Scarefest: Carrie (1976), My Review

Director: Brian De Palma Starring: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie & Amy Irving Synopsis: “A young, abused and timid 17-year-old girl discovers she has telekinesis, and gets pushed to the limit on the night of her school’s prom by a humiliating prank.” Runtime: 98 minutes

“They’re all gonna laugh at you”

The original Carrie is a somewhat revered movie, and is considered to be one of director Brian De Palma’s best efforts, and also made a household name out of Sissy Spacek, she even received an Oscar nomination for her efforts in this film. Carrie also received pretty much universal praise upon its release and is still talked about with a very high regard even today. However, some elements of the film are beginning to show their age now, and younger audiences viewing the film for the first time may balk at Carrie being regarded as a classic. That does not take away from the intensity of the film though, and the much talked about ending is still a sight to behold even today.

Carrie is a movie I feel most people will have some vague knowledge of, whether they have seen it or not. As with most classic movies, it is nearly impossible to not know something about a movie of this kind before you view it for the first time. I myself had some knowledge of the final scene, probably from reading too many film magazines or watching one of those Channel 4 specials about the best movie endings ever. Despite this, I don’t feel the film was ruined for me at all, especially as the first two-thirds of the film are so well done that you get sucked in to proceedings and almost forget you are watching a movie at all.

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You’ve got red on you.

The opening scene, shot in a girls locker room where they are all joking around with each other, some of them naked and some of them topless is hypnotically shot. Whilst Carrie herself is in the shower, she experiences her first period not knowing what is happening and becomes hysterical. This leads to the other girls taunting and bullying her, to only be stopped in the end by a PE teacher who takes her time to realise what is going on. This first scene never comes across as vulgar or offensive, and is a huge moment for the audience as we soon learn that Carrie is being brought up by her volatile & devotedly Catholic mother, who claims Carrie was being punished for her sins, as she then locks her away in a cupboard to pray.

Carrie (Spacek) is all innocence, and at 17 she truly has no idea how the world works or what her role is in it. The one thing she does know however, is that she isn’t like the other girls, and actually has the power of telekinesis, a power which she explores the best she can with limited resources. Her mother (Laurie) meanwhile, banishes Carrie from ever leaving the house and never allows her to do the things a normal 17-year-old girl gets to do, for fear of punishment from God for any apparent sinful acts her actions may bring about. This creates a very watchable dynamic between the two characters, as Carrie is bereft of any confidence, her own headteacher doesn’t even know her name. Whilst her mother is all anger and ferocity, blowing up at the slightest thing she perceives Carrie to have done wrong.

carrie-2
The Sideshow Bob hairstyle had been in fashion long before The Simpsons came along.

The other members of the cast are a mish mash of teenage stereotypes, but who perform their roles well enough to also have a lasting impression on the audience. A young Nancy Allen, who later married director De Palma, is head bully and mischief maker and is the films other main villain after Carrie’s mother. I must confess my only other knowledge of Allen’s work was her portrayal as noble Officer Anne Lewis in Robocop, and I didn’t expect her to be able to pull off the role of high-school bitch as well as she did. Her accomplice throughout the movie is John Travolta who does well enough in his role as the bad boy heartthrob, but I feel that if it wasn’t for the fact that Travolta is such a household name now, then his role would have gone largely unnoticed. Sue Snell (Irving) & Tommy Ross (William Katt) meanwhile come across as a lot more sympathetic to the audience, especially as Sue is initially involved in the bullying of Carrie until she realises what she and the other girls did was wrong, at which point she persuades Tommy to take Carrie to the prom. Something that everyone involved in will soon regret.

As the film builds toward the final scene, there is a profound feeling that something terrible is going to happen, and as far as final acts go, no one can surely say that this one disappoints. While it is obvious some of the effects are outdated and may look a little silly these days, it’s quite understandable to see how this would have blew audiences away back in 1976. With special effects being attainable on even the smallest of budgets these days, a younger audience may well laugh at how this ever terrified people, but you have to bear in mind that this type of thing simply wasn’t as common place back then as it is now, and deserves its place as classic ending in an excellent movie.

In summary: Carrie withstands the test of time and still provides enough tension and entertainment to withstand another another 37 years of scrutiny.

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