The subject and theme of bullying appears more often in many horror films; however, in the year 1976, it happened twice, in the course of three months, first with writer and director Rene Daalder’s Massacre at Central High (1976) and then in November with highly noted movie called Carrie from director Brian de Palma. The themes between both movies tends for a similar path, it is Carrie that derides more attention, and that comes from the film able to cross generational lines, and demographics as everyone likely knew a misfit student in school, in addition being based from then unknown horror writer Stephen King. It would mark many firsts of those involve in the movie, namely Palma having a financial rewarding movie and first novel of King’s adapted into a movie, and their careers from this standpoint climb to new heights. Another aspect, which sets this film apart of the Rene’s movie, Sissy Spacek, her innocent portrayal of a teenage girl entering into womanhood, controlled by a zealous religious mother and belittled by classmates with vicious rabid hatred. The monstrous wrath of Carrie’s mother, by a fascinating performance Piper Laurie strikes fear in all who watch it, and recently some compared that role to Marcia Gay Harden’s Mrs. Carmody in The Mist (2007) another adapted King novel. The movie made for a measly $1.8 million, went on to grab box office treasures totaling over $33.8 million, and freaking out audiences of all ages and demographics, and having many who were bullied in real life, a new champion. A common error, though does exist, many believe this was the film to nominate a woman for an Oscar for the leading role in horror film, for example, Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist (1973) earned that acclaim. Now, perhaps some mean the first time two woman earned nominations for the top awards of Best Actress and Supporting Actress, however again that is incorrect Linda Blair had the prestigious honor, though six years prior to Carrie’s release Ruth Gordon won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Rosemary’s Baby (1968).
For those unfamiliar with novel or the movie, clearly shameful, and though the film generated a sequel many years later, and then a remake however the original still stands the test of time, especially the double barrel blast of Spacek and Laurie, the daughter and mother on screen powerfully made everyone sit upright in their seats for this power trip. The bullying of then simply an acceptance of film, a predator and prey fish bowl all housed in a school, and students running it better than the teachers do and administration will ever know. Either every person ideally hopes for acceptance into a click or left alone to live the years of hell as a ghost, least remembered, the scars though inflicted through immaturity and misunderstandings. Yet, when Carrie comes to the forefront many of the students, which suffered the turmoil, wish for her mental powers. Therefore, a bit of a refresher which opens with Carrie White failure at the end of volleyball game and then a peaceful and fully frontal T&A shot of a girls locker room, before centering in on Carrie and her embarrassing moment of learning of womanhood, and the other students humiliating her. Jump to a gym teacher aiding comfort and a principal uncaring and misnaming her, neighborhood child calling her “Creepy Carrie” and adding the weight of hate and disgust onto her weak frail frame. The introduction of her mother Margaret White (Piper Laurie), wins easily as righteously religious fanatic, her views go beyond rational thinking, and their household, poorly kept and appears that Amish children have it better than Carrie does. A trivia tidbit, the religious verses used, actually don’t exist, but the delivery of them sells the point clearly and lines up the level of pain for Carrie, and the growing sympathy of the audience, everyone early on, sighs deeply with all the heartache she intakes constantly. However, the entire movie flips itself by the prom sequence, and without giving it away, Carrie makes a splash and later dash, the heat turns up on the dance floor and the sparks fly. By the end of the movie she has a thought provoking bonding experience with her mother, who strikes a maddening pose, before everything comes crashing down, and yet more nightmares still exist.
Some critics, point that Carrie is not truly a horror movie, though classified as one, an incorrect assignment in the genre, as it doesn’t fit the typical aspects of a horror film. They rely on the position, and no blood and guts exist for the entire movie, aside the gymnasium scene at the prom, and that no clear standing of good and evil. In addition, they hold the belief that movie is actually a powerful drama, and that Carrie and the students are all products on their environment. This is actually an incorrect positioning, first understanding that horror movies, contain multiple genres in a film, they have comical lines, the silly character, dramatic moments, action sequences and a bit of romance, the caring for another character. The connection driven home to the audience to root for someone, without the movie becomes nihilism, often associate to the Italian cannibal movies of the 1970s. Next, the usage of blood and gore has no determination for the standard of a horror movie, for example, the original Halloween (1978) the brutal killings shown but the rest implied. Is Carpenter’s movie not horror, of course it is, hence no basis for this point. Lastly, the defining remark that both Carrie and the students show no clear siding of good versus evil, this clearly is not the case either, Carrie becomes aware of her talent. She seeks information on it, the trip the library and learning about, the students clearly know of the bullying and inflicting harm, and taking everything too far, name-calling and teasing and much worse. Therefore, the conclusion, Carrie is clearly a horror story and movie.
De Palma narrows the scope of King’s novel, focusing it tighter, and while losing some of the narrative, he knows his direction and the actors can provide the depth needed to smooth the path for the audience to connect the dots. He carefully layers the chilling levels, and works on generating all the attention on poor Carrie, before pulling the rug out from under the audience in cruel joke, where he makes them the butt of the joke. Nevertheless, Brian uses many lessons learned from the master of suspense, Sir Alfred Hitchcock, to keep everything humming along until the necessary moment at the prom, especially with regard to the rope and tittering bucket, the tension thoroughly thick, and definitely leaves the audience squirming in the seats at yelling at the screens. In addition, he added homage to the master with name of the school as Bates (i.e. Norman Bates) and the music of violins heard repeatedly in Pino Donaggio’s sensual music also inspired by composer Bernard Herrmann (who died shortly beginning work on this film). He definitely lives up to his already firm reputation of incredible over-the-top endings, and this time it was surreal to state the least. Aside from Spacek and Laurie, the rest of the cast fits in nice, Tommy the choice in the school along with his girlfriend Sue, both redeemed themselves early on, while Chris (Nancy Allen) and her boyfriend Billy (John Travolta), Norma (P.J. Soles), and others, stay on the path of evil intentions. Soles does an incredible job of acting as a mean girl goof-off, sporting a red baseball cap, and wild bubbly attitude, that in 2-years later would become everlasting in Halloween lore.
If one seeks a unique movie to watch, than look no further than Carrie, the success of the movie still stellar, and the content rivals, many other horror films, as the tension climbs high with high school hellish deeds lying below, all to the agony of Ms. White. The sensitive teen transformed ghastly into a blood soaked nightmare, to think of her name ‘white’ innocent and pure, and with her entering into womanhood, the blood covering of sin and rage makes for a fiery conclusion.
This anniversary article posted on the Rogue Cinema’s November 2016 with 2,113 views.
IMDb Rating: 7.4/10
Baron’s Rating: 8/10
Official Trailer from Shout! Factory: