Brian De Palma
- Sissy Spacek as Carrie White
- Piper Laurie as Margaret White
- Amy Irving as Sue Snell
- Nancy Allen as Chris Hargensen
- Betty Buckley as Miss Collins
- William Katt as Tommy Ross
- John Travolta as Billy Nolan
Based on the novel by Stephen King, Carrie is a heartbreaking and frightening take of bullying and the limits that someone is pushed to. With Brian De Palma behind the camera and Sissy Spacek supremely moving as the titular protagonist, Carrie becomes a compelling exercise in horror rooted mostly in the real world, but with supernatural touches complimenting it.
Carrie White is a painfully shy outcast in high school, who is mercilessly bullied by her fellow peers. She has an equally unhappy home life where her mother Margaret is a crazed religious zealot who thinks anything remotely sexual is a sin, regularly beats Carrie and forces her to pray for her alleged sins. Carrie is once again tormented when she experiences menstruation for the first time in the showers and as a result of her upbringing that hasn’t explained it, she is targeted by a number of girls headed by the sadistic Chris Hargensen. Miss Collins breaks up the horror of the situation and attempts to comfort Carrie. She punishes the girls for their horrible treatment of Carrie, resulting in Chris being banned from prom due to her lack of sympathy and refusal to admit she’s done anything wrong. At the same time, the timid Carrie starts exhibiting signs of telekinesis that flair up when she is angry and she struggles to understand. One of the girls involved in the torment, Sue Snell, starts to feel very guilty about her part in it and wanting to be nice, she asks her boyfriend Tommy to take Carrie to the approaching prom. She sees it as a way to help Carrie and also as an apology for her behaviour of which she feels immense remorse for. Carrie is apprehensive when Tommy asks her as she thinks it is a prank, but after talking and getting advice from the kind Miss Collins, she accepts. Meanwhile, the horrid Chris ropes her boyfriend into engineering some sort of revenge on Carrie. Carrie’s mother is adamant that her daughter will no go to the prom, but Carrie finally stands up for herself and attends. But after a vicious prank set up by Chris and her boyfriend humiliates Carrie just as she feels accepted, she completely breaks and makes those who have bullied her very sorry in a most fatal and gruesome way with the use of her powers.
Brian De Palma directs this film a stylish and surprisingly empathetic touch to showcase the way that Carrie wants to be accepted and is repeatedly bullied for it. Sensitive and compassionate are not often words associated with De Palma, but his approach to the material really hits home in how it presents the horrors of bullying and being seen as different by ignorant others. And while a film that is in the horror genre, the biggest unsettling parts are the depictions of cruelty and nastiness that Carrie endures. When she finally lashes out and unleashes her powers, you can see why this is happening. She has been put to the razors edge and is now acting out retribution of the most fatal kind. Carrie is no monster, merely a misunderstood girl with a gift that finally snaps when torment gets to much, and I think everyone whose ever been mistreated or bullied can at least relate to that feeling of being so downtrodden and yet wanting to get back at those who frighten them. Which brings me onto my next point of interest. Now no review of this film would be complete without a shout out to the justly celebrated prom sequence when Carrie is pushed over the edge with no way back. Utilizing an assortment of techniques( eerie yet tense slow motion, the maximizing of particular sounds and striking split-screen) the results of the scene are simply haunting in how chilling and precise everything is, as Carrie turns the prom into a bloodbath. I could wax lyrical about this forever but the review can’t be a full on essay. All that’s left to say is De Palma is the masterful composer behind the detailed and shocking scene that leaves a big imprint on the mind, and won’t be forgotten for a long time after the movie finishes. Carrie adeptly straddles the tropes of a perceptive high school drama with horror that grows to a jaw-dropping finale, confirming it as a horror film that deals with real life social issues compassionately. The pace of it is just right, building up to the climatic snapping of Carrie’s mind with assurance and some cleverly ironic foreshadowing. And the score is purely amazing in every aspect of the word. Pino Donaggio works wonders as he covers all the emotional ground of Carrie, while bringing in by little nuances, the suspense and shocks that will eventually ignite. You couldn’t have asked for a better score for this film than the lyrical and haunting one it sports.
Sissy Spacek represents the tormented soul of the film with a natural and sympathetic performance. There are times when she is so authentic that it doesn’t seem like she is acting at all, so sincere and expressive in her interpretation of Carrie’s anguish and victimized mind. There is simply no one who could have been so convincing in the part and use their eyes to both moving and unnerving effect, particularly noticeable in the prom sequence when Carrie’s powers come into full force. Piper Laurie is wildly and suitably over the top as Carrie’s crazy mother, who puts fear into her heart and also the audience’s. She really goes for the unrestrained and frightening approach that is superbly played like a pro, which of course Piper Laurie is. This is the mother of your nightmares, and has to rank as one of the most unhinged to hit the cinema screen. In her movie debut, Amy Irving strikes the right notes of guilt-ridden shame and atonement for her actions in a quiet but evocative way. Nancy Allen stars as queen of nasty and vicious Chris, and you can’t fault her performance because you genuinely loathe this character. Betty Buckley is a supportive presence as the kind Miss Collins, while William Kitt displays a sensitivity as Sue’s boyfriend who is persuaded to ingratiate Carrie to the prom. And of course, there is a very young John Travolta, who successfully plays the none too bright boyfriend of Chris who is pulled in to help her exact her shocking prank on the title character.
A dazzling horror and cautionary tale of how you should think about the treatment of others, Carrie is rightfully iconic and cuts deep on a lot of levels.