Carrie (1976) (R)















Horror doesn't age well. If you want an example...look at "Jaws". It's still remarkable and I think it's one of the best horror movies ever made; but the shark? really? The years and new technology haven't treated the film kindly.
There are exceptions to the aging problem...now look at "The Changeling" (by that I'm referring to the George C. Scott horror movie and not that Clint Eastwood/Angelina Jolie drama). This film makes even a child's toy look creepy, oh and a wheelchair chases a man around—and yes, it is scary.
Regrettably, "Carrie" hasn't aged that well. It is fueled by a great performance and an over the top psycho momma; but it lacks a little something.
Based on the Stephen King book of the same name, "Carrie" was directed by Brian De Palma and probably boosted his career in an unexpected way.
The film holds no more secrets, pop culture assumes that everyone has seen this film and therefore nothing is sacred within the movie's plot.
It's simple enough: a beautiful, yet bullied girl, discovers that she has telekinesis...the end.
I'm not trying to sound too harsh, because I did like "Carrie" (to an extent); but it was almost too absurd in moments.
The beginning scene is all sorts of awkward, filled with twenty-something girls playing seniors in highschool. Carrie (Sissy Spacek) is the source of many jibes and cruel comments. She's not particularly athletic which only exacerbates the situation.
In the opening ten minutes, she experiences menarche in the shower at school (I'm not going to elaborate further). She is so shocked and frightened by this experience that she turns to the other girls for help, they all throw towels at her and mock her for being so freaked out.
The gym teacher, Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) fights the girls off and comforts Carrie. Then she has a chat with a disinterested principal who gives "Cassie" the day off.
It's no wonder that this girl has problems...but you haven't seen anything yet. At home, there is a monster. Hollywood loves an overbearing mother (look to "Mommie Dearest" and the coat hangers if you want an example), and here is one of the most hyperbolic performances yet. Piper Laurie plays Margaret White, a Christian woman who puts the "sin" in "witnessing". This lady is completely crazy, not bothering to think about the mental health of her daughter. In this woman's mind, every girl should be the essence of virginal pulchritude, something that is unattainable and, frankly, just not natural.
When she hears about Carrie's little shower episode she looses her stuffing, metaphorically of course. She locks Carrie in her "prayer closet" with a crucifix that looks nothing like what I've seen in churches. This Jesus has arrows protruding from his chest and little cartoon eyes that I half expected to start blinking before the movie was finished.
Miss Collins, who seems like the only nice character, demands that Carrie be treated better by the other girls in senior year. Naturally, these girls are more interested in popularity and boys that in treating Carrie nicely; but Miss Collins tells them that they have to abide by her rules or they will be banned from the prom—that gets their attention.
Meanwhile, Carrie is trying to survive in the tyrannical thumb of her mother; but everything changes when one of Carrie's tormentors feels guilty and asks her athlete boyfriend take Carrie to the prom.
For a movie that only runs about an hour and forty minutes, "Carrie" manages to feel both too long and too short. There is no progression from a girl who had no idea what happens with the birds and the bees to a rebellious girl in full control of her powers.
Carrie's telekinesis feels like a side plot device just used to get a few more scares, which brings me to another point: "Carrie" is not scary, not in the slightest...and this is coming from a person who doesn't do horror movies—at. all.
I had my reservations about "A Nightmare on Elm Street" but I couldn't deny that some moments were frightening and intense...heck, even "The Evil Dead" has a lot of jump moments.
"Carrie"—on the other hand—not so much. The frights I already knew were coming, the drama wasn't there, and everything in the film seemed like a metaphor for bullying. Here's the message: don't pick on kids or they'll burn your house to the ground.
Still, the thing that ruined the film for me was how it was shot—Brian De Palma and cinematographer Mario Tosi use split screens and odd colors--slow motion should be applied sparingly not liberally.
In the end, I think Sissy Spacek is a fine actress and this movie shows her talents...she is entirely believable. Piper Laurie I think played her cards with too much vigor, but that could have been De Palma's fault.
There is nothing terribly memorable about this movie; and to be fair, not much happens.
I probably would have really enjoyed this film when it came out, but seeing it already well into the 21st century makes "Carrie" feel well outdated.
One last thought: Brian De Palma stole the "Psycho" shower violins...I think Hitchcock would want them back.






Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4

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