Monday, November 5, 2012

Carrie (1976)

Seen: On dvd on our projector set-up, rented from the Tisch Library at Tufts.

So I've kinda been binging on horror lately, it's like all I really want to watch. This is exacerbated by the fact that there is SO much I've never seen, since it's never been a genre I've been much into. But now it's like my new favorite thing and I want to see all the movies. Carrie had long been on my list since I need more De Palma, you know? Adapted from the Stephen King novel, the film follows the eponymous character (Sissy Spacek) during a few defining moments of teenage-dom. The daughter of an intense evangelical Christian mother (Piper Laurie), Carrie is terrified when she first gets her period, having no idea what it is. With her womanly times comes the onset of telekinetic powers that manifest themselves the more she gets bullied at her school. It all comes to a head at the prom when the meanest students plan a grotesque prank.

It's not like I didn't know the general plot of this movie- it's referenced all the time and several of the scenes are iconic, so I wasn't really in it for the suspense. That being said, I kind of totally loved it, and was even surprised by several developments! It's not especially terrifying, but it's got the slow-burn pacing and feel of other horror films of its era, takings its time to build up Carrie's suffering and subsequent telekinetic abilities. Her mother is not only domineering and controlling, but downright scary in her fanaticism and manipulation of her daughter. Their house is claustrophobic, filled with tight spaces that are all watched over by some religious icon, most memorably the bug-eyed Saint Sebastian sculpture. De Palma reveals Carrie's confusion and paranoia through intimate close-ups and private moments, while the audience remains unsure of the rest of the characters' motivations and thoughts. We know pretty, popular Chris (Nancy Allen) and her doltish boyfriend Billy (John Travolta) have it in for Carrie, but I honestly didn't know how much the other kids were in on it. Was Tommy (William Katt) really taking Carrie to the prom just because his girlfriend asked him to? Was his Nice Guy thing just an act? And what was Sue's (Amy Irving) angle the whole time? Not knowing how different characters would play into the whole event created a thrilling tension even if I did know the ultimate outcome.

And my, what an outcome! As the film progressed I was fairly engaged, enjoying the performances and wondering when all that religious build up would come back into play, and then there's the PROM SCENE. And daaaaaamn it's fucking awesome, you guys. I want to marry De Palma's split screens. It's melodramatic in the best way, and when Carrie gets back home to deal with her mother THAT'S when all that Christian imagery pays off and Piper Laurie gets to truly shine with her craziness and big hair. It's great, it's seriously great. And I will say there's one jump scare at the very, very end that totally got me, so I can't say this movie isn't completely not scary. For the most part it's just really good! And it's got PJ Soles being super mean and super adorable in her red cap! AND... Girl power?


Pair This Movie With: Hmmm quiet girl gets bullied at home and at school, develops telekinesis... Matilda!


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  2. 'Carrie' and 'Matilda'? That would make one wacky twin bill!

    I saw this on the big screen months ago and I had forgotten how 'girly' it is, and I say that in a positive manner. DePalma does a good job at capturing Carrie's inner emotional life, especially during the prom climax - the slow-mo, the spinning camera, and the soft lights really sell what it must be like for this sheltered, timid girl to have her dreams come true, if only for a brief moment.

  3. Rich: I know, I would love to double feature that just for the weird shift in tone! This must have been really cool in a theater, I hope I can catch it on a big screen some time. I agree about the "girly" aspect, her personal experiences are really well conveyed through De Palma's camera techniques.