film is stuck at the story level of a killer car on a rampage. Of course, being only aprox. 100 min. in length, they needed to prioritize, so character development and deep-thought issues are the first to go. I guess if more were possible, this would have turned into a mini-series.

I can’t complain though. Sure, it’s not Carpenter’s best, nor is it the best Stephen King adaptation ever, but it is a middleweight horror, with plenty of fun to be had and a satisfying mood for fans of the genre. It will definetly make you think crazy thoughts the next time you enter a vehicle.