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Literature / Christine

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She was born bad. Plain and simple.

"She had the smell of a brand new car, and that's just about the finest smell in the world, except maybe for pussy."
Roland D. LeBay to Arnie Cunningham regarding the worst auto purchase in history. For both of them.

Christine is a 1983 horror novel by Stephen King.

The basic premise is that Arnie Cunningham, the most unpopular guy in a Pittsburgh area high school, buys his first car, much like any other teenager the world over. The problem is that his car — a 1958 Plymouth Fury — is extremely and psychotically in love with him. The novel details his transition from normal, if nerdy and unhappy, teenager into a somewhat popular greaser loner, and eventually into a lonely psychotic as the car and the ghost of the previous owner begin to exert an ever-increasing amount of control over him.

A film adaptation, directed by John Carpenter and starring Keith Gordon as Arnie, was released the same year the book was published.


Provides examples of:

  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: Christine is painted Autumn Red, despite 1958 Plymouth Furies only coming in white or gold. In the book it's said that she was custom painted. In the film she's shown coming off the assembly line in that colour. Considering that the car starts off possessed in the film, it's possible that she 'repaired' her paint job to red while rolling down the assembly line.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Keith Gordon's Arnie is not nearly as unattractive as Arnie is described in the novel. For only one thing, Book!Arnie is said to have a face covered with acne, but there's not a single pimple to be seen on Movie!Arnie's mug. At worst, Movie!Arnie is your standard slightly undersized wimpy nerd, but once he loses the glasses, he's not bad-looking.
  • Adapted Out: In the climax of the novel: Dennis and Leigh fight Christine with a pink tanker truck named Petunia which is personified similar to Christine. In the movie: She's replaced with a bulldozer.
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  • Adults Are Useless: From the novel, played straight with Arnie's parents (domineering mother Regina is dead set against Arnie having Christine at all, refuses to listen to any rational reasoning, blames Dennis for "allowing" Arnie to buy the car, and in general has a my way or no way attitude; henpecked husband Michael offers little resistance) and averted with Dennis' parents (especially his father, who gradually becomes convinced that something is wrong with Arnie in regards to Christine; Dennis eventually tells him the full story, at the very end).
  • The Alleged Car: Christine when first Arnie finds her.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Roseanne, who likes Dennis, who becomes interested in new girl Leigh, who begins dating his best friend Arnie, who becomes obsessed with his car, Christine.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: The eponymous Christine is a sentient, murderous car.
  • Artistic License – Cars: In the book, Christine is referred to as a sedan, though this is more of a continuity/editing error as King originally intended Christine to be a sedan, but found out midway Chrysler only offered the Plymouth Fury as a two door hardtop in 1958, and several instances of the word sedan were missed. In the film, Christine is shown rolling off the assembly line painted Autumn Red; Plymouth Furys were only available in white or gold in 1958 (this is not present in the book, as Christine is stated to have been custom painted Autumn Red after purchase). Christine is also stated in the novel to have a four on the floor transmission, when a three on the tree manual and the TorqueFlite automatic transmission were the only options (it's entirely possible this was another customisation).
  • Asshole Victim: Buddy Repperton and his gang, who bully Arnie (even drawing a knife on him), then later vandalize Christine, with one of them even going out of the way to shit on the dashboard, just because she belongs to Arnie. Nobody sheds many tears when Christine decides to get even.
  • Attack of the Killer Whatever: Attack of the killer car.
  • Bad Dreams: From the first day he sees it, Dennis Guilder is plagued by nightmares about Christine.
  • Badass Driver: Arnie, as it is later revealed that he was driving Christine, at least part of the time after the car reveals its true power.
  • Betty and Veronica: Roseanne is the Betty in comparison to the Veronica new girl Leigh who catches the attention of the Archie, Dennis.
    • Also, Dennis and Arnie over Leigh.
    • And eventually, Leigh and Christine over Arnie.
  • Big Bad: Christine is the source of all of the major problems in the story, as a killer car.
  • Black Dude Dies First: In the movie, at least, the assembly line worker who is Christine's first victim in the very opening.
  • Borrowed Catch Phrase: Arnie starts using the word "shitter", which is something LeBay used to say.
  • The Bro Code: Dennis' violation does not go unpunished.
  • Car Fu: The climax is Leigh and Dennis versus Christine, using a pink septic tanker truck.
  • Car Meets House: Christine disposes of one victim this way.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Take a guess.
  • Composite Character: In the film, rather than buying the car from Roland LeBay and meeting his brother George later, Dennis and Arnie buy the car from George straight away.
  • Cool Car:
    • Why, Christine of course. Yes, she's evil through and through. So what? The 1958 Plymouth Fury, Autumn Red!
    • The 1968 Charger Dennis drives in the film, and Buddy's Camaro. While the year is not mentioned in the book, the film's version is a 1968.
  • Cool-Kid-and-Loser Friendship: Dennis and Arnie. Dennis is the jock, Big Man on Campus and regarded as a cool kid. Arnie is the stereotypical nerd.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: An evil car vs. a huge excavator? No contest.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Buddy picks on Arnie, Arnie retaliates against Buddy. Buddy pulls a knife on Arnie, which gets Buddy expelled. Buddy blames Arnie and trashes his car. Car regenerates itself and turns Buddy and his pals into "a scattered bundle of rags... ripped open like a laundry bag".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Detective Junkins in the film.
  • Delinquents: Buddy Repperton and his gang.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: It's revealed in the epilogue that Dennis and Leigh didn't end up together.
  • Downer Ending: Arnie and his parents are dead, along with eight other people. Dennis has broken up with Leigh. And Dennis has just found out that CHRISTINE IS STILL OUT THERE.
  • Driven to Suicide: LeBay's wife committed suicide in the car after the death of her daughter.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Christine not only drives like crazy, but specifically to hurt or kill people.
  • Dying as Yourself: Arnie. Dennis has a dream of him appearing.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Buddy Repperton may be a bully, but he will not tolerate racist jokes.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto : During the last scene, we find out that Arnie and Regina are killed in a freak accident on the turnpike, during mild winter weather. Going no more than 45... And the Volvo explodes, somehow.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Arnie adopts a crew cut during the time LeBay is possessing him.
  • Feud Episode: First there was Christine. Leigh came later.
  • Finger-Twitching Revival: Or, in this case, a chrome twitching revival.
  • Flashback: Dennis Guilder is writing the story down four years later.
  • From a Single Cell: Well, from a single lugnut anyway. At the end Dennis and Leigh smash the shit out of Christine with a tanker truck, and the remains are put through a car crusher. One of the junkyard workers later insists that a piece of the car bit him, and the epilogue implies that four years later Christine has regenerated and is coming for Dennis.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Arnie starts out a harmless nerd, but Christine corrupts him into a maniac.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom : Christine's headlamps are described this way in the novel, and appear as such in the film.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Roland LeBay. When every description of you includes the words "unending fury," you are made for this trope.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: Moochie Welch is cut in half between Christine's front bumper and a building in the movie.
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: Dennis notes how, after a few months under Christine's influence, Arnie's acne clears up and his posture and physique improve, revealing a pretty handsome guy under all the nerd luster.
  • Healing Factor: Christine has it. Up to the point of returning from a burned out wreck to mint condition within minutes. It seems to work while Christine is in motion with her odometer going in reverse as it happens. After Repperton and his gang trash her, Arnie only has to push her until she's repaired herself enough to start, then just drive around until Christine repairs completely.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Arnie and Dennis. A nerd and a jock.
  • Homicide Machines: Christine
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday / New Year Has Come: In the film, the final showdown occurs on New Year's Eve / Day.
  • I Die Free: Arnie died keeping LeBay from possessing him. The film plays this differently, with Arnie's last act being to lovingly stroke Christine's fender.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. LeBay's young daughter choked to death in the backseat of Christine.
  • Infernal Retaliation: In the movie, Christine chases Buddy Repperton and one of his cronies to a gas station where they wanted to meet a third. She crashes into Buddy's Camaro, shoves it into the gas station, and causes it to explode in a spectacular fireball. Buddy manages to rescue himself and believes that Christine is destroyed in the flames. But she backs Out of the Inferno, burning all over, chases him down the road, and eventually runs over him, leaving his burning corpse lying on the asphalt.
  • Jerkass: The Cunninghams are not particularly likable. They're nowhere near as awful as Buddy, but they're controlling and condescending toward their son.
  • Jump Scare: At the climax, Leigh walks over to a prone Arnie, who's just been catapulted out of Christine. Then he leaps up, screaming on account of the massive chunk of glass in his stomach.
  • Kick the Dog: In the film, Buddy and his gang laugh cruelly at Dennis's accident in the football game. And that's before what they do to Christine.
  • The Lady's Favor: Before the final fight with Christine, Leigh gives a scarf to Dennis to wear around his arm, saying that she wants him to be her knight.
  • Love at First Sight: Arnie and, yes, Christine. When Arnie first sees the car, Dennis describes him like this: "He had been like a man who meets a showgirl, indulges in a whirlwind courtship, and ends up with a hangover and a new wife on Monday morning. It had been... well... like love at first sight."
  • Love Triangle: Really it's Arnie, Leigh and Christine. Before that it appeared that Christine functioned in one for LeBay and his wife. Also, Dennis had a thing for Leigh prior to her relationship with Arnie.
  • Meaningful Name: "Arnold Cunningham" is a combination of two names from the series Happy Days: "Arnold's", the kids' hangout, and "Cunningham," Richie's family's surname.
  • Mocking Music: In the movie, Christine's radio plays random oldies songs, as her way to speak. One song that mentions a girl who is thin plays as she crushes Arnie's boss flat in her seat.
  • Mythology Gag: When Dennis is talking to Jimmy Sykes (the janitor at Darnell's), Jimmy mentions he's now out of a job, and might get a janitor's position at nearby Horlicks University because "this other janitor, he disappeared, just ran off or something." The janitor Jimmy is talking about is Mike, the janitor eaten by "Fluffy" in "The Crate" (which was an original short story before being adapted for Creepshow).
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Christine is a Plymouth Fury.
  • Neck Snap: Dennis has a nasty accident during a football game, thanks to being distracted by Arnie and Leigh. Fortunately, it's not fatal, and he does eventually recover.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Buddy Repperton and Richie Trelawney look a lot like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, respectively which becomes particularly obvious in a scene where they are driving in a car, and "Beast of Burden" is playing on the radio.
  • Not Quite Dead: Christine regenerates whenever she's beaten to smithereens. Dennis suspects she's rebuilding herself at the end.
  • Nothing but Hits: Christine's radio only plays popular music from the '50s.
  • Offing the Offspring: It's revealed that LeBay may have sacrificed his choking daughter to Christine.
  • Only Friend: Dennis is Arnie's only friend.
  • Say Your Prayers: When Leigh nearly chokes to death on a hamburger, she tries to recite the Act of Contrition in her head.
  • Secret Test of Character: A darker example. In the film George tests to see if Arnie is the right person to sell the car to by letting him try the car. It works.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: An interesting case on it. In the beginning of the film, Arnie is the sensitive guy while Dennis is the manly man. As the story goes on, Dennis becomes the sensitive man while recovering from an injury he received from a football game while Arnie becomes the manly man from Christine's influence.
  • Sentient Vehicle: Christine is a sentient car, and also the Big Bad to boot.
  • Shout-Out: Arnie and Leigh go Christmas shopping at the Monroeville Mall.
  • Skewed Priorities: A sign of Christine's increasing control over Arnie is his caring more about her than the fact Leigh nearly choked while stuck inside her.
  • Soul Jar: LeBay turned Christine into this. Maybe. It's left ambiguous whether Christine was always powered by a malevolent will or if LeBay really did become one with her.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Christine's radio blares out 50s hits as she kills her targets.
  • Spared By Adaptation:
    • In the book, Arnie's parents are killed by Christine. The film leaves this out.
    • Detective Junkins.
  • Split-Personality Takeover: LeBay's spirit eventually possesses Arnie completely.
  • Sweater Girl: Leigh in the film is frequently shown in tight, cute sweaters.
  • Switching P.O.V.: The first part is narrated by Dennis, the second part is told by an omniscient third-person narrator and mostly focuses on Arnie, and the third part is narrated by Dennis again.
  • Tears of Fear: Dennis has this in the scene when he's in Christine.
  • The End... Or Is It?: At the end, Dennis and Leigh are looking at the crushed cube that was once Christine. Then they hear some rock'n'roll... but it's actually a guy walking past with a boombox. Then the camera slowly zooms in on Christine... and there's a groan as part of her frame starts to move...
  • The One That Got Away: At one point, Will Darnell reminisces about his teenage sweetheart, Wanda Haskins. Darnell is a corrupt and cynical man, but he did love Wanda, and he thinks they would have married if her family didn't move away.
  • The '70s / The '50s: The novel is set in 1978-79, but Christine often turns time back to 1958 (the Nostalgic Fifties version), complete with Seemingly-Wholesome '50s Girl and a radio that plays Nothing but Hits.
  • Those Two Guys: In the film, Chuck and Bemis, Dennis's friends. (Although they're only in a couple of scenes. No corresponding characters exist in the novel.)
  • Took a Level in Badass: Arnie goes through two versions of this trope. First he becomes more aggressive thanks to being possessed by LeBay's spirit. Secondly he's able to fight off the possession in the car accident that kills him and his mother.
  • Vehicle Title: Doubles as a Character Title due to the vehicle being a Sentient Vehicle.
  • Vehicular Assault: By the car itself, not by any driver.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Roseanne, who is seen cheering Dennis on at the football game, is clearly in shock when she sees that he's been struck by another player and is never seen again after that.
  • Woman Scorned: Christine counts, taking revenge on anyone who wronged her.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Anyone who was ever bullied can sympathize with Arnie. That is, until he veers away from Who's Laughing Now? to running down and battering innocent police detectives.
  • Yandere: Christine is clearly psychotically attached to Arnie (and vice versa). It's said she was like this towards her previous owner as well.


Example of: