Oct 2, 2014

Review: Carrie (1976)

I think I was maybe twelve years-old and my parents wanted to introduce my sisters and I to a classic horror film. That film was Carrie, based off a book by Stephen King and in multiple ways, I was completely scarred by the end of it. The movie features a girl locker room scene full of nude actresses, Sissy Spacek's character getting her first menstruation and some more scenes that are way too awkward to watch with your family. 

Besides the stuff NO ONE wants to see with their PARENTS in the same room, Carrie is horrifying in many ways and made me swear off horror movies forever. Yes, I'm pretty sure that this is the movie that made me never want to see any more horror movies for the rest of my life. It took me a couple of years to get over my fear but since then I've been watching horror films as much as I can to make up for lost time. Watching Carrie again was like fighting with some old demons and having a chance to put it all to rest. No parents either so that's good.


Genre: horror
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Produced by: Paul Monash, Louis A. Stroller, Brian De Palma
Written by: Lawrence D. Cohen
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Running time: 98 minutes
Production company: United Artists
Distributed by: United Artists, Columbia Broadcasting System, United Pictures Finland
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $1,800,000
Box office: $33,800,000 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, William Katt, John Travolta, Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley, P.J. Soles, Priscilla Pointer, Sydney Lassick, Stefan Gierasch, Michael Talbott, Doug Cox, Harry Gold, Noelle North


Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) lives with her abusive and hyper religious mother (Piper Laurie). Carrie is taught that pretty much everything is a sin so she's socially awkward and is an easy target for bullying at school. In a locker room taking a shower after a gym class, Carrie has her first period and freaks out, thinking that she's dying. She's cruelly laughed at by a group of girls led by Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen). Gym teacher Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) steps in a punishes all those involved. This only angers Chris even more who swears revenge on Carrie.


For a horror movie, Carrie doesn't have a whole lot of horror scenes at all. It'll pretty much have some scenes that are unsettling to creepy before completely unleashing itself by the end. It's an extremely good effect and well worth the wait. It's also a different kind of horror. It's not the kind where you're afraid to look or you jump out of your skin. It's the kind where you're just, well horrified. The kind where you can't look away and you just can't believe what's happening.

(Spoilers) The prom sequence in which I'm referring to here is one of the most evil things put to film, no question about it. Going from a night that Carrie is enjoying like nothing she ever has before in her entire life to one of the worst is done with such calculating cruelty that it breaks your heart while also scaring the daylights out of you. (End Spoilers)

The characters in Carrie are all really well done. Part of that I'm sure is because of Stephen King but Lawrence D. Cohen also deserves a good share of the credit for getting King's characters onto the screen. Carrie constantly grows as can be seen when it comes to interactions with her batty mother (Spoilers) and also with her prom date Tommy Ross (William Katt). (End Spoilers) Sissy Spacek deserves a lot of credit for her performance as well. Miss Collins the gym teacher is clearly like a mother for Carrie who does everything she can to protect her. Meanwhile, you have some people who decide to side with Carrie and those who are dead set against her.

The editing, cinematography and score are all contributors to the horrifying nature of Carrie. Brian De Palma does all sorts of stuff like shooting stuff backwards and split screen effects that just ooze uneasiness. He's also liberal with his use of zooming in on subjects like the scariest Jesus figurine you've ever seen in your life for example. Combined with some very sudden changes in music temperament, Carrie has all the right ingredients for a truly memorable horror film.

I'm glad I got to put my fear of Carrie to rest. It's definitely a very scary horror film but not in the usual way that most horror films are. It's like a horror film about bullying, about abuse. It leaves you with a lot of possible questions as to how and why Carrie is the way she is but it's a better film for it. This is one of Brian De Palma's best films and without a doubt is a big reason why Stephen King's writing career took off.



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