Reader Beware Month: The Haunted Car

There are a number of Stephen King stories that I’ve never read or seen.  Not the least of these is Christine, a classic story about a haunted, killer car.  I’ve been warned away from Christine a number of times.  The main reason for this is that the movie is apparentlly very boring.  If that’s true, then Christine and The Haunted Car have more than just the premise in common.ImagesCAZ8S05KMitchell Moinian is absolutely obsessed with cars.  The car his family recently bought fascinates him.  At night, he sneaks out of his room to sit in it, admiring the leather seats and roomy interior.  However, Mitchell starts having weird experiences in the car.  A voice starts talking to him and the doors lock him in by themselves.  Could the car actually be haunted?  Yes.  Yes it could.

My problem with this book has nothing to do with the premise.  I found the premise kind of clever, actually.  To my knowledge, not many have attempted to make stories about haunted cars.  The ultimate explanation for why the car was haunted was tragic and, in my opinion, well put together.  The premise of the book is absolutely fine.  No, my problem with this book comes from the terrible characters.

I couldn’t relate to the main character, Mitchell, at all.  His obsession with cars seems almost unhealthy.  He has dozens of models in his room, posters on his wall, and is just fascinated with the new car of the story.  I probably would have related if he was more obsessed with comics or something.  But cars just don’t interest me.  From the start, Mitchell felt like a boring character.  By the end of the story, the only thing he’s learned is not to be obsessed with cars.  So, his development is a bit on the shallow side.

The parents of the book are absolute jerks.  The dad is always unsuccessfully trying to fix things and treats his kid as more of a burden than a child.  The mother is always nagging.  Granted, I understand that parents can be this way sometimes.  But they came off as extremely generic and mean.  The little brother was an annoyance and I disliked him immensely.  If I was half as annoying to my sister when I was younger, I feel terrible.

The ultimate disappointment of this book was the main bad guy of the piece, the haunted car itself.  It doesn’t do anything menacing in my eyes.  It never runs anything over, it never really hurts anyone.  All it does is vaguely threaten the main character and drive itself really fast only to stop before hitting anything.  Even if it became menacing or creepy for a moment, there was one thing this book kept doing that pissed me off and broke the tension immediately.

Let me give you some advice if you’re a writer.  When you’re writing a story, especially a story that’s supposed to be scary, don’t constantly have your bad guy saying “I’m evil. I’m so very evil.”  It’s not threatening, it’s not interesting, it’s not scary.  It is downright silly.  The haunted car kept saying it throughout the book.  Instead of proving itself as being evil, it just kept saying that it is.  Ironically, that had the opposite effect.  It made me see the car as being not threatening in the least.

Ladies and gentlemen, this book is my new bottom bar for Goosebumps.  It successfully beat out the old contender, Welcome to Dead House, on the This-Sucks-o-meter.  It’s no wonder that this is the only Series 2000 book I own if they all suck this bad.  The story is interesting, but the characters and especially the bad guy were ultimately weak.  I’m sure there are plenty of other ghost stories that will rev your horror engine from Goosebumps, but this is most definitely not one of them.

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