Film Review: Carrie (1976)

Release Date: November 3rd, 1976 (limited)
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: Lawrence D. Cohen
Based on: Carrie by Stephen King
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Sissy Spacek, Amy Irving, William Katt, Nancy Allen, John Travolta, Betty Buckley, P.J. Soles, Piper Laurie, Priscilla Pointer, Sydney Lassick, Michael Talbott, Edie McClurg

Red Bank Films, 98 Minutes

Review:

“I should’ve killed myself when he put it in me. After the first time, before we were married, Ralph promised never again. He promised, and I believed him. But sin never dies. Sin never dies. At first, it was all right. We lived sinlessly. We slept in the same bed, but we never did it. And then, that night, I saw him looking down at me that way. We got down on our knees to pray for strength. I smelled the whiskey on his breath. Then he took me. He took me, with the stink of filthy roadhouse whiskey on his breath, and I liked it. I liked it! With all that dirty touching of his hands all over me. I should’ve given you to God when you were born, but I was weak and backsliding, and now the Devil has come home. We’ll pray.” – Margaret White

It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen Carrie and I’ve wanted to review it for awhile. Especially, since I had been working my way through Brian De Palma’s old horror and noir pictures over the last year or more.

I first saw this movie when I was about the age of the characters in the film and honestly, it gave me a really disturbed, unsettling feeling. Sure, I liked the movie but it left me feeling in a way that I found it hard to revisit for a long time. I think that had more to do with the home life of Carrie more than her school life and the bullying she encountered, daily. There was just something really evil about the relationship between her and her psycho, religious mother that made this movie kind of stomach-churning.

As an adult, I have great appreciation and admiration for how effectively Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek’s performances are in their scenes together. I think that De Palma got the absolute best out of both actresses and despite knowing what I was getting into this time around, these scenes still punch you in the gut and make you feel genuinely uneasy and angry for Carrie, who has been nothing but a victim to all the horrible people in this story.

The rest of the film is also effective and, at times, hard to get through. Although, it still has these genuinely beautiful and sweet moments like the scenes between Sissy Spacek and William Katt at the prom before everything goes to absolute shit. Also, I think this makes things much more heartbreaking when they do go to shit.

What Carrie does to her shitty classmates is horrible but by this point in the film, it’s really hard not to feel her pain and feel like her actions are justified. It’s weirdly satisfying seeing the bullies and assholes get murdered and cooked by telekinesis and a blazing inferno. It’s also immensely satisfying seeing Nancy Allen and John Travolta have their car flipped and exploded, burning them alive. And I apologize to Nancy Allen, you are one of my all-time favorite actresses… seriously.

I think that the saddest thing about this picture, other than Carrie’s fate, is that she was possibly on the verge of having a somewhat normal life with normal friends, as William Katt’s Tommy really seemed to like her on some level and former bully, Sue (played by Amy Irving) really started to see how terrible she had been and wanted to be Carrie’s friend.

This is one of those movies where the atmosphere itself is almost its own character. The film feels stifling with this brooding, thick terror in the air. All of that is maximized by the look of Carrie’s home, as well as the way things were shot. The cinematography gives this an otherworldly look and the whole thing, especially in Carrie’s home and the scenes at the prom and the pig farm, you seem like you’re in a dream state.

I really like this movie a lot, mainly because it truly generates certain unsettling feelings in the viewer. De Palma was able to do this more effectively than the vast majority of directors that are considered horror legends.

At the same time, this makes Carrie a movie I don’t want to revisit often because it has that effect. And honestly, it’s not something that diminished with time or repeated viewings, which just solidifies the greatness of the picture.

Rating: 9/10