Carrie (1976)

Carrie, 1976; directed by Brian DePalma; starring Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Nancy Allen, Amy Irving, William Katt, John Travolta

When I first saw Carrie  I must have been 10 years or old or younger, and I caught it on broadcast television – I think it was The Movie Loft on Boston’s old channel 38.  What always stuck with me – and terrified me despite it being on broadcast television – was when Carrie returned home to find all the candles list, and that cross.  Oooh, that cross.  the one with Jesus his body pierced with arrows and those scary eyes painted on him.  Freaked me out.  As much as it freaked me out to see a mother trying to kill her own child, it’s that cross that stuck with me.

Carrie is one of those movies that everyone “knows” – maybe not everyone has seen it, or hasn’t seen it in many years… but they all know it and it’s reputation.   It’s a strange movie for sure – it starts as a painful coming of age story of a marginalized and ignored girl who cannot find compassion anywhere – not from her classmates, not from the adults around her and certainly not from her religious zealot of mother who only sees Carrie as a vessel for sin.

But then finally, in the second act, some classmates and a teacher reach out to Carrie and for the first time in her short life she feels noticed – and not just noticed to be picked on.  She feels noticed and is accepted, maybe even embraced.  And for a while everything about the movie changes and it’s almost a heartwarming drama (with an interesting side story about Carrie’s newly discovered mind powers).  If only we didn’t know what was coming… But we do.  And it’s all of course in that third act – The Revenge.

Carrie is the first movie that brought Brian DePalma to prominence.  As big fan of film history as he was of new techniques , DePalma is known for making flashy yet controversial films.  In Carrie, though his flair for split screens and other visuals effects is still present, he keeps them under control for much of the film.   As we moved further into that heartwarming second act, the lighting gets very soft and fuzzy and the score turns up the schmaltzy strings.  But in the third act, once the pig’s blood drops, the shackles are off and the over the top is back on. The split screens, the voice overs, the explosions.  And of course her murderous mother, who in her final moments is posed just like that freaky Jesus.  Jesus!  It’s giving me the creeps even know.

Carrie is far more than a one note horror movie.  And whether you’ve never seen it, or it’s been a long time, for fans of 70s horror it’s a very worthwhile viewing.  The cast has a surprisingly large amount of actors in minor parts who would go on to be major stars (John Travolta) or even major character actors (Edie McClurg – you know her as Marge Sweetwater, Mr. Thornton Mellon’s personal secretary in Back To School, or Grace, the principal’s secretary in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, among other roles)

Dr. Vorhees