October 29, 2018

Carrie (1976)
Grade: 70/100

Director: Brian De Palma
Stars: Sissy Spacek, Amy Irving, Nancy Allen

What it's about. Set in a stereotypical white suburb. Carrie (Sissy Spacek) lives with her single mother (Piper Laurie), a domineering religious zealot. Carrie is a shy and socially withdrawn high school student, bullied by the hottie "cool" girls in her classes.

Their cruelty to Carrie earns them detention with Collins (Betty Buckley), a phys-ed teacher who compels the girls to exercise to the point of exhaustion. They plot an elaborate and malicious revenge against poor Carrie.

Sue (Amy Irving) convinces her naive boyfriend Tommy (William Katt) to ask Carrie to the prom. Because it is a movie, Carrie soon agrees, despite her mother's weird and strenuous objections.

While Tommy is cluelessly fulfilling the date, Chris (Nancy Allen) and her boyfriend Billy (John Travolta) place of bucket of hog blood above the stage rafters. Norma (P.J. Soles) rigs the votes to make Tommy and Carrie prom king and queen, to place them on the stage where Carrie can be pranked. But what the mean girls don't know is that Carrie has spectacular telekinetic powers that are not to be trifled with.

Carrie was remade twice, as a 2002 made-for-television movie and as a 2013 theatrical feature, but those adaptations have made minimal cultural impact.

How others will see it. Stephen King eventually became one of the most commercial successful authors of all time, but it was the first film adaptation of Carrie that put him on the path toward great wealth and glory.

The fairly low budget Carrie was one of the top Hollywood moneymakers of the year, and critics were surprisingly supportive, despite their usual disdain for the horror genre. The film received two Oscar acting nominations, Best Actress (Spacek) and Best Supporting Actress (Piper Laurie).

Today at imdb.com, the movie has an impressive 146K user votes and a more than respectable user rating of 7.4. Among women, the ratings rise with advancing age, from 7.4 under 30 to 7.7 over 45. Clearly, this is a film that appeals about equally across all major demographics.

The imdb user reviews are full of praise for all concerned, with director De Palma and the cast bathed in compliments. Incongruously negative user reviews do exist, of course, but they are in a decided minority.

How I felt about it. Laurie's casting was curious. She had retired from acting ten years before; her last theatrical movie was The Hustler (1961). Laurie decided from the script that her character was comic. She camps it up, and appears to be enjoying herself.

It all works, even though most of the "students" appear to be in their mid-20s. Certainly, male viewers won't care, given that Irving, Allen, and Soles are the cutest antagonist trio to be found in a movie from the 1970s.

It is true that De Palma followed up Carrie with The Fury (1978), another horror movie featuring young people with deadly supernatural powers. His other films are less impressive, though Carlito's Way was pretty good.

Still, the greatest asset of Carrie wasn't the director, and it wasn't the effusive John Travolta in his warm-up for Saturday Night Fever. It has to be said that Sissy Spacek is magnificent here, given what she has to do, and work with. The method actress is completely convincing as an introverted girl afraid of her own shadow, yet able to lash out against those who cross her.