Over at my “main” site — http://trashfilmguru.wordpress.com , for those who don’t know, don’t care, either, or both — I’ve been doing what every other goddamn movie blog in the universe does in the month of October: namely, review a bunch of random horror flicks. But come on — you didn’t think I was just gonna sit back and let Lisa Marie, Arleigh, Leonard Wilson, and everybody else have all the fun here on TTSL, did you?
Nah. I just had to muscle in and opine on a few macabre movie delights on these digital “pages” before the month was out, as well. And I might as well start with the one everybody’s talking about right now, Carrie, the 1976 classic directed, in his inimitable style, by Brain DePalma, based on the runaway best-seller by Stephen King, and starring Sissy Spacek as quite likely the most hapless horror heroine in history.
This film is significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that it was the first King “property” to be adapted for the big screen, thus announcing the arrival of a major new player on the scene who would go on, of course, to have a veritable industry of celluloid “translations” of his work sprout up over the ensuing decades, some of which were clearly — oh, wait, people these days are talking about a different Carrie altogether? One that just came out last week?
Well, I saw that one, too, but fuck it — I feel like reviewing this one first.
Let’s backtrack to that “horror’s most hapless heroine” claim for a minute, shall we? It might sound like a bold claim, but I swear it’s true — think about it for a minute : poor Carrie White starts the movie by having her first period in the shower at school, she thinks she’s dying because her religious whack-job of a mom is too chickenshit to tell her about menstruation, she gets teased mercilessly by all the girls who witness her uncomfortable (to say the least) entry into womanhood, she has no friends to speak of, she’s stuck with a bunch of telekinetic powers that she doesn’t understand or know how to effectively control, she’s the butt of every cruel joke her classmates play, she has to listen to her idiot mother blather nonsense 24/7, she gets invited to the prom as by the most popular kid in school strictly as an act of misguided charity, and then, just when she’s granted one moment of respite from the nonstop parade of tragedy that comprises her existence when she’s crowned world’s most unlikely prom queen, she gets a bucket full of pig blood dumped all over her, freaks out and kills everybody with her “mind powers,” and goes home from the best/worst night of her life to find that mommie dearest has decided to kill her in Jesus’ name.
Talk about a gal who just can’t catch a break.
Sure, it all seems a bit over the top — okay, it all is a bit over the top — but DePalma pulls out all the stops to draw you into this sordid little world of revival tent-reject parents (Piper Laurie), evil high school bitches (Nancy Allen), pussy-whipped wannabe-tough guys (John Travolta), well-meaning but ultimately ineffectual teachers (Betty Buckley), semi-guilt-ridden classmates (Amy Irving), jocks with out of control white-guy ‘fros (William Katt), and grounds the whole heady mixture in a turn-for-the-ages performance by Spacek that really makes you feel for the poor kid even — maybe especially — when she finally snaps. His always-stylish-and-inventive use of sound, split screen, and slow-burn tension keep you pretty well fixated on the proceedings throughout, and all in all you’ve just gotta say this still holds up as a pretty impressive cinematic achievement.
Of course, King hit on a fairly inventive little gimmick from the outset here — plenty of horror stories, fairy tales, fables, and probably even nursery rhymes are little more than thinly-disguised metaphors for the onset of puberty and the scary transition from childhood into the ‘adult” world, but here he just dispensed with the pretense and doubled-down by ripping the mask off and piling the real, actual, non-metaphorical point on top of the , as we say in modern parlance, “genre trappings,” and as a result ended up penning a scary story for the ages.
Classic visuals — you know, like the one reproduced directly above — hammer the point home in memorable fashion, to be sure, and what Carrie lacks in subtlety it definitely makes up for in sheer, shock-ya-senseless power. Audiences went wild for this flick back in ’76, and while that might not be saying much because they also went apeshit for every cheesy “patriotic” bicentennial gimmick, knick-knack, gee-gaw, and useless item of “home decor” that came out that year, in this case they were absolutely right — this is a nifty little barnburner of a movie that has aged as well as any wine you care to mention.
Carrie is aviailable on DVD and Blu-Ray from MGM, and it’s also currently playing on Netflix’s instant streaming queue, where it can be found under no less than three category headers — “horror,” “Halloween favorites,” and “cult movies.” So go check it out already — or check it out again already, as the case may be — and we’ll talk about that other movie with the same title next time around.