Directed by Brian De Palma [Other horror films: Sisters (1972), Phantom of the Paradise (1974), The Fury (1978), Raising Cain (1992)]
For many reasons, Carrie has never been a favorite of mine. I generally enjoy the novel (and the rather unique, journalistic approach the novel takes to the events), but the story itself isn’t really my cup of tea. I enjoy movies that include revenge as much as many horror fans, and the prom sequence here is pretty spectacular, but in terms of enjoyment, the prom sequence (along with the finale as a whole), is about all the movie has to offer.
Don’t get me wrong – many of the main cast members here shine beautifully, such as Sissy Spacek (her performance, especially during the emotionally-tumultuous prom scene is fantastic) as Carrie, and she definitely does a great job. Playing her mother, a religious nutcase (more so than usual), Piper Laurie does amazing. I really liked William Cobb (who later starred in the horror-comedy House), and he too shone, especially during the prom sequence. John Travolta was more a curiosity than anything, and the three actresses Betty Buckley, Nancy Allen, and Amy Irving didn’t really do much for me. It was nice, though, to see P.J. Soles (Lynda from Halloween), despite her character being utterly irredeemable.
That’s one of the big problems for me in this movie – save for Spacek’s Carrie and Buckley’s character, and perhaps Cobb’s, there’s virtually no characters in the movie worth liking. As far as I’m concerned, Carrie never should have been left with a mother so utterly insane, period, and should have been moved out of the house. Related, if the school had done the proper thing and expelled each and every girl who heinously humiliated Carrie at the beginning, like they should have, things may have gone better instead of spiraling out of control.
Carrie didn’t do anything wrong in the movie, as far as I could tell (which is why, near the end, when there’s a spray-painted comment ‘Carrie White burns in hell’, I shake my head in frustration), and the sole blame of the incidents falls squarely and solely on Chris, Billy, and Norma. I think this is my biggest frustration, because none of those actually responsible for this really get the death they deserved, which was not at all satisfactory.
Parts of the movie just piss me off (such as the principal not having every single student who mocked Carrie expelled as his first reaction to the incident), and it’s hard to really enjoy a movie when there’s few characters to root for. I love the 70’s vibe (though that really odd comedic scene in the tuxedo shop, I could have done without), and I know that many 70’s films are a bit on the slower side, but very little of much interest happens before the prom scene, and that’s a problem.
The prom sequence is amazing. I loved the muted dialogue during the laughing, I loved the split screens, and even before the prank got pulled, I loved how Katt’s character really seemed to be enjoying his time with Carrie, and tried to get her to come out of her shell some. It was masterfully done, and if the rest of the movie was done as well as the prom was, then this would easily be in my top horror films for the decade.
Here’s the issue: I can think of at least 25 other horror films from the 1970’s that I’d rather watch again over this one. In fact, I will list ten horror films from the 1970’s that I find infinitely superior and far more enjoyable than Carrie: 1) The Wicker Man, 2) Deep Red, 3) Phantasm, 4) Halloween, 5) The Omen, 6) Burnt Offerings, 7) Theater of Blood, 8) Don’t Torture a Duckling, 9) Rituals, and 10) The Hills Have Eyes. And I can name many more than that, if need be.
Carrie is a classic to so many people, but a single, albeit fantastic, sequence, doesn’t make something a classic to me. Obviously, if Carrie is one of your favorite 70s flicks, by all means, hold onto that. But it’s nowhere in my Top 50 horror flicks of the 1970’s, and it’s not a movie that I find myself going back to. Overall, there are some great performances here, and some really solid content, but the movie is clearly below average in my opinion, and it’s not something I particularly enjoy much.
This is one of the films discussed on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if you’re interested in hearing Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss and somewhat debate this one, by all means, listen below.