Rating -

  Horror (US); 1976; Rated R; 97 Minutes

Sissy Spacek: Carrie White
Piper Laurie: Margaret White
Amy Irving: Sue Snell
William Katt: Tommy Ross
John Travolta: Billy Nolan
Nancy Allen: Chris Hargenson

Produced by Paul Monash and Louis A. Stroller; Directed by Brian DePalma; Screenwritten by Lawrence D. Cohen

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Written by DAVID KEYES

Brian DePalma’s "Carrie" is that movie you wouldn’t want your teenage daughter to see before she goes to the prom. Or is it? Your daughter might be one of the brightest, clever and unique teenage females in her class. She could be the target of countless and mean practical jokes, or she could very well be the person who targets unique teenage girls with those practical jokes. Depending on what your daughter stands for, they can identify with "Carrie" in one of two ways. The latter identifiable situation can only be taken seriously to a point. A teenage girl can have a joke played on her at her very own Senior prom, but I doubt she’d lock the doors and terrorize the whole gymnasium as revenge. There are ways to provoke revenge on pranksters, but this is not one of them. It might give your little girl ideas...

Not that any of it is a problem. As one of Stephen King’s most loyal fans, it’s really comes down to whether or not he’s written a better supernatural story than "Carrie." Brian DePalma, who directs a structuralized duplicate of King’s novel, brings to the screen one of the best movies our American Heritage has to be proud of. It’s a gripping and rousing perusal of our human souls--an opportunity to become aware of our dark sides and meet them head on. As a study of the transformation from innocence to darkness, it’s a movie of the same shocking and gripping proportions that paralyzed our nerves when two priests entered a possessed girl’s bedroom in "The Exorcist."

But the study of a human being is not easy to tackle. If you expect to examine the soul of a character, you have to cover all the apsects--quirks, habits, expressions, actions, vocabulary, physical structure, and personality--that are the focus of judging a person’s inner-self. In "Carrie," Brian DePalma pays attention to all these things and more, as he slowly peels back the layers of a young teenage girl who has powers that frighten her. The title sequence, where you witness all the girls in the locker room showering and dressing, is an example of how DePalma has revealed all the roots of King’s character. As Carrie showers, menstruation begins for the first time, and since her mother tells her nothing about periods or puberty, she is scared, frightened, and ridiculed by all the people in the locker room. Only the gym teacher notices that she doesn’t understand.

After being sent home, we meet Carrie’s religiously-obsessed mother Margaret, played stunningly by Piper Laurie. She hears the news of Carrie’s first period, and is shocked. She considers menstruation and the signs of fertility as clues of breaking chastity. With her contradictory beliefs in Jesus Christ and the ‘good lord,’ she locks Carrie in the closet and orders her to pray for forgiveness. Carrie, who at this point slowly begins manifesting her telekinetic power, does what her mother says and stays clear of any trouble.

One of the girls named Sue (Amy Irving) feels guilt for what she and the others did to Carrie, and as a last-minute decision, asks her boyfriend to ask Carrie out to the prom sort of as a chance to say she’s sorry. It’s a decision which he accepts, and when he pops the question, Carrie refuses at first. Then, as he becomes increasingly impatient, she accepts the offer and agrees to go the prom with him.

Meanwhile, the entire gym class is punished at school for terrorizing Carrie. After one of the students walks off the field in frustration and refusal of the punishment, she captures her boyfriend (John Travolta) in a sexual encounter so that she can convince him to play a cruel joke on Carrie at Senior Prom. They butcher a herd of pigs and milk the blood from their bodies, which would be used to soak Carrie and embarrass her in front of the entire Senior class when she is faultly elected Prom Queen.

Appropriate attention is paid to every part of the movie. We get to know Carrie for the sweet, shy girl she really is, at the same time of getting to know the cruel and selfish pranksters she is put up against. By the time the ultimate prank is carried out, there’s a twist so incredibly unexpected and frightening that it’s fascinating. The tables turn, and half the Senior class ends up dead after Carrie manipulates the gym with her telekinesis. Returning home to an enraged mother, more twists and surprises follow, until the movie closes with the shocker of them all. I won’t dare reveal any more, because so much of it is so wisely written and executed that Brian DePalma should be declared one of the greatest American film directors.

All of the details and twists from King’s original masterpiece are demonstrated through the movie in almost exact structure. A teacher of mine once said that the best movies always stay on target of the theme and structure of the books they are adapted from. As is the case with a movie like "Carrie," the step-by-step direct approach is inevitable. King’s book is much too precious to change in movie-form.

© 1999, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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