There’s been a great deal of discussion this term of the Hawksian woman in John Carpenter’s cinema. However, perhaps the ultimate Hawksian female doesn’t technically even have gender. In Christine (1983), Carpenter’s gun-for-hire adaptation of a somewhat beloved Stephen King novel, that Hawksian female is a car. A malevolent/evil car.
Consider it: “Christine,” as owner Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon of De Palma’s Dressed to Kill) calls her, is tough and independent. She falls in love with the ‘hero’ (in this case, her owner, who she also gets to do her bidding – is she perhaps more of a femme fatale?). Finally, in place of dialogue, she utilizes sudden bursts of pointed music to punctuate scenes, ironically comment on violence she/Arnie commits, and, perhaps, express emotions. Hers is a lonely life. She lives, perhaps literally, for her owner.
As a horror film, Carpenter is able to make a pretty gorgeous looking picture most of the time, but the subject of an evil car doesn’t inherently lend itself to legitimate scares, gore, etc. and as such is rather limited. Or, if it does, the film has a remarkable amount of restraint from the man coming off Halloween (1978), The Fog (1980) and The Thing (1982).
As King adaptations go, Christine perhaps has the most in common with Carrie (1976, Brian De Palma) in that it’s also about a bullied loser who flowers into a vengeful murderer thanks to some kind of malevolent, supernatural force. What makes it perhaps Carpenter-esque is that, as with Halloween, even if you can explain the monstrousness, it doesn’t make the monster any less human.