Carrie starring Sissie Spacek, Piper Laurie, John Travolta, William Knatt, Amy Irving

Carrie
Image Source: The Guardian

Carrie

Distributor: United Artists 

Production Company: Redbank Films 

Director: Brian De Palma 

Producer: Paul Monash 

Scriptwriter: Lawrence D Cohen 

Main Cast: Sissie Spacek, Piper Laurie, John Travolta, William Knatt, Amy Irving, Priscilla Pointer 

Released: 4th November 1976 

Running Time: 1h 38m 

Certificate: 18 

Introduction   

With Halloween always a popular time for film, what better time to revisit Brian De Palma’s psychotic horror hit Carrie? A point is this film serves as the first adaptation of a Stephen King novel for cinema. It also shows the talents of Brian De Palma as it was nominated for two Oscars. So without anymore introduction, here is my Carrie Review.

                                                             Introduction

This film is very disturbing at points and it begins with a shot of a girls changing room. Carrie is showering when she starts menstruating. Shocked, she runs into the changing room where her classmates mock her and throw tampons at her. Eventually, the gym teacher, Mrs. Collins, comes in to save Carrie and sends the other girls into detention. Before Carrie goes home, we see an example of her telekinesis and other people’s lack of respect for her. 

The reason for Carrie’s reaction is she was not aware of periods by her mother as she is a devout Christian. Outraged that her daughter had ‘sinned’, she puts Carrie in a closet and makes her pray for forgiveness. Whilst the other girls are in detention, Carrie’s bully Chris decides to walk out costing her a prom ticket. She and her boyfriend, Billy, then go to a pig farm and drain pig’s blood, for a horrible ‘prank’. Meanwhile, Sue, who feels sorry for Carrie, decides to ask her boyfriend, Tommy, to go with Carrie to prom. Carrie initially turns this down, due to her believing it was a prank, however after some encouragement from Mrs. Collins she decides to go with Tommy. However, her mother refuses to accept that her classmates will treat Carrie as an equal. 

Carrie and Tommy then go to the prom and things are going well. Chris and Billy then sneak in to execute their ‘revenge’ by rigging the prom couple vote so Carrie wins. When the prom king and queen are announced, Sue realizes what they are going to do and tries to stop them.  Sue is removed by Mrs Collins before she can alert her to Chris and Billy’s plan. Then, it happens. The shot of Carrie having blood fall on her whilst the gym falls into silence. Deciding to punish the many for the few, Carrie unleashes her telekinesis in all its fury for the promgoers ‘mockery’. No one is safe from Carrie’s vengeance as Tommy, the headmaster and Mrs Collins are all killed by Carrie. She then sets the gym on fire. 

As she is walking home, Billy and Chris attempt to hit her with a car but die in the process. Once she gets home, she washes off the blood before being seeing her mother. She admits Carrie was the product of marital rape, which she apparently enjoyed. She then stabs Carrie in the back before chasing her through the house. Carrie then telekinetically attacks her mother with knives, killing her, before the house collapses. The final scene is harrowing as Sue, the only survivor has a nightmare about Carrie. A For Sale sign for Carrie’s house, which is in ruins, has ‘Carrie White burns in hell’. As she is putting the flowers down, a bloody hand reaches up and grabs her. This cause Sue to wake up scared and her mother comforts her. 

                                                        Analysis 

The simplest place to begin the analysis of Carrie is talking about the religious imagery featured in the film. Carrie is proof of this as she is often shown wearing white clothes and is shot in high key light. This is symbolic of how ‘pure’ she is, given she often appears angelic. However, this is in stark contrast to her in the third act where low-key red light is seen. This is to show her temporary descent into madness. The red lighting also has the effect of making the scene seem otherworldly and hell-like. This is where Carrie seems intent on sending all the prom-goers. This in turn links to the final scenes where Carrie reaches up from a pile of rocks to torment Sue.

The other major use of religious imagery is her mother: Margaret. Because she is deeply religious, this is seen when she locks Carrie in a closet to pray for forgiveness. This is symbolic of how much power Margaret holds over her. This is due to the use of the high/low angle dynamic for them. Unlike Carrie who could be symbolic of purity, Margaret could represent people who take religion too literally. This is in the scene where she stabs Carrie in the back whilst wearing white. This shows how she thinks she is Carrie’s saviour. This is emphasized in her rejection of telekinesis and refusal to inform her about periods and what happens during them.

Another point of analysis is the scene of Carrie showering in pig’s blood at the prom. The fact that it’s dropping from above makes it pretty clear as to what the implications are. Also, the film is shot in high key light which shows her purity. Thus when blood is showering on her, could Chris and Billy to make her impure in the eyes of her classmates. This is a common theme in adapted Stephen King books. See both Jack Torrance and IT who attempt to remove childhood innocence by committing horrific acts.

For the prom scene, we can’t discuss this movie without mentioning Chris. Whilst Carrie is innocent, Chris is vindictive at points. By setting them up as binary opposites, De Palma and King are both playing on the US high school narrative. Also, De Palma uses the same power dynamic for the two girls as he does for Margaret and Carrie. The use of high angle shots for Chris is a link to the blood showering from a height. It could also imply status, another key theme in US high school drama. Carrie is on a stage, yet Chris is looking down on her, thus communicating the law of status in the school. Carrie may be temporarily on top but Chris will always try to hold the high ground.

Summary 

To conclude my review, it’s a horrible film at points. This is because of the contents of King’s book but also how most of the characters behave. As a film, it sets a benchmark for the first, but not last, Stephen King Hollywood frenzy and as mentioned above it accelerates De Palma up as a director. The best part is Carrie is still pretty much as good as it was back in 1976. 

Overall Rating: 8.5/10- Excellent 

                                                             Notes 

Target Audience: 18+ 

Content: Strong Blood, Violence 

Recommendation: Yes