Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976)
With the reinterpretation of Stephen King’s novel by Kimberly Pierce lately, it was natural that the classic Horror film that amongst all film enthusiasts, Quentin Tarantino himself ranks as one of his favorite films of all time would be revisited. And for Halloween’s sake let’s have a re-watch of this landmark.
Starring Sissy Spacek in the title role, Piper Laurie as the Jesus freak mother Margareth White, Amy Irving, Nancy Allen, and John Travolta just to name a few of the talented cast members of Carrie. It earned two Academy Awards nominations for Spacek and Laurie. Carrie White is a 17 years old teenager with no friends and an obsessive mother that sees sin in everything and lives by Jesus and the bible. One day after gym class Carrie has her first menstruation in the shower. Not knowing what it was she screams for help but the other girls start laughing at her and bully her because she don’t know about it. Her gym teacher Miss Collins (Betty Buckley), takes care of her and punishes the girls. However, Chris (Allen) decides to not do her detention and not attend to the prom. But she plans her revenge on Carrie. In the same time Sue (Irving) asks her boyfriend Tommy Ross (William Katt) to take Carrie to the prom and give her a chance to be like everyone else and enjoy being with a nice boy. Meanwhile, Carrie discovers she has telekinesis gift and develops it as a way to defend herself. Until the prom night.
Like many Stephen King stories, it involves a little bit of supernatural elements mixed with ordinary events of life. One of the aspects of King’s stories is that he knows how to handle something very realistic with the supernatural. This story about bullying couldn’t be more actual with its rise with the social media and the mediatisation of the recent cases. Like some naysayers would reply about bullies : there always was and there always will be. However, it is always sad and when you are the person who was laughed at or bullied you never want to feel that way again.
On a personal note, I was bullied verbally when I was in high school but never physically but I would say that it hurt so much that I would never want to do this to anyone. It is a gratuitous gesture and even if the person who do it thinks it’s funny well you can make someone’s life very miserable and linked with that is his/her self-esteem and self-appreciation that can take a big fall. It is very easy to destroy someone’s life but to reinforce and rebuild a confidence it may take years and tons of efforts. But I digress.
Getting back to Carrie, De Palma’s directing is very noticeable and may be very aesthetic to look at but also reminds of Hitchcock’s camera movements. His tracking and overhead shots may have seduce some viewers who like flashy visuals. One particular shots is the camera that is lifted and follows the rope to the bucket and then zooms to the couple in the ball. It is outstanding and well executed but reminds us that we are watching a movie and it doesn’t make us forget about it. It might be De Palma’s goal but I doubt it. One aspect of this mise en scène that I must highlight is the fact that De Palma has an eye for style and he likes to shot women especially with the opening of the shower scene where Spacek is completely naked and shot like as if it was a soft core video.
Overall, it is a classic Horror film that I’m sure lots of fans of the genre are revisiting often. It has style and a definitely great ending that gives me chill every time I re-watch it. Nonetheless, I liked it much less than the first time I actually watched it more than fifteen years ago. A must see.