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At its heart, Carrie is not a 'horror film', but a film about horror.
The subject matter is physical and emotional abuse; time and time again DePalma returns to the theme of abuse to create a sense of anxiety and dread. And although our hapless heroine is the primary target of abuse (from her mother, her peers, and 'authority') abuse is also meted out liberally to others---violence against women (Travolta/Allen), and public humiliation by authority figures (Buckley/her gym class) also add to the discomfort level (the John Travolta-Nancy Allen relationship is defined solely by abuse---and they in turn are the initiators of Carrie's humiliation).
Except for Betty Buckley's gym teacher, all the characters are cartoonish archetypes---and almost all of these achetypes are brilliantly drawn. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie deservedly have been singled out for praise, but DePalma even managed to get the right performance out of decidedly untalented performers like Nancy Allen, William Katt (who is immeasurably aided by the kind of meticulous lighting that would have made Joan Crawford envious), and P.J. Soles.
Buckley deserves special mention, because she does amazing things with a completely underwritten role. By humanizing what could have been just one more cartoon (the lesbian gym teacher---lesbianism is never mentioned, but Buckley's subtle performance affirms what she has acknowledged in interviews--that she played her character as a lesbian) she provides a central point of reality that keeps the film from spinning completely out of control.
DePalma's intent was clearly not to scare the audience, but to make the audience watch the film from a distance, deliberately plagarizing two of the most notable sequences in film history---Hitchcock's shower sequence and Eisenstein's use of the three-perspective split screen. The shower scene takes place early in the film, cuing the audience into the fact that this is a film ABOUT film. And in the climactic prom sequence, DePalma distances himself, and the audience, from the bloodbath on the screen by reminding us through the 'theft' from Eisenstein that its just a movie at the most critical moment.
There are two significant flaws in the film. For some reason, DePalma interjected a 'fast forward' comedy sequence involving the purchase of tuxedos--the sequence serves no purpose in the film, other than to restate the obvious fact that this is 'just a movie'.
The second flaw is Amy Irving's performance. Its not horrible by any means, but it just doesn't work. Irving has grown as an actress since then (she was the only decent thing about the execrable sequel to Carrie) but the demands made of her in Carrie were beyond her skills at the time it was made. 'Chris' was supposed to be the conscience of the film, but winds up as wishy-washy.
Oh, and DON'T watch this film on commercial television--rent the video. DePalma engages in some sacriligeous imagery that is ALWAYS cut from the film when it is shown on television---imagery that justifies the penultimate sequence of the film itself, and brings closure to it.
Youthful energy. That's what this is -- and what it is
Spacek, King and Depalma are all at their most committed exuberance. Sometimes callow, but sometimes so rawly honest one often tingles quite apart from the story. See it on this basis alone. DePalma's camera has a sense of dance -- Scorcese does too, but DePalma's is more emotional. Spacek is so clean in her acting that her ability frightens. How strange it went away, like a poltergism.
The story has a haunting tone, also centered on youth and yearning. Menarche as a horror, the innocent acceptance/fear of the basest religion, the brash director intelligently spoofing Hitchcock. Odd mix that, so an odd and intriguing experience.
High school misfit Carrie (Sissy Spacek) unleashes her telekinetic fury on her tormentors. This was a huge hit in 1976 and scared me silly. It doesn't scare me now (except for the closing sequence), but I still think it's a good solid horror film beautifully handled by Brian De Palma. It moves quickly, has some beautiful imagery (everything is shot soft focus with muted color) and has almost uniformally good performances. The only bad one is by John Travolta way out of his depth playing a hood. Amy Irving (as a student who befriends Carrie), William Katt (with a very 70s afro), Nancy Allen (playing a real bitch), Betty Buckley (so young and full of energy) and P.J. Soles (silly but bearable) are all perfect. But Spacek is superb matched by Piper Laurie who is very scary and marvelous as her deranged, religious mother. Also the film is (by today's standards) very restrained in terms of blood and gore. And the final sequence will make you jump (also notice the cars in the background during that--they're moving backwards!) Only complaints--De Palma REALLY hates some of the high school kids--you feel like like he's working out some personal issues here. And did we really need the slow-mo shower sequence at the beginning? That aside--this is a great film. See it letter boxed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a classic film. So I had seen it before today. But I was a kid, and I seem to remember the shock-scary parts as the catalysts to my nightmares, and not much about the rest.
Today, I saw it again, armed with a huge backlog of movies. I have seen enough to discriminate the bad from the good, the mediocre from the excellent. And Carrie is certainly excellent.
OK, so the premise is at first glance a little weird and far-fetched, but hey, that's Stephen King. What Stephen King also does is to somehow get these far-fetched situations blended in with believable reality. He creates a sort of grey zone between horror and reality. I suppose that's what makes his books frightening enough to entertain millions.
Anyway, this is not a litterary review. Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is a girl in her senior year of high school, raised by a fanatically christian woman (excellently played by a psycotically frizzy-haired Piper Laurie). She is teased and made fun of because of her naivety and oddness.
So, a stereotypical bitch girl in Carrie's class, looking hideously 70s right down to the 'who wears' short shorts, plots a nasty, nasty surprise for Carrie. Without giving too much away, this surprise comes right at a time when Carrie is truly happy, for the first time in her life.
It is in this classic scene, before and after the prank, that you see that Sissy Spacek is perfect as Carrie. She is introduced in the film as a shy, odd-looking, bland girl. Before the prank, she beams and smiles and she is beautiful. The change is truly remarkable. After the prank, well, she is pretty scary. All these attributes are contained perfectly within Spaceks appearance and acting. It's a shame we don't see her in more movies.
The storytelling, as I have said in my one-line summary, is excellent. The foreshadowing of the prank is subtely and deftly introduced, so that the viewer knows in advance what's going to happen. Everyone, it seems, knows. Everyone but Carrie. We feel sorry for her and are on her side afterwards as well. This is something of a feat to pull off in Hollywood's 'white-teeth-big-jaw-squeaky-clean-super-hero' ideal.
Carrie's internal development (excuse the pun) is paced just as well. Her growing rebellions against her mother, her realization that there is more to life than bible bashing...all the way through she blooms. The symbolism is perhaps a bit overstated in places (Who ever saw a Jesus figure that looked quite like that?) but is none the less quite effective, and drenches through the film appropriately.
Brian DePalma is excellent at making movies that appeal on many levels. As a kid, I liked the scary parts. My mother, whom I watched it with, enjoyed it for the human interaction and the bitchiness of the girls and their 'reward'. I, as I have pointed out, enjoyed the pacing and the whole imagery of the film. Something for everyone.
Oh, wait. There is one thing. The sight of Tommy Ross (William Katt) in his tuxedo is just awful. He is supposed to look sexy - the big catch at the prom - but his huge curly hair and the large lapels on his turqouise suit under his enourmous bow tie serve as a hideous reminder that the seventies were The Decade That Taste Forgot.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Carrie(1976) opens with a moment that would set the tone for the rest of
story. Moment in the shower represents an open awareness of the main
character's sexuality and her confusion. De Palma builds and builds the
moment with an effectiveness that never quiets down. Sissy Spacek conveys
emotions of confusion and hysteria powerfully depicted by her facial
expressions. A moment when you can feel pity for Carrie White because of
the mean treatment she receives from classmates.
Before Carrie(1976), Brian De Palma was known for his forays into comedies with exception of Sisters(1973), and Obsession(1976). After Carrie(1976), De Palma started to become famous for his horror/thriller features, which displayed many homages to his fave direrctor, Alfred Hitchcock as well as Dario Argento, and Mario Bava. He may not be original when it comes to some of his storylines, but at his best makes things entertaining and interesting. The Prom massacre scene is directed with some finesse, although it does feel at times that he goes overboard with the split-screen effects. The genius of Carrie(1976) is to depict the emotional meltdown of a young woman who is tormented from all sides and fronts.
An intriquing look into the behavior and mind set of the teenager and the difficulties that comes with being one. The performances in the film are quite convincing in showing the cruel and nasty nature that teens who are outsiders go through every day of their life. Carrie White is portrayed in a sympathetic light whose hidden feelings of anger can be understandable. Chris Hargensen(played by Nancy Allen) is a character you love to hate because of her mean attitude towards Carrie White. Probably the meanest and most unpleasent character Nancy Allen has played in film.
One of the best film adaptations from a Stephen King book besides The Dead Zone(1983), and Misery(1990). Definitely introduced the world to the writings of King, and ended up making a household name out of him as a writer of horror literature. The film plays a nice homage from a moment in Deliverance(1972) during the final moments of Carrie(1976). The Prom massacre is one of the scariest moments in horror films that would be reworked into the final scene in Ms. 45(1981). A classic 1970s horror pic that hasn't lost its touch in creating something so frightening, and very much heart chilling.
When picked-on high schooler Carrie White discovers to her horror that she's been made the butt of a nasty prank, she unleashes her secret powers at the school prom and all hell literally comes loose. This sequence, filmed in split-screen, is a canny marvel of technical wizardry, twisted imagination and production design (check out that gorgeous blaze that erupts behind Sissy Spacek). The cinematographer lights everything up like fluorescent goodies in a candy-box (the continuity problems with Carrie's appearance here can be overlooked). But Carrie's anger is all encompassing--it's a high school holocaust--and some of her victims are innocents, like the gym teacher (played very sensitively by Betty Buckley). Carrie has become as bad as her enemies, and director Brian De Palma doesn't seem to understand the irony (he's also too interested in girl-peeping, although to his credit nobody comes off looking foolish). The picture is fun on the surface, but has a depressing undermining that is never quite resolved. Spacek's performance in the lead is flawless; Piper Laurie exceptional as her deranged mother (it was her comeback role, Oscar-nominated, yet it nearly typed her as a horror-movie actress); Nancy Allen, P.J. Soles, and William Katt are excellent as Carrie's classmates; Amy Irving is intriguing as schoolmate Sue who just wants to do the right thing (Pauline Kael of The New Yorker complained that Sue's role in the disaster wasn't made clear, but I disagree. I think she's conflicted and guilty and wants to help, wants to see Carrie bask in some of the glory which she helped create). Although an improvement over the Stephen King source novel, "Carrie" isn't perfect and is weighed down somewhat with dirty jokes and cheap laughs. Certainly it is a stylish picture, with beautiful (if repetitive) music by Pino Donaggio, and the final sequence is still being copied today. *** from ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Carrie is directed by Brian De Palma and adapted by Lawrence D. Cohen
from the debut novel of the name written by Stephen King. It stars
Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Betty Buckley, Amy Irving, William Katt,
Nancy Allen & John Travolta. Pino Donaggio scores the music and Mario
Tosi is the cinematographer.
Carrie White (Spacek) is the outsider at school, dominated at home by her fanatically religious mother (Laurie), Carrie is unmercifully teased by her class mates when she reacts with terror to her first menstrual period. When Miss Collins (Buckley) the teacher decides to punish the girls for their actions, it sets the wheels in motion for Carrie to unearth telekinetic powers that could spell devastation for anyone close to her.
As pretty much everyone on the DVD documentaries says, nobody involved with making Carrie had any idea it would become the much loved classic that it is. Made for $1.8 million, it made almost $34 million domestically alone. Garnering award nominations, something of a rarity for horror movies, it also stands proud as one of the most influential movies in the horror genre. Be it the wave after wave of High School based horrors that would follow, or the now standard use of the unexpected jolt, Carrie has earned its place on any best of horror list. Not bad considering both De Palma and King don't feel it's necessarily a horror film! But that's for discussion elsewhere me thinks.
De Palma astutely grabs us from the off, after we are quickly introduced to Carrie White on the volleyball court, where she subsequently loses the game for her side, we shift to the locker room and Carrie takes a shower. Cut to slow motion as the girls lark and pamper themselves in various forms of undress. Shot in steam based soft focus by Tosi as Donaggio's score swirls with playful emotion. Then BAM! Having lulled us in to a false sense of security De Palma brings the blood, menstrual blood. It's an attention grabber alright and it's a testament to how great Carrie is that the attention is held right to that jolting finale. Blood, as those who have seen it know, is pivotal to Carrie's structure, from the shower room to prom night, and on to a bit of a family tete a tete. Not a horror film my eye Brian & Stephen.
For those who wish to delve into sub-texts, meanings and motives etc, Carrie's a good film for those of that mind. But again, that's for discussion elsewhere. I just love to view Carrie as a sharp story told exceptionally well, a movie that manages to pull my emotions in a number of directions. Anger, love, sympathy, revulsion and even a wave of guilty triumphalism, it's all there as De Palma crafts what is arguably his masterpiece. Spacek represents one of the best casting decisions of the 70s, the ugly beauty thing is down pat and the vulnerability extraordinary. Laurie brings the real monster of the piece, religion gone berserker; so brilliantly essayed. The young cast shine bright, notably Nancy Allen, while Donaggio's score is to die for: resplendent with Herrmannesque string stabs.
Carrie may look dated now, but its ability to shock and trouble the cranium still exists on revisits. A masterful piece of film making, where even the use of split screens avoids charges of gimmickry. If only more King adaptations to the screen could be like this. 9/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Film adaptions of Stephen King books tend to be either really good or really
bad. Thankfully, this movie falls into the former category. In fact, this
could be the best King novel-turned film ever.
At first, this movie seems to be your typical high school film. We're introduced at once to Carrie (Sissy Spacek) and the hellish life that she lives. Everyone at school picks on her and make her life a living hell. As if that wasn't bad enough, she lives with her mother (Piper Laurie) who's a religious fanatic, thinks everything is a sin and regularly locks Carrie in the closet. You can't help but sympathise for her.
Unknown to everyone, however, Carrie has telekinetic powers. At first, her powers are really underplayed in the film. By the time the prom scene approaches though, they become more and more prominent. Carrie uses them against her mother while waiting for her prom date and then she uses them at the prom in a very destructive manner. The whole prom scene is both scary and sad. Sad because Carrie finally has her moment where it looks like she's finally been accepted only to have it all end in humiliation. And it's scary to see her powers come full circle in such a destructive and deadly manner. The scene where she slowly walks out of the gym as it burns is a really chilling moment.
While this is a scary movie that has earned its place as a horror classic, it's also a really sad movie as well. Carrie's life is miserable from the beginning right to the end. Watching Carrie kill all of her tormenters at the prom is every high school misfit's dream come true. Carrie has her revenge, but at what price?
"Carrie" is a classic horror film every horror fan should watch. It's well-directed with the right amount of atmosphere in just the right places and Spacek and Laurie are simply outstanding in their roles. Recommended!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"I'm coming out, I want the world to know." - Diana Ross
In "Sisters", director Brian De Palma has a Siamese twin take on the personality of her homicidal "other half". In "Obsession", he has a daughter takes on an incestuous role (largely edited out by studios), usurping her dead mother and symbolically "marrying" her father. In "Dressed to Kill", he has a transvestite's "feminine half" killing women in an attempt to instigate a sex change operation.
With "Carrie", which revolves around the tumultuous life of a schoolgirl named Carrie White (Sissy Spacek), De Palma continues his kinky gender wars. Every woman in "Carrie" is understood entirely in terms of their own sexual frustrations. Carrie's mother and teacher are middle aged loners. One is a religious fundamentalist, the other a lonely romantic. On Carrie's prom night, both women vie for Carrie. One views the prom as a vile ritual, the other recalls her own prom as a moment of adolescent innocence.
The younger generation of women within the film represent a similar polarity. We have Sue, a well meaning monogamist who wants to help Carrie, and Chrissy, a mean nymphomaniac who wants to destroy Carrie. Both their boyfriends take on a similar duality. Chrissy's boyfriend (John Travolta) is an over-sexed alpha male whilst Sue's boyfriend is a kind-hearted poet. What's interesting is that both men are submissive to their women, as are virtually all male characters in the film.
Significantly, Carrie begins the film as a child, but pushes into womanhood when hen she menstruates in a shower. As Carrie's mother was sexually abused in the past, a fact which leads her to both reject femininity and transpose her fears onto her daughter, Carrie's own rites of passage is made to seem terrifying. Later, Carrie's peers seek to reawaken the woman "within" her, while others seek to destroy "it". At the prom, these two ideals - repressed femininity vs promiscuity - collide with Carrie in the middle. In either case, Carrie has no control over her own sexual identity.
Visually, De Palma's film is special, virtually every sequence idiosyncratically shot. Watch, for example, how he begins each act with grand brush strokes. In the first, he paints Carrie as a loner, his camera constantly "finding her" outside of the crowd. Epitomizing this is a crane shot which begins high above a girl's volleyball court and ends with the camera swooping down and finding Carrie ostracised from the group. The following scene is a dreamy shower sequence. Here various girls are portrayed as naked nymphs, in touch with their free-flowing sexuality, a far cry from the more repressed Carrie, who is once again alone. De Palma's next shot continues this pattern. We're floating through school hallways, watching kids go by, until we find Carrie, all by herself. When Carrie returns to school the next day, the camera will again probe the classroom, before finding her seated alone at the back.
With each act of the film, De Palma's camera adapts to reflect changes in Carrie's psychology. Act one, she's a loner at school. Act two, she's oppressed at home by her mother (and God). Act 3, she caught in a tug of war between various female characters. Act 4, Carrie is part of the group. Act 5, Carrie is betrayed by the group. Act 6, Carrie transcends and destroys the group with her newfound powers.
Each act is shot with an emphasis on different colours and with its own camera language. The crane shots in the first half mirror the crane shots in the prom sequence, only now Carrie is engulfed in crowds of well wishers. When pigs' blood falls upon Carrie, a mean prank which echoes earlier, humiliating menstruation sequences, Carrie is again quickly detached from the group. The film is also book-ended by two symbolic shower scenes. In the first Carrie attains womanhood (and is mocked for it), in the second she revokes it in favour for self-repression. Here she essentially becomes her repressed mother, which De Palma highlights by having Carrie put on her mother's gown.
But when her mother ALSO turns against her, Carrie is forced to break free. She rejects all these female characters (all the school girls are female archetypes) and blazes her own trail. Say hello to next generation femininity: empowered and answering to no one.
Carrie's mother is also a fairly interesting character. As Carrie prepares for the prom, her mother prays to herself, sexually rocking back and forth with a rosary. Because the absence of sex in her life is replaced by an exaggerated obsession with spirituality, her repressed sexual energy is released through this hallowed symbol. The rest of the film is similarly awash with sexuality and overt phallic symbols. Close ups of red lips, phallic shower heads, carrots, castration, thin gowns and gym shorts etc.
What's also interesting is De Palma's use of the famous music shriek from Psycho. Critics accuse De Palma of stealing from Hitch, but the sound effect also makes an interesting statement. Hitchcock's film dealt with an oppressive mother and focused on her damaging effect on her grown son. "Carrie" is a film devoid of men or sons - though a wholly patriarchal religion weights heavily on Carrie - and instead focuses on oppositions within a kind of female collective.
The film's final scene (a dream sequence), shows the only self sacrificing (she gave up her man to help another woman), conscientious young woman in the picture (Sue), haunted by the actions of both herself and womankind as a whole. Of all the dream sequence endings in De Palma's films - and there are many - this is perhaps the most optimistic.
8.5/10 - An early De Palma classic.
Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is a misunderstood young high schooler with
a freakishly obsessive Catholic mother (an amazing performance by Piper
Laurie) who borders on Neo-Nazi. She is horribly bullied at her high
school, especially by the sadistic Chris Hargenson (Nancy Allen), and
basically ignored by every person who isn't putting her down. So when
token nice girl Sue Snell (Amy Irving) decides she wants to build
Carrie's confidence by giving up her place at the prom and telling her
kind hearted jock boyfriend Tommy Ross (William Katt) to invite Carrie,
Carrie's mentor Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) smells trouble. Sue
promises all is well and Tommy ad Carrie run along to the prom. But
when Chris and her dimwitted boyfriend Billy (John Travolta's second
role) devise a horrible and humiliating prank, they don't take into
account what has manifested inside of Carrie after all those years of
torment, and how it will effect them in the films horrifying and very
Brian De Palma's famous horror film, adapted from Stephen King's chilling novel, is often noted as the ultimate in teenage revenge films. De Palma used his distinctive style to make a chilling and original horror film that really is the best example of 1970's horror, the style, music, clothes, acting, dialogue and pretty much everything in the film is like a time-warp. The editing very original and you can tell the makers of the film enjoyed creating it.
The acting is very fine, some of the best in any horror film out there. Sissy Spacek is great as the sympathetic freak, but at times you wanna slap her, she's so incredibly pathetic. Like when she's screaming about her period, running around nude. I can understand that she didn't realise what was happening, but running around like a lunatic, and bleeding on people through your vagina isn't gonna inspire sympathy from them. But since I read the book, I understand that was the intention. Piper Lurie was absolutely fantastic as the looney mother, and all the other performances were pretty passable. I have to mention PJ Soles. Her character was so awesome, I'd even go as far a to say that she was one of the (many) highlights of the film. Her character added a quirky charm the film that couldn't be matched by anybody else.
Some of the themes explored was Carrie's journey into adulthood, shown through the way she learnt to control her powers and discovering different parts of her body and different things she can do, most obviously her first period and her telekinesis.
Overall, CARRIE is an outstanding horror/drama. Any horror fan, or general film fan should check it out. 9/10
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