Release year: 1976
Director: Brian De Palma
Writers: Lawrence D. Cohen, Stephen King (novel)
Starring: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, William Katt, John Travolta, Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley
Ratings: 2 Oscar nominations: Best Actress (Sissy Spacek), Best Supporting Actress (Piper Laurie).1 Golden Globe nomination: Best Supporting Actress (Piper Laurie).
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #72, week 43 2015
17-year old outcast Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is shy and awkward mainly due to the sheltered life she leads with her domineering, religious mother. When Carrie gets her first and unexpected period her classmates tease her with her horrified reaction unaware of the fact that powers has been released inside the young girl. After a life of being repressed Carrie is now a ticking bomb of hormones and feelings and the bomb is about to explode.
De Palma’s adaption of Stephen King’s novel is more than just a horror movie, it is a study of horror. The human horror, the horror of repression, of victimisation and exclusion from society and the horror of growing up. Carrie is a sad character, her evil is driven by a rage that De Palma (The Untouchables, 1987) makes it almost impossible not to understand, right from the first scene in which the young girl is humiliated to the final climatic prom scene in which he effectively lets us watch what Carrie perceives, giving a rare insight into the motive behind the ‘monster’. That is excactly what is so interesting about Carrie, if have you heard of her, then there is a big chance you have also seen the image of her in action: dripping with blood and with a wild look in her eyes. But it is hard not to feel that Carrie is one of the few people in her story that is not a monster and De Palma lets us find the sympathy for this young girl and lets us keep it throughout the movie, making it a hard watch for more than one reason. This is a job that would have been impossible for the director without a leading lady capable of delivering a performance that ensures that the character maintains her vulnerability, even when she is in killing mode, and that is excactly what he has found in Spacek (Badlands, 1973). While the awards was more focused on Laurie (The Faculty, 1998), who amazes in the more meaty role as the fanatically religious mother, it is undoubtful Spacek that carries the movie on her slender shoulders, as she embodies one of King’s strongest female characters and makes her real to us. From the timid bullied girl to the young woman who slowly starts standing up for herself, Spacek is a delight and never hits a false note and when the powers are released in full form she manages to make her mere 5’3” and slender frame seem terrifying and intimidating. The movie launched, or escalated, the careers of several young actors and despite a good turn from Katt (House, 1986) it differs by consisting mostly of noticeable female characters, among others a brilliant Buckley (Frantic, 1988) as the gym teacher Miss Collins, a delightfully bitchy Allen (Dressed to Kill, 1980) and a sweet Irving (Hide and Seek, 2005). The fact that the movie was noticed at the Oscars, a rare sight for horror movies, is perhaps due to the insightful look into the human psyche and the all too real horrors of society, which is also one of the reason this often appears on ‘best movies’ lists today.
Sissy Spacek studied the body language of people stoned for their sins and either started or ended each scene in one of these positions.
Adding to the psycotic character of the mother none of the bible quotes she says are correct.
Sue Snell and her mother are played by real life mother and daughter Amy Irving and Priscilla Pointer.
Picture copyrights: SF Film