Release date: November 3, 1976
Director: Brian De Palma
John Travolta and
Carrie White, the teenage daughter of a religious fanatic, has her first period in the school locker-room shower and is so stupid that she thinks she is bleeding to death. The rest of the girls cruelly taunt her and pelt her with tampons before they are caught by a teacher. Afterwards, two of the girls plan to make it up to Carrie each in their own way:– Sue Snell talks her boyfriend Tommy Ross into inviting Carrie to the prom; the other Chris Hargensen rigs it so that Carrie is elected prom queen and then sets a bucket of pig’s blood above the stage to drench her at the moment of her crowning. However, they have reckoned without Carrie’s telekinetic powers, which she now uses to exact a sudden and horrible revenge.
Brian De Palma must not like standard horror themes, because he doesn’t use a single one in the entire film of Carrie. This is a horror movie, but stack it up against any horror film I have ever seen and it plays much different. The only moments that most modern audiences would identify as horror occur in the final thirty minutes of Carrie, but because De Palma avoids the standard beats those aren’t actually the only horror moments. This makes for an interesting viewing experience, one that could have been a bit better, but I don’t think the absence of typical horror moments detracts from Carrie in any way.
The true horror in Carrie occurs in the torment of Carrie, the way the roles are reversed and the person who will wreak devastation is the person we empathize with while her victims are the ones most of us don't like. This spurs on some hard questions in the audience. Most of us have been forced to feel for Carrie (although some of the pranks pulled on her are very funny), to want good things to happen to her and when they don’t it’s only natural for us to feel good about the revenge she exacts. But one must take a look at Carrie after she murders her classmates, she isn’t happy about what she’s done, that much is obvious, but what does this say about our happiness?
Sissy Spacek is really good as our title character, I was surprised to find out she made this movie after the film Badlands. The rest of the cast fill their roles alright, but they don’t bring anything to the table worth talking about. Piper Laurie is also pretty good as Carrie’s crazy mother, but the true star is Spacek. She a lot of emotion to the character, the hazing that Carrie has to endure is pretty bad and you can see the pain in her eyes. Of course later this changes and you see the rage in her eyes and that is quite a scary sight.
Carrie isn’t a movie without its portion of problems, most obvious is the weird tricks De Palma tries with his camera (I guess he though he could invent something new that others would use). The Carrie/Tommy dancing scene is a bit disorienting because of the sped up camera, while the deaths of Chris and Billy leave something to be desired, in terms of payoff and the technique used to show the deaths. Where De Palma really loses me is actually with the hazy locker room sequence near the beginning of Carrie. The slow-mo journey through the girls locker room is very exploitative and doesn’t belong in this particular film. Carrie having her period is fine, but what happens before that feels very, very off and pointless.
It’s not the revelatory horror experience some people try to label it as, but Carrie is a great horror movie nonetheless. It’s buoyed by the performance of Spacek and the final thirty minutes do feature some genuine horror moments, even if it does go on too long and also has an annoying and unnecessary dream sequence to finish off the film. I’ll say this much, this is by far the best De Palma film I have seen, it’s too bad he couldn’t improve upon this in any of his other future films. Watch out for the pig blood and the lady with the demented eyes, but Carrie should watch out because Chris’ future partner is RoboCop!
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