Come to think of it, all of my proms would have benefited from some pig blood.
Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is your typical teenage outcast that has no friends, is a bit weird, a bit shy, and seems behind the curve in terms of her sexuality. However, what separates Carrie from all the other hot-shot bimbos in school, is that she has telekinetic powers, which gives her the ability to move anything or control anything with her mind. That means that anybody that fucks with her, might want to look out next time they go too far. And that warning doesn’t just apply to the kids that pick on her at school, it also goes without saying to her bible-thumping mama (Piper Laurie) who believes everything her daughter does in order to grow up and be apart of the rest of the world, is a sin. She may be right, she may be wrong. Who knows? But once Carrie gets asked to the prom by the studly, popular Tommy Ross (William Katt), well then, her mom settles down a bit. However, once Carrie and Tommy do get to the prom, something happens that not only changes Carrie’s life, but everybody else around hers as well. Remember those powers?
With the remake coming out this weekend and looking like nothing more than another cash-grab that Hollywood churns out at least 2 or 3 times a year, I thought now is as good a time as ever to give this one another watch, my 7th altogether. And even after seeing it 7 times, I have to say that I’m more impressed than I’ve ever been before. Not because I realized that Brian De Palma was a great director at one time that was so full of beauty, style and sensibility to spare, but because the movie still freaked me the hell out in ways that I didn’t expect to. Because, in case you forgot, this is the 7th time I’ve seen Carrie by now, and I thought that may have been 7 times too many.
How wrong I was.
But like I was saying about De Palma, knowing all about what he does with his flicks and the sense of style, look and feel he brings to each of them, I appreciated this one a hell of a lot more. Of course every time something scary or shocking happens, we get the same old Psycho, screeching piece of score music he seems to love the heck out of so much that he uses it in just about all of his movies, but the Hitchcock-similarities can only go on for so long until you start to forget about them and just realize that De Palma is really putting all of his might into making this material work more than just your standard, horror movie, and it pays off in the long run.
Take for instance, that infamous opening sequence which yes, seems a little perverted to be mentioning but seriously, all nudity aside, the opening sequence is really something of a beauty. De Palma films it as if it were a dream, or hell, a man’s dream where all of these young high school girls are running around naked, whipping one another with towels and doing every other intimate act that isn’t full-on banging. And then, we get the full show where we see a girl all by herself in the shower, really feeling herself up and getting her rocks off like this is her first time, as it most likely is. For any dude who saw this back when it first came out in ’76, I can only imagine what the hell was running through their minds and their pants at this moments; just like I can only imagine what the hell was running through those same minds and pants when, seconds later, this horny girl’s period-blood starts to come dripping down. This not only ruins the dream-like feel that De Palma gave this movie, but it also ruins any preconceived notion you may have had that this movie is going to play by-the-rules and give you what you want.
After this opening sequence, it’s a full-on terror fest from De Palma who gives every frame an ounce of beauty that sticks with you and makes you feel as if you’re really watching a high school right in front of your eyes. The bullying; the gossip; the hooking up; the underage drinking; the mischievous acts in the middle of the night; the stealing of daddy’s car; etc. It all makes you feel like you’re watching a normal teen, high school movie, except that this one is filled with more horror than any high school I’ve ever attended. And yes, I am talking about the other memorable sequence in this movie: The prom scene.
Once Carrie gets all of the pig’s blood poured onto her, is made a mockery in front of every one, and loses her shit, then this is where De Palma really takes advantage and feeds on our attention. His constant use of the split-screen format during this sequence really gives you a full feel on what sort of damage Carrie is doing to these people and this area, and it really sticks with you. You hear the people shouting, screaming in pain, terror and agony, and yet, you know that there’s nothing you or anybody else can do about it. Their time has come, Carrie has decided so. And in a way, so has De Palma since he gives us all the pleasure of seeing the most despicable characters go out in some of the nastiest, most disturbing ways possible, and yet, we still can’t help but feel a bit bad when it actually does happen. Is this De Palma’s own sick, twisted way of trying to shove all of the hatred we’ve had for these people right back in our faces? Or, is he simply giving us what we want? If he was, then wouldn’t the reward feel much greater, and less depressing?
It’s strange that one could think about this type of stuff with a movie like Carrie, but all of these years later, it still brings up plenty of questions and ideas that may not always get answered or be fully fleshed-out, yet, by the same token, still toy with your mind and have you thinking a lot more than you feel like you should of a movie about a possessed-teenager. However, something also tells me that we the same thought-process won’t be needed for this remake neither, no matter how interesting it sounds to me that Kimberly Pierce is directing it.
But anyway, back to the original. I think what also allows Carrie to stand the test of time is not just De Palma’s approach to the material in terms of his style, but how he approaches the character of Carrie herself. You see her as a bit of a weirdo who can’t socialize with people, and says some weird stuff out of the blue, that only gets followed-up with laughter and more heckling towards her. Yet, you can’t really blame her for being this way since her mom is such a nut-job by the way she raised her, and also, the fellow kids she goes to school with are as evil as she actually is. So, that’s why when she pleads with her mama about wanting to “fit in” and “be normal”, you can’t help but sympathize with the girl and hope her dream actually does come true, even if you already know plenty beforehand that they don’t in fact come true. This makes the movie feel like the classic tale of Cinderella, mixed with Satan, and it makes you feel even worse for Carrie, because all she wants to do is be accepted among her fellow class-mates. Don’t we all feel like that, huh?
And you got to give a bunch of credit to Sissy Spacek for going to the extreme lengths she went to in order to make this character, which couldn’t have been all that hard to begin with since you know that she’s the one you should care for the most, despite her “ability” to do bad things. However, she does those said bad things to bad people, so that ain’t so bad, right? Right! Anyway, Spacek is really good in this role by the way she just carries herself from scene-to-scene without saying too much at all, yet, totally demands your attention, especially in that iconic prom scene. Once those eyes open-wide and you see the real demon within her come out, then you know its payback time and it adds even more insult to injury to the that whole sequence. As if that was even humanly possible in the first place.
Then of course we have everybody’s favorite (or not-so favorite) bible-preaching mama, played so terrifyingly by Piper Laurie that it will surprise the heck out of you when you realize that this was her first performance in a movie in 15 years. However, what’s so shocking about that fact is that she doesn’t show a single bit of rust and commands the screen every time she shows up on it. Of course it definitely helps that all she has to do is be all over-the-top, shout and be irate about any decision that her daughter makes, but she still makes it compelling, as if this lady really is THIS nuts, and does love her daughter THIS much. The last scene she gets is very, very odd and may scare people, but for all of the wrong reasons. You be the judge of that.
It’s also nice to watch this movie to see all of the young and familiar faces that would soon become big stars that would stand the test of time, whereas others, well, they have a solid couple years or so, and then fade away once time simply forgets about them. As poorly-acted as he was in his role, it was still fun to see John Travolta play the hick behind the whole “pig blood” fiasco, who also doesn’t like to be called “dumb shit”; Nancy Allen is less annoying than usual and makes a high school you love to hate, especially since you know that there were so many like her at your own school; William Katt is a bit corny as Tommy Ross, but I think that was kind of the point, I could be wrong; Amy Irving is good as the most sympathetic one out of the catty-girls club who actually cares for Carrie and wants her just to have an “experience worth remembering” (needless to say, she gets what she wanted); and Betty Buckley was also good as the gym teacher, Ms. Collins who cares for Carrie and looks out for every step of the way, even though we’re never quite sure if she’s totally on her side by the end. Overall, great cast and it’s nice to see where most of them got their foots in the door. Except for Nancy Allen. I could have done without her.
Consensus: May be dated in some spots, but overall, Carrie is a horror flick worth seeing not just for the numerous slayings of every kid you ever wanted to teach a lesson back in high school, but because De Palma gives this movie all of his creative-power and it pays off well in the end, and in a way, for Carrie herself as well.
9 / 10 = Full Price!!