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6 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Brian DePalma

Written By:
Lawrence D. Cohen

Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, John Travolta, William Katt, Amy Irving, Nancy Allen, Edie McClurg, Betty Buckley, P.J. Soles, Sydney Lassick, Stefan Gierasch

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Carrie (1976)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
May 9th, 2008

'Carrie' was a breakthrough for Stephen King as his first big bestseller and for director Brian De Palma, as his first major box office hit. The transition from page to screen occurred with alarming rapidity; the film was released in 1976, the book was published in 1974, so De Palma and writer Lawrence D Cohen obviously worked quickly to adapt what was a rather slim novel, at least in comparison to King's later work. This is one of the definitive King adaptations, doing justice to its source material, and remaining faithful to it, even though some details have been omitted. 'Carrie' comes as close as any movie in capturing the hardships and nightmares of adolescence, and the hell of the high school experience. Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is a shy and quiet girl with a pale complexion. While taking a shower after gym class one day, she has her first period, and it absolutely terrifies her. Her cruel classmates led by the particularly mean Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen) laugh at her and toss tampons and sanitary napkins at her while she cowers in the corner. The gym teacher, Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) intervenes and deservedly punishes the girls for their prank. One of them, Sue Snell (Amy Irving) feels guilty about what she did, and persuades her blond curly-haired jock of a boyfriend, Tommy Ross (William Katt) to ask Carrie to the prom. Carrie obviously knows that a boy like Tommy does not date a girl like her, and so she turns down his offer, believing it to be yet another joke. However, he is persistence and Carrie ultimately agrees to go with him, over the objections of her mother, Margaret (Piper Laurie), an insane religious kook who sees everything as a sin. Margaret is the reason why Carrie has such an awful home life; she is an abusive fanatic. She never tells Carrie about the menstrual cycle, because she believes it is a sign that a woman has engaged in improper sexual conduct, a curse of Eve if you will, and she also thinks her daughter is the child of the Devil, due to her telekinetic abilities, which flare up when she is angry or in some other state of emotional distress.

Odd things happens when Carrie is around, objects move by themselves, glass mysteriously shatters, she does not even know much about her condition, but researches it in the library and seeks to control it. Margaret has a small closet she locks in Carrie in from time to time, making her pray to the disturbing Jesus statue inside, until her sins have been forgiven. At the prom, Carrie socializes with other students, dances with Tommy, enjoys herself in a moment of rare and unparalleled happiness. De Palma slows things down to focus on this moment of joy, as Tommy and Carrie walk to the stage after being elected as king and queen, as Carrie stands in front of her peers with a tiara and bouquet, smiling gratefully as she receives applause. But it is short-lived, part of a scheme devised by Chris and her dim-witted boyfriend Billy Nolan (John Travolta), one that famously involves a bucket of pig's blood that is to be dumped on Carrie's head.

This is the final indignity and act of humiliation. Carrie's psychic energies erupt with fury, trapping everyone inside, causing fires and electrical mishaps, having a water hose run wild, sparing no one, not even Miss Collins. She walks home, drenched in blood, only to have a confrontation with Margaret, who is now committed to stabbing her with a large kitchen knife. What a glorious conclusion, as Carrie impales her mother with various sharp utensils, leaving her body hanging in a perverse form of crucifixion, much like that Jesus image in the pantry. The house collapses around them. Sue is the only survivor of the carnage, and in the final scene, has a dream where she pays a visit to Carrie's grave, or at least the site of her death, and as she goes to place flowers, Carrie's hand reaches up from the ground below and grabs her. This is a jolting and terrifying scene, perhaps the only truly scary thing in the whole movie, and it works every time, even if you know what to expect. One goes through the whole film feeling nothing but sympathy for Carrie; even gaining satisfaction from her excessive, violent revenge. This movie made Sissy Spacek a star, and she is the perfect choice for this role. She exudes fragility, vulnerability, and meekness, and yet undergoes a dramatic transformation with her rampage in the end, walking stiffly with arms extended downward, eyes widened to the point of almost appearing to bulge right out of their sockets. Equally mesmerizing is Laurie; this marked her return to acting after a 12-year hiatus, and she is outrageously creepy.

There is a lot of trademark De Palma style to be found here; the White abode is shown to have an almost ethereal white glow around it, even though some of his visual flourishes are not entirely necessary, and cut away from the inherent strengths of the story. The prom is shown in all of its glittery decadence; note the awful music and the horrifically ugly fashion displays, including blue tuxedos. None of that has changed in 30 years, believe me. Travolta is just obnoxious, but then so is Billy, so I suppose it fits. This was when Travolta was still good-looking, before he gained weight and joined an absurd cult. Not De Palma's best, nor King's, but a great movie nonetheless.

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