I read this book long, long ago.
Arnie is a bit of a loser. Actually, more than a bit. But he's best friends with Dennis, who's on the football team, so his high school life isn't all that bad. The first day of senior year, however, doesn't got so well and Arnie is bullied by the school asshole, Buddy. Things perk up somewhat when Arnie spies a car for sale while driving home with Dennis. He simply must buy it and won't let Dennis or his overbearing parents talk him out of it. Soon the car begins to take over Arnie's life and once the restoration job is complete, Arnie's transformation from harmless geek to total jerk is past the point of no return. Thing is, Arnie did a fantastic job fixing "Christine" only no one seems to appreciate his hard work. Everyone hates the car and Arnie can't understand why. She's perfect in every way. Then, one night, Buddy and his gang of thugs take their sledgehammers to Christine. Soon after that people start dying and Arnie, or rather Christine, is the prime suspect.
I wish I could remember enough about the book to be able to compare the novel to the movie, but I don't. I can't even tell you if it's the same car. In fact, the only thing I recall with any certainty is that part of the story is set in winter. In the film version, the story takes place in California.
Christine marks the second movie I've seen about killer vehicles, the other being Duel. Except that Duel is actually about a psychotic trucker. In Christine, the car itself is the source of evil, whereas the rig in Duel is merely the, uh, vehicle for evil. But what a car! Christine is a red 1958 Plymouth Fury. The film begins in the factory where Christine is being assembled and where she claims her firs victim. Curiously, there's no explanation for why the car does what it does, why it appeals to certain people and repulses others. I could say the car is like Michael Meyers, evil for reasons we can't begin to understand.
Like Carpenter's earlier films, this one takes its time telling the story. There's no big rush to the final showdown, though Arnie's preoccupation with Christine goes from zero to full-blown obsession seemingly overnight. Additionally, though Arnie's story begins at school, we only return to that place to witness Dennis get rejected by Leigh and then get tackled hard during a football game. Arnie's world has come to revolve around his car, but we only understand the "new" Arnie in terms of his social- and, to a lesser extent, his home life. I argue it would have been interesting to see how his school life has changed, if at all. Especially since he has class with the bullies who trashed his car.
Unlike Carpenter's other films, the violence in this movie is subdued or takes place off screen. The human violence, that is. All violence perpetrated against Christine is shown. And the violence Christine inflicts on other cars is also shown, but the vehicular deaths are not. Were Christine a person the movie would make for some awful, horrifying watching, but since she's a car, the audience is that much farther removed from the horror. And here we come to the crux of the issue: because the horror is rooted and driven by a machine, and because Arnie is a willing participant in these events, how can the audience identify with the story? Not through Dennis because he's in the hospital for half the film and has nothing to do. And not through Leigh, Arnie's hot girlfriend, because she lacks the strength of character to do what's right. Oddly, there's no one character with whom the audience can sympathize, and yet the film is still engaging.
craze-o-meter: 1, no more crazier than using electricity to power your car