Several people are hunted by a cruel serial killer who kills his victims in their dreams. While the survivors are trying to find the reason for being chosen, the murderer won't lose any chance to kill them as soon as they fall asleep.
It's nearing the end of the school year. High school senior Carrie White is a social outcast, largely due to being unwise to the ways of the world based on her upbringing. Her mother, Margaret White, is a religious fanatic, her extreme views primarily targeted against sex, which she believes is a sin. She even believes natural associated processes such as menstruation are a sin, about which she has refused to mention to Carrie. Mrs. White's beliefs were taken to that extreme largely because of her own failed marriage and her husband Ralph long ago having run off with another woman. The only adult authority figure who tries to help Carrie with her life is her phys ed teacher, Miss Collins, who is nonetheless warned not to get too close to go against how Mrs. White chooses to raise Carrie, Mrs. White whose beliefs are well known in the community. An impromptu event that happens among Carrie's phys ed classmates against her leads to her classmates being punished. One of those students, ... Written by
"Carrie" is a melding of two great artists, in this case, Stephen King, who wrote the novel and Brian DePalma, who directed the film. This is a tense, exciting thriller that is also a sturdy character study. It's hard to make a film that can accomplish both, but DePalma does it.
King's novel mostly dealt with a telekinetic girl who is cruelly treated by her classmates. DePalma and screenwriter Lawrence Cohen follow the novel fairly closely, with the exception of the ending, which is a great deal more sensationalistic and better, in my opinion. (King himself liked the finale and the film, as stated in his exceptional study of the horror genre "Danse Macabre")
As is the case in most DePalma films, the technical credits are superb. The cinematography (by Mario Tosi)is extremely effective; colors and shadows have never been shot more effectively in a DePalma film since. The film score is by Pino Donaggio, and it marks the first collaboration between Donaggio and DePalma. (Bernard Herrmann died shortly after "Obsession" was completed) Donaggio is among the most underrated and overlooked composers of his time. His scores for "Dressed to Kill", "Blow Out" and "Body Double" are all exceptional and all deserved Oscars. "Carrie" is no less brilliant, as it accomplishes what all great scores are supposed to do: enhance the film without giving anything away. Paul Hirsch's editing is also extremely effective as it was in "Sisters", "Obsession", "Blow Out" and "Raising Cain".
But it is the performances that make "Carrie" stand out. Carrie is played by Sissy Spacek in a performance of such power and strength that she received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress (the first actress ever to be nominated for a horror film; the second would be Sigourney Weaver for "Aliens")She manages to hit all the right notes. A lesser actress would have veered toward melodrama. Spacek plays the role more realistically and the film is much more effective that way. (Just in case you didn't know, Spacek was a DePalma regular, but off-screen; she was the art director for several of his early pictures). Also, "Carrie" marked the return of Piper Laurie to films after a too-long hiatus (her last credit was "The Hustler") Here, she plays Carrie's mother. Again, a lesser actress would have veered toward melodrama, but Laurie resists the temptation. Her performance is a real knockout and also garned an Oscar nomination (she should have won, but typical Academy genius set in and gave the prize to Beatrice Straight who was in "Network" for a whopping 10 minutes and really didn't do much.)Also, as a side note, this film also is a start for some future DePalma regulars such as John Travolta (his first major studio film) and Nancy Allen (her first major role)
What I really liked about "Carrie" is the absolutely perfect ending. I had commented before that "Sisters" had an absolutely perfect ending. The one thing about Brian DePalma is that he knows how to end a picture. "Dressed to Kill" had a really good one, although some people hated it as well as "Blow Out". "The Fury" has the greatest ending of all the DePalma thrillers.
A small note to finish: In 1999, "Carrie 2" was made by profiteers at MGM. Despite a rich premise, the film was an artistic failure. DePalma had nothing to worry about. The sequel (retread might be a better word) lacks everything that makes DePalma's original so good. Rent or buy the original, on tape (in pan-and-scan or widescreen)and DVD (widescreen)and forget the sequel, even if they give it away.
**** out of 4 stars
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