Carrie (1976) Movie Review – 31 Days of Halloween
Carrie White, a shy and troubled teenage girl who is tormented by her high school peers and her fanatically religious mother, begins to use her powers of telekinesis to exact revenge upon them.
Welcome to Knockout Horror. For day 11 of our K-O-Ween 31 Days of Halloween feature, we are watching the classic Brian De Palma horror movie Carrie. For anyone who doesn’t know, for the entirety of October we are reviewing a horror movie a day leading up to Halloween. These reviews are the start of a new format for me. I’ll be writing way less in classic reviews as the content just isn’t valued by Google. I don’t have a consistent reader base yet so it’s a bit pointless me even bothering, to be honest.
Carrie is a 1976 movie based on the Stephen King novel. Lawrence D. Cohen has put together the screenplay and was actually the first Stephen King adaptation. Something that is particularly worthy of note considering how many there are today. Sissy Spacek stars after receiving encouragement by her husband to audition for the film and John Travolta features in one of his first significant movie roles.
An Iconic Stephen King Adaptation
Everyone likely knows the story of Carrie. A troubled and viciously bullied 16 year old girl from a deeply religious home develops telekinetic powers. After years of being pushed around and abused. She finally fights back; unleashing hell on the people who have made her life miserable. This is a story that still resonates with people today.
Needless to say, this is a hugely popular movie and a pivotal moment in horror history. Not only did it kick off a whole wave of Stephen King novel based movies. It also inspired generations of horror creators for years to come and became one of the most iconic horror movies of all time. The image of Carrie White soaked in blood is one of the most recognisable images in the history of cinema. But the big question is, how does it hold up nearly 50 years later?
How Does Carrie Hold Up?
I suppose the answer would be surprisingly well. I mean, the movie feels its age, let’s be honest. It’s a bit cheesy in parts and the gratuitous opening scene of girls wandering around the showers naked feels grossly outdated. But the core horror here is as strong and effective as ever. The scenes that were iconic back then feel equally as iconic now. And the story remains just as engrossing and, likely, as relatable, as it ever did. Not the telekinesis parts, of course.. Although maybe?
It’s not the scariest movie in the world but its subject matter and themes are fairly troubling. I am sure that people who have suffered bullying will feel a link to the titular character here. And almost everyone that inhabits Carrie’s world is an absolute piece of shit. It’s hard not to feel sorry for her and its hard not think that the side characters in the movie are the real bad guys.
Obviously some people are going to find some of the elements of the movie extremely strange and this is where its age shows. Girls are repeatedly slapped as if it is fairly normal and the world the characters inhabit is fairly foreign nowadays. But that sort of helps to build up the horror and make Carrie’s incredible abilities all the more believable. This is a world run by discipline, abuse and religion. Why not throw in some telekinetic powers as well?
Influenced by Classic Thrillers
Carrie borrows film making techniques from many movies that came before it. And, watching through a modern lens, its impossible not to see similarities to classics like Psycho and Deliverance. With De Palma, almost, paying homage to Hitchcock and other influential directors continuously throughout the film. Spinning 360 degree shots and quick zoom ins on character’s eyes will feel incredibly familiar to fans of older thrillers and horrors. But it is very charming all the same.
It’s very of its time but this lead to Carrie becoming a defining movie for horror. Lawrence D. Cohen adapts King’s story but takes a few liberties here and there. Changing the ending significantly but in a way that was appreciated by King himself. A person who is known to be critical of adaptations of his work. Pino Donaggio’s score sets the tone throughout and feels utterly fitting. With seeming nods to Rosemary’s baby and an almost dream like quality to the soundtrack. Carrie is one of those movies that is instantly recognisable whether visually or through audio. It is an important movie, even today when it has been remade to death.
A Great Cast
Sissy Spacek absolutely throws herself into the role of Carrie White. She doubled down on the method acting for this movie. Decorating her dressing room with religious iconography and distancing herself from the cast. Really putting herself into the shoes of a girl who knew only God, social isolation and violence. Nancy Allen is perfectly horrible as Chris which makes it all the more amusing that she didn’t realise that her character was supposed to be a cruel and conniving person. She thought she was comedy relief, a tidbit that I love.
Amy Irving is decent as Sue, with her motivations feeling genuine and some of her reactions feeling extremely believable. Travolta is maximum Travolta here, only younger. It’s almost like a parody of John Travolta if you get my meaning. Piper Laurie is unbelievably over the top as Carrie’s religious mother. Given the theme and the time the movie was released, it sort of works. But I imagine she is the character that most will feel has aged the worst. All in all, it’s a decent cast.
Final Thoughts and Score
Carries shows its age, let’s be honest. But if you can push aside some of the 70’s silliness, this is a fantastic horror that still works today. Brian De Palma set the standard for Stephen King adaptations early on. Sissy Spacek is fantastic, Piper Laurie is hilarious, the story is timeless and the movie is just a lot of fun. A great option for any time in October and a suitably iconic horror movie.