October 19, 2013


Brian De Palma, 1976

Outcast Carrie (Sissy Spacek) is young girl with a secret ability who is tormented by her high school classmates. After an embarrassing shower incident, some of the girls look for revenge while she is just looking to fit in. Based on the book by Stephen King.

One of the better film adaptations of Stephen King's work. This film doesn't appear on a lot of peoples lists in terms of best King films, and that's an oversight. Because ultimately it's a better film than 1408. It's a better film than Sometimes They Come Back. And it's certainly a much better film than Secret Window. The film is an example of old times, old traditions, an old world. A world in which teachers can physically hit their students if they mouth bath. A world in which the act of bullying is ruthless, and in the norm. A world of old gym lockers, and high socks. A world of drinking cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon while driving.

De Palma does a terrific job of directing the film, and the final product is well-organized. Mario Tosi demonstrates some great cinematography with several stand-out moments. The scene where the gym teacher is forcing the girls to exercise during detention. The camera pans just above ground level, capturing the very much outdated clothing and the complaining moans of the girls at each rep. The prom scene is perfectly put together. The glittery silver paper stars sort of give a sense of false pageantry, a disconcerting elegance. The dance band plays on as the sense of uneasiness continues. The camera spins around Carrie as she is experiencing a lot of firsts at once, creating an intoxicating dizziness. Spacek really delivers a great performance. Immediately sympathetic, her eyes tell a whole story. One of the flaws of the film is her mother, played by Piper Laurie. She was surprisingly nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, but her character is very much over-the-top and borderline cartoonish. Probably a character better suited for a book than on film. But Spacek deserved her Oscar nod, and unfortunately lost to Faye Dunaway in Network (tough call there). Some of the horror films like this (although this is more of a thriller) play off a demonic less-is-more let-your-imagination-do-the-work minimalist approach. Character driven 1970's pieces focused on a central force like The Exorcist or The Omen. Films like this can't be made today on a $1.8M budget, and that's a shame. Instead, they are remade on a large budget that relies heavily on CGI to tell the story. A lot ends up being lost. But it's hard to categorize this film as well. It always felt as if it were marketed as a horror. But it's not really that scary. It's more of a well-acted, well-constructed, revenge piece.

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