Photo via Red Bank Films
As I continue my daily reviews of horror movies throughout the month of October, I am starting to notice the drastic cultural shifts that have occurred from the 1970s to the present. Today, producers, writers, and directors feel so limited in what they are allowed to do because of studios’ fears of outrage and cancel culture.
If Carrie was written in 2019, there would be no way it survives the opening credit scene. People would be grabbing their pitchforks and heading to the front door of director, Brian De Palma’s house.
This 1976 movie is the screen adaptation of Stephen King’s 1974 book of the same name and stars Sissy Spacek as the protagonist with supporting roles from William Katt, Piper Laurie, and the legend himself, John Travolta. How Travolta went from this role to Saturday Night Fever just one year later, I could not tell you. He is painfully bad to watch in this film even with the very few moments he has.
Spacek and Laurie are fantastic in this movie. Laurie plays the mother of Carrie, who is a manipulative and religiously-obsessed woman. She believes that her daughter has been possessed by a demon and she forces Carrie, on occasion, to close herself in a closet and pray for forgiveness.
If life could not get any worse for Carrie, her abuse continues in school where she is constantly bullied by her peers and her every movement faces ridicule. But, she believes that her fortunes are changing after she is asked to the prom by Tommy Ross. Unfortunately, Tommy is in on a deliberate and diabolical plan to humiliate Carrie at prom by dumping a bucket of pig’s blood on her after she is named “prom queen”.
What I loved about the storytelling here is that Carrie is not just some crazy girl with a supernatural power that she will unleash if you mess with her. During the prom, Tommy and her converse and you can see that she is just a normal person who has been missing out on any sort of love or kindness from anyone. It makes the final act all the more tragic because we all know that it did not have to go down the way it does.
Before we got to the final act, I was confused as to why this movie has received the high-praise and “classic” status. There is nothing remarkable about the film outside of the performances of Spacek and Laurie. The camera work is awkward as there are multiple scenes of this rapid panning motion from wide-shot to close-up and from left to right. While it ties to the final act, there is this subplot involving tension between our antagonists and a P.E. teacher. They just don’t feel necessary and also feel out of place with what is supposed to be our main focus of the film.
Once we get to the prom, that is when this movie becomes classic.
The lighting and mood of the entire prom setting are immaculate. Everyone’s impending doom continues to loom because you know what is about to happen. The utter heartbreak that you feel for Carrie as she gullibly basks in the limelight of being named “prom queen”. All these moments lead to one of the most chilling moments in horror history.
The crazy eyes of Carrie after she gets the blood dumped on her is truly chilling and iconic. She has lost it and begins to wreak havoc on the entire school and surrounding area, culminating in a final duel between her mother and herself.
All-around, is it an elite movie? No, but there are moments in cinematic history that live on forever and the final act is definitely one I can validate as a true iconic moment in horror.
Check out this movie if you haven’t yet.