Monday, January 25, 2010
JOHN CARPENTER "CHRISTINE" (Varese Sarabande)
I expect you not to laugh at this. Maybe the photo, but then again, maybe not. Have you seen John Carpenter's film "Christine"? Have you read Stephen King's book "Christine"? For the sake of this review i'm going to assume you have some level of familiarity with the story, but the basic of it is this: Christine is a classic Chevy possessed by an otherwordly evil with a fierce sense of loyalty to her owner. Arnie is a shy geek who falls in love with Christine, buys her and bonds with her. Arnie begins to change personality-wise (i.e. becomes much cooler) and Christine begins to hunt and kill his tormentors of her own volition. The premise seems so stupid, and when i read it years ago i remember finding it to be a rather minor King work (although he would return to theme of possessed vehicles.machines over and over); the film too i still consider to be something of a footnote in John Carpenter's lengthy oeuvre, despite some gorgeous scenes of spellbinding destruction and a pervasive retreat to nighttime locales. On the soundtrack, however, Carpenter hits all highs, turning in his best work since "Escape From New York". I don't think Carpenter gets enough credit for being as visionary a composer as he is-in the 1980's, no one was doing anything remotely like this and even today people attempt to co-opt Carpenter's sound into their own but always fail, because those droning, blunt synths belonged to Carpenter and Carpenter alone. This was some seriously futuristic, incredibly bleak robot music, and it achieved a true sense of foreboding and creepy ominousness that few other musicians have been able to get. James Horner got close with his "Terminator" score and the overall feel of Paul Verhoeven's filmwork ("Robocop" and "Total Recall" specifically) approximate it but it never sounded as good as it did here. Every short piece recalls the film and upon listening to it i realized how really fucking dark of a movie "Christine" is. Pitch black. The music sounds like machines breaking apart and putting themselves back together again, the crunch of metal collapsing and folding. The infinite propulsion of pieces like "Moochie's Death" and "Christine Attacks (Plymouth Fury)" make you feel like you're bieng chased down and empty midnight highway as a flaming classic roadster bears down on you, ever closer, a senseless, formless, impossible evil out for blood. The morphing lush tones and blended chord swells of "Buddie's Death" predate Badalamenti, ushering in a hushed yet epic and achingly melancholy feel. Arnie's "Obsession" theme repeats throughout, mutating ever so slightly upon each return, twisting in our ears and minds. It's just cool shit, hands down. Sure, the "Halloween" theme pops up a bit recycled in a piece but who really cares? It's supposed to be scary, it's supposed to be tense, it's supposed to be horrific in a way. The idea of a killer car rings laughable, but what we tend to forget is that most of Stephen King's books are set in the real world. It isn't fantasy, nor is it removed from our own day to day. These things just happen, and the fact of their being makes them all the more terrifying and mysterious. Evil really can exist, with or without god, with or without good. Maybe rock and roll really is the devil's music (in the book and film, the only radio stations Christine will play are old fifties rock). Carpenter got that. He was there with it. It made sense to him. It does to me, too.