A true horror staple and one with intense close ups and frightening sound effects to still provide that bone chilling atmosphere to this very day. The fact it was remade recently just shows it’s a story to stand the test of time. Brian De Palma directs the Stephen King source material with an eye for creating an enjoyable unbalance of high school comedy and unsettling revenge horror.
Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is an odd teenager, bullied by other girls and sheltered in her upbringing by her terrifically deranged and spooky mother (Piper Laurie). The premise sees Carrie being invited to the school prom and the hell that breaks loose following the iconic prank to surely be known for years to come.
The movie is a unnerving ride of jolts with amusing scenes such as the girls being forced to warm up on the field set to comedic music, then you get dark moments which happen more often than not at the White household. The mum is creepy and driven by her faith in God that she can’t see how fragile and unloved her daughter is. The relationship calls out for help and Carrie gets it in the form of telekinesis where we along with her discover her power through objects moving thanks to her mind. The sound effects alongside these times are jarring and punch to the core with their highly strung sharp kicks resembling that of the shower scene in ‘Psycho’; a nod to another all time horror classic and the high school name being a shout out to Hitchcock’s feature also.
The film is like a weird coming of age story with White beginning like a naive flower, her petals still curled up and unready to bloom. The opening camera track of the girls locker room is like a soft porn scene but it’s one that eases the viewer in with something gentle and pretty through the females on screen and the music playing over the action, so when we find Carrie in the shower and see what happens to her it suddenly becomes disturbing, even more so due to the way that the other girls treat her for something that happened to all of them. This just shows how awful her mother is in not giving her an education in growing up and through the film the only maternal display comes from the gym teacher – Ms. Collins. She wants the best for Carrie and takes the damaged girl under her wing to try and stop her being bullied.
The shots in the film are perfect and balanced with the lighting make for interesting ideas and unnerving feelings. When Carrie and her mother; Margaret are at home for dinner, there is just an oval of pale yellow light shining around them and the length of the table. The shot of a tapestry of The Last Supper behind them makes the White’s look like they are joining the table with Christ. The religious imagery is strong throughout, what with Margaret’s obsession with good over evil. The model of Jesus impaled by several nails becomes relevant to the ending with Mrs White. The final scene is like a twisted take on God battling Satan, with the mother taking it upon herself to play God and she looks like an angel of death when facing her child.
The true evil comes from the mother and the teenage duo of Billy Nolan and Chris Hargensen who plot against Carrie and set up the bucket of blood. They are horrific characters and are played with annoying smugness and evil glee by John Travolta and Nancy Allen. Travolta can only be described as bringing out Danny Zuko’s evil twin using the swagger, charm and cool of Grease’s most popular T-Bird but with a nasty side to help his scheming girlfriend humiliate Carrie, for literally no big reason at all. Chris is a good looking girl who likes being queen bee and then suddenly her bullying is cut short and she’s punished by getting detention. That’s all it takes for her to plan against White, which makes her actions much more terrifying than the ones that Carrie’s then forced to make.
Carrie finally grows into a formidable flower for one of the most famous moments in film history which is set up beautifully with the devastating realisation that we know what is coming. The sweeping circling shot of her dancing, the designed set of the prom with the hanging stars and the glow of the romantic red light all add to the impending disaster, you feel so sorry for her as she’s having a magical time and feeling happy. When it finally does happen the sound goes to shut down and all you hear is the swinging metal of the bucket which adds greatly to the atmosphere. Then laughter begins to fill your ears and Carrie sees everyone through a kaleidoscopic vision. It makes it look like more people are laughing at her but it isn’t a greatly needed visual effect. This is where another little niggle came for me in the form of split screens which I didn’t like, I would have been happy seeing zooms into her deranged eyes and cuts to each person being offed by her power. I didn’t understand the random chipmunk like speeding up of the three guys talking when tuxedo shopping either, it came across too cartoony and added nothing. The film does use moments of effects, such as the interior of the rolling car that don’t exactly work and of course the movie is itself dated now but it’s by no means lost it’s glorious thrilling edge.
A brilliant film with a true core of danger in seeing this sadistic joke unfold, characters that deserve their fates and characters that provide surprise for you; I’m speaking of Tommy and Sue who keep you guessing. It looks stylish with it’s camera shots and has a brilliant score, the sounds bursting through add to the goosebump factor.The tense drama of the White household and the freaky mother provides confirmation that this is a horror classic.
Awesome review with in depth analysis, from the internal to the external – themes, acting, technical. Carrie is a remarkably influential cult classic that grabbed me from that provocative opening.
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Here’s a review by Troy of The Review Club of Carrie (1976) for our October Kingathon. Tnx Troy!