John Carpenter makes the best of a difficult situation with Christine, a faithful adaptation of one of Stephen King’s lesser (and more ridiculous) works. There are few scares lurking in this 1979-set haunted-car saga, in which nerdy high-schooler Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon) falls dangerously in love with a 1958 cherry-red Plymouth Fury named Christine, since the very notion of a malevolent possessed automobile is inherently ludicrous. Nonetheless, Carpenter wrings his subpar material for everything it’s worth. In early passages, the director (working from a script by Bill Phillips) captures a poignant sense of teenage social, romantic and sexual dynamics – the need to fit in, the omnipresent feeling of coveting what you can’t have (be it a boyfriend/girlfriend, or peer acceptance) – as well as, once Arnie discovers the derelict Christine in a junkyard, the potent bond shared between men and their first vehicles. Better still, his imagery is out-and-out marvelous, be it in beautifully arranged compositions that underscore characters’ relationships to each other or in horrifying visions of Christine (who expresses emotion via ‘50s rock-n’-roll radio tunes) bathing an awestruck Arnie in ominous headlights, morphing its chassis to squeeze into a narrow space to kill a bully, and speeding in the pitch-black night after a would-be victim while ablaze with hellfire. The narrative somewhat clumsily glosses over Arnie’s transformation from weak-kneed geek to maniacal cool guy in thrall to his ride, especially as it pertains to his wooing new girl Leigh (Alexandra Paul), and there’s no shaking the fact that the film is woefully short on suspense. Still, even as a lesser effort, Christine proves Carpenter’s mastery of both mood and the widescreen frame.