School misfit Arnie Cunningham falls under the influence of a sleek, red, murderous '50s Plymouth Fury, a supernaturally-empowered car which regenerates itself when trashed and enjoys tormenting its victims with blasts of rock 'n' roll.
Adapted from the Stephen King ‘killer car’ novel, this John Carpenter film is more like an assembly line vehicle than a customised job, but is nevertheless a slick, entertaining piece of work.
Keith Gordon, whose transformation from tongue‑tied, bespectacled zit factory to smooth girl‑getter is weirdly reminiscent of Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor, brings a much‑needed touch of humanity to the formulaic horror-in-high-school plotline (which King reprised from Carrie), in which a succession of slobbish, nasty, dislikable characters who pick on poor Arnie or dare to inconvenience his car are gorily done away with by the supercool, super-malicious Christine.
Robert Prosky, Alexandra Paul (with a fluffy ‘80s do), John Stockwell and Harry Dean Stanton (as the inevitable puzzled cop) head a good supporting cast, but the car, of course, steals the picture, rolling off the production line to the tune of Bad To The Bone and periodically recovering from write-off accidents via impressive special effects. Made back when every single King best-seller was turned into a violent, profane mid-budget movie directed by a horror hotshot rather than a blanded-out TV miniseries, this is one of those films which seemed ordinary in the cinema, but plays much better on TV, DVD or video.
It is at least a well-made, well-played, satisfyingly gruesome thoroughly ordinary picture – and is certainly far better than latterday Carpenter films like Vampires or Ghosts of Mars. You also get a compilation album's worth of great blasts from the past to go along with the death and destruction, including witty gags like the car thief blasted away with You Keep A-Knocking But You Can’t Come In.
Very of-its-time horror that is pretty ordinary but does the job.