While people are tentatively going to the cinema to see the hideous 2013 version of Carrie, I got the chance to see the original Carrie, and for the first time at that. Carrie completely redefined the “horror” genre for me. I’ve seen three horror films prior in my life – Ring, Scream 4 and Prometheus (which, yes, I consider horror) – and I cannot stand the terror.
Yet I took Carrie to the prom – and immensely enjoyed it. The experience is different watching this film now, rather than in 1972, because everyone knows the story: Carrie, a friendless teenager, is asked to the prom by a popular boy, and at the prom, a horrible prank is played on her – to which Carrie, with the secret power of telekinesis, replies even more horribly. The story is well–known, the details not so much.
Piper Laurie, who plays Carrie’s religion–crazed mother, puts on a performance of a lifetime. She is absolutely hideous and terrifying and never redeems herself. Her biggest sin was sleeping with Carrie’s father. A child brought into this world by such disgust to live with a maniac like Mrs. White, it’s no wonder she is a shy girl, covered in long blond hair and buried in books. She’s the quiet kid. She loves her mother, though. She doesn’t know to blame her. But soon enough, she learns to.
Carrie, the film, made it in the first scene – a girls’ dressing room. Carrie’s in the shower and starts her period. Her mother hasn’t informed her and later on, nobody understands how a girl that age did not know. Carrie thinks she’s bleeding to death and the other girls, cruel to her anyway, start throwing tampons and pads at her. “Why didn’t you tell me, mama,” she pleads her mother later: for punishment, she gets sent to the closet. Not for saying this, but for having sinned by getting her period. Both scenes, the girls mocking her, as well as with Mrs. White are brilliantly made. It could be a teen drama, but De Palma makes it not so.
Fast–forwarding now, at the prom, after having the pig blood prank played at her, Carrie finally snaps and unleashes her telekinetic powers. She’s not thinking clearly, she’s not even seeing clearly – she is imagining everyone, including the one person who has been nice to her, teacher Miss Collins, laughing at her. That’s the final straw for Carrie. She locks the doors with her mind… and the blood bath that follows is astonishing. Sissy Spacek looks at it all with eyes as big as the moon, pulling off the perfect Carrie.
The final scene wraps this film up with something truly creepy. The scene was shot backwards to make it dreamlike, and it’s beautifully eerie. For me, though, the film’s biggest asset was it being horror with few of the elements I considered horror before watching Carrie. Truly incredible.