Carrie (1976)

Brian De Palma

Sissy Spacek - Carrie White
Piper Laurie - Margaret White
Amy Irving - Sue Snell
William Katt - Tommy Ross
Nancy Allen - Chris Hargensen

Year - 1976

Score - 4 Howls Outta 4

I'm just glad I didn't take this chick to the Prom. Not because she could kill me, but because it's hard to take pig's blood off of a tuxedo. It's a rental, dammit!

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is a social outcast at Bates High School. She has the ability to move things with her mind [telekinesis]. Her fellow female classmates, led by Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen), humiliate her every chance they get. The boys think she's weird. It also doesn't help that her mother (Piper Laurie) is a psycho religious fanatic who believes that everything is a sin.

The trouble really begins when Carrie showers in the girl's locker room. She develops her first period, which freaks her out due to not being taught about the birds and the bees. The girls throw tampons at her until gym teacher/assistant principal Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) stops them. The girls are eventually punished for their actions on Carrie, but Chris rebels [losing her chance to go to Prom], determined to get revenge on Carrie. Chris seduces her boyfriend, Billy Nolan (John Travolta), into helping her. Billy decides that pouring pig's blood on Carrie at the Prom would be funny. It would be deadly also.

Meanwhile, one of the girls who made fun of Carrie, Sue Snell (Amy Irving), feels bad about the Carrie incident. To make it up to Carrie, Sue convinces her extremely popular boyfriend Tommy Ross (William Katt) to take Carrie to the prom instead of her. After much coaxing, Carrie agrees to be Tommy's date, setting up that night's chain of events.

Of course, Carrie's mother forbids Carrie to have anything to do with Tommy or the Prom, feeling she'll get corrupted and something horrible will happen to her. Carrie doesn't listen and uses her telekinesis on her mother to go with Tommy to the Prom. Carrie and Tommy are rigged into becoming Prom King & Queen, leading to probably one of the most famous sequences in not just horror film history, but film history period.

Carrie was horror writer extraordinare Stephen King's first novel to be translated into film. It's also still one of his best adaptations to this day. The novel is somewhat different from the film in many aspects [Carrie being fat and ugly, Carrie's telekenesis being more powerful, having more survivors from the Prom, completely different ending]. And while most films seem to ruin the essence of what made the novel so great to begin with, I believe this is one of those rare times where the film is BETTER than the book it's based on. The book is really boring, slow, and confusing at times. The film is interesting, very well-paced, and just brilliant from start to finish.

Out of all the Film School Generation of directors [Martin Scorcese, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg], Brian De Palma seems to be the least known and least credited. Even with such classics as Scarface and The Untouchables, he doesn't get much recognition for his work. I don't get why he doesn't. His direction is really well done, and Carrie is definitely no exception. From the beginning dream-like shower scene, the shots of the beautiful exterior of the White house that leads to the dark and dismal interior [very metaphorical], the shake effect of Carrie's telekinesis, to the Prom sequence itself [split-screen, tracking shots, close-ups & long shots all over the place], De Palma brings all the goods and creates a really in-your-face creepy film. De Palma is known for wanting to show his audience EVERYTHING from every character's point of view. That's no more evident during Carrie's "revenge scene", where the split-screen effect is used to show Carrie's POV on one side and her victims on the other. You don't miss any of Carrie's murder spree and it's extremely well done. I also loved the usage of religious symbolism throughout the film as well. The painting of the Last Supper behind Carrie and her mother's last supper is used perfectly. And who can forget that crucifix with the glowing eyes? It's fitting that a certain person dies the very same way towards the end of the film. And the nods to Psycho [De Palma's favorite horror film] are effective somewhat as well. Carrie is one of De Palma's best directed films and he deserves some credit for it.

The acting is really great in this film as well. Sissy Spacek really nails the role of Carrie White. Normally, a girl with telekinetic powers who murders almost the entire student body at Prom would be classified as a despicable villain. But Spacek lets you inside of the character - at how tortured she is by her insane mother and by her peers - at how she just wants to be respected and be accepted into the real world. Carrie is a very three-dimensional character and Spacek has no problem showing the audience that. We feel sorry for her and we sympathize with her even when she gets her revenge. Spacek received an Academy Award nomination for the role [it's really rare for horror films to get noticed by the Academy Awards] and would be the start of great things for her, eventually letting her get her Oscar for Coal Miner's Daughter a few years later. The other standout role is Piper Laurie as Margaret White. Laurie, while reading the script, thought the film was a campy comedy. This proves true as Laurie really hams it up and is very over-the-top with her portrayal as a religious fanatic. But it works brilliantly in the context of the film, giving the audience someone to despise and a perfect foil to the very introverted Carrie. I especially loved Laurie once Margaret learned about Carrie's powers. She played it so over dramatically, with self-hair pulling and really out there monologues. I love every scene she's in. Spacek and Laurie really had great chemistry together as well, which really made the relationship between the two work believably. Laurie also received an Academy Award nomination for the role that was well deserved.

The other actors were very good too. Amy Irving was probably the most human of the teenage girls as Sue Snell, trying to do the right thing not knowing it would lead to bad things. The very end of the film [that jump scare tortured me for days as a child] shows the audience the consequences of Sue's actions of having Tommy Ross taking Carrie to the Prom. Irving plays it very well. William Katt as Tommy Ross was okay. His hair & smile did most of the talking and he was the token pretty/popular boy of the school. He had some nice scenes with Spacek during the Prom scene and can take a bucket to the head well. Nancy Allen as Chris Hargensen was fantastic as the bully who set up the whole pig's blood scheme on Carrie. Allen reveled in being the bad girl, playing off John Travolta really well as a comical, yet dysfunctional, couple of villains. The part where Travolta's Billy Nolan murders the pig so well that Chris begins to have an orgasmic experience watching the act is great, showing how sick and how low Chris would go just to get revenge on a girl she blames costed her a chance to go to the Prom. John Travolta did well with what he was given. You knew he would be a big star from this film [his second]. Very charismatic performance. And P.J Soles as Norma was cute in her red hat. Thankfully, she would take the hat off [and her clothes] in Halloween 2 years later. Now THAT'S acting!

I also love the score before the blood gets dumped on Carrie. Sounds like a clock ticking faster and faster as it gets closer and closer to Carrie's ultimate humiliation in front of her peers. As the music quickens, you know something bad is about to drop. And boy...does it ever! Great build up of suspense there.

The only beef I have with this film is that it's really dated. It's so 1976, it's not even funny. The big fros, the ruffled tuxedos, and the music just say seventies. Doesn't really affect the film too much, but it's pretty obvious as you watch. And some of the flying objects via telekinesis were visibly seen using wires. We wouldn't really get good CGI until Star Wars a year later, but it's kinda funny to see that hose move due to a string being pulled.

Carrie is a very rare type of horror movie. It perfectly balances our fears and teen angst with phenomenal acting and directing at the same time. I think the reason why Carrie is still so fresh even today [besides some of the dated stuff I mentioned] is because we all have a little bit of Carrie in all of us. All of us at one point in our lives have been teased, beaten up, or felt like you didn't belong. We all know exactly how Carrie feels when people laugh at her at the prom, or the excitement she feels when the most popular person in school asks her to the prom. We have all experienced these feelings throughout our teen years. Carrie just brings them to the forefront, giving us a chilling reminder as to what might happen if we push a certain someone a bit too far. In today's society, that couldn't be any more true.

1 comment:

  1. Great review, you´re one funny mofo. I always have a blast reading those "things you learn from a film", good stuff!


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