Carrie is an American horror classic from Brian de Palma, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. It is an emotional rollercoaster of a film and I would say not a horror in the conventional sense that one might be used to, such as slashers or cabin horror. It is the story of a shy young girl bullied by her peers and psychologically abused by her insane Christian mother and throughout the course of the film, discovers that she has supernatural powers.
Watching this film 40 years after it’s original original release is like stepping into both a filmic and cultural time machine. The opening sequence in a high school girls locker room-a casual and non sexual nudity, the segregation of physical education classes by sex, the teacher being able to physically strike a student. It’s a world that feels removed from current times, yet still retaining it’s familiarity.
Sissy Spacek plays the titular Carrie White and delivers an astounding and believable performance. This is one of those performances that hit you emotionally- you see her shyness, her fear, embarrassment, but also her fleeting moments of happiness. Carrie’s eventual blossoming confidence and happiness is something truly lovely to witness-yet at the same time terrifying, for us the audience already anticipate the impending humiliation and tragedy. We see from the opening shower sequence, in which Carrie experiences her first period and is absolutely frightened, for she does not yet understand what is happening to her and when she cries for help, she is laughed at and humiliated. This is something I cannot exactly empathise with, but for young girls, especially around the time of the film’s release, this would be terrifying to them. But the point from it is we see the meanness of her peers and even with the supernatural element of the film and it’s climactic prom sequence, it is not some metaphysical being like a Freddy Krueger or a psycho like Norman Bates. Rather, it is from the excess of an every day kind of meanness and abuse that we see throughout the film-something more akin to a banality of evil. Yet, not everyone is nasty to poor Carrie, there are those, very few who are genuinely nice to her, making the climax of the film all the more tragic.
The soundtrack of the film is also something to note, combining elements of classic melodramatic style without being too overbearing, quotations of hymnic rhythms, diegetic rock and roll and gloomy atmosphere, with all these in play during the prom sequence in the final act to devastating effect, especially with the transition from triumphant melodrama to the sounds of impending doom. Not to mention that there were some sounds which sounded almost ripped from Psycho with their screech and brief rhythms when they are heard. Other performances in the film are believable enough, perhaps seeming a little odd, but not enough to take one out of the experience, but Spacek steals the show. Visual effects as well seem to mostly hold up and the visuals of the film are absolutely fantastic, again in that prom sequence which we inevitably circle back to when talking about this film.
Carrie is a film that I really liked in a way I didn’t expect it to, it was greatly moving engaged something of a protective instinct from myself. Of course, others will feel differently, but the fact that this film can achieve that without feeling manipulative or doing it in the cheapest way possible, but instead feels genuine and uncomplicated. And despite it having the clear stamp of being from a different time, I would insist that it still has a timeless quality to it. It’s brilliant and if you haven’t seen this American classic, you should.