Stephen King is brilliant at weaving vivid teenage experiences into his novels. Christine was one of the formative books of my childhood. The film doesn’t have time to go as deep as the book into the love triangle of Arnie, his best friend Dennis, and new girl Leigh Cabot. This is a horror film first and foremost.
Awkward Arnie and popular high school quarterback Dennis are an odd couple. When Arnie impulsively buys Christine, a dilapidated red-and-white 1957 Plymouth Fury, tension between them mounts, and Arnie’s personality changes. Dennis is the popular one in school, so he is stunned when new girl Leigh chooses the new Arnie over him. But Christine is a jealous and vengeful mistress.
When bully Buddy Repperton gets his gang to trash Christine, and Arnie discovers the wreckage, he realises Christine can fix herself. When he says, ‘Show me’, and stands back to let the car do her thing, it is an intimate, almost sexual act. The car is always more important to him than the girl. The car brings out the worst in Arnie. Like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Arnie wrestles with his newfound illicit power. Christine channels his unconscious rage and wreaks havoc. It isn’t love. Possessiveness is a power game.