Sunday, 9 August 2009

I mean, all the kids think I'm funny, and I don't wanna be. I wanna be normal, I wanna start to try me, a whole person, before it's too late for me

No 86 - Carrie
Director - Brian De Palma


I came into this expecting a horror. A horror film about a girl with telekinetic powers who goes insane and kills everyone. It is one of the few Stephen King novels I haven't read, and so I went into this film blind.

So - let me make one thing clear at the beginning. This is a horror film, in some senses of the word. But it isn't your conventional modern day horror. This is not a film about a monster, or a slasher - and whilst Carrie is high school girl driven to mass destruction, it isn't about an evil teenager with super powers killing everyone.

What makes this film really interesting, as a horror, is that the actual horror elements come from the cruelty of Carrie's class mates and the insanity of her mother. This is a behavioral horror. Not a conventional one.


The film follows Carrie, a quiet, naive girl who is bullied dreadfully and who has telekinetic powers. Think Matilda... only with no Mrs Honey influence and a massive tirade of vicious viscous hate.

My main confusion comes from the level and ferocity of the bullying within the school. It seems that the population of the school really truly hate Carrie. The reason they cite is that she is an outsider and strange. Whilst Carrie is an outsider, that doesn't explain the level of 'Carrie White Can Eat Shit' vehemence within the school.
The story begins with Carrie's gym class ganging up in complete ridicule in an utter overreaction to Carrie getting her period which (rightfully so) results in the group getting detention. The film is then about the gang planning their revenge for this detention.

It is the cruelest and most hard breaking set up. The group prepare for Carrie to experience the happiest moment of her life so they can crush it and publicly humiliate her. This is orchestrated by the genuinely evil Chris, played by Nancy Allen and her boyfriend. A wonderfully 1970s cameo from John Travolta.
In fact - the whole bitchy group of girls look massively 70s. Ridiculously so.... It is hard to think that Carrie can be alienated for being weird. She may have (quite massive) social interaction problems but she is one of the most normal looking people in the film.
She is bullied by a group that includes Norma - who NEVER removes her baseball cap. Even at the prom. And it is a stupid hat. Really stupid with little rainbows on it. Hardly tough girl clothes. There is also Helen who looks like Velma from Scooby Doo... (incidentally... I find it kind of strange just how attractive Velma from the movies is.... I think it is because of how attractive Linda Cardellini is).
So, seeing how bloody odd the 'normals' are, it seems very cruel to decide that Carrie should be treated so badly - and with such utter utter hatred.

Carrie's school bullying is exacerbated by the strict Christian fundamentalism of her mother who sees everything (including getting a period) as a sin that must be punished.
The idea of the dangers of fundamentalism is something that Stephen King is keen to talk about in his stories (again, look to The Mist for further proof) and Carrie's mother is a truly terrifying and horrific character.

Carrie's mother's main argument comes from the fact that Carrie gets invited to the prom by Tommy. Carrie's mother is worried that it is opening the door to all kinds of sin. But I was worried about something far worse. I was worried that Tommy was in on the horrific revenge 'prank' which was to take place at the prom.
Throughout the film it isn't clear whether he is with the schemers or acting independently. I spent the film hoping that he was acting independently because Tommy seems genuinely nice and brings out a shy loveliness in Carrie's character. Sissy Spacek (who I saw recently in the Straight Story and who was brilliant) plays with a naive excitement that is fantastic. But, horribly sad because you know that the prank is coming to ruin it all...

Luckily his surprise appears to be genuine when a bucket of pig's blood falls over Carrie and finally untaps the telekinetic rage which has been brewing for the entire film.
Everybody dies, with explosions and fire and electric shocks and lacerations. And some truly fantastic cinematography.
Go to here and watch the end bit of the video. There is amazing cinema as the blood drenched Carrie goes down the burning stairs - it feels like the culmination of all the hatred which Carrie has been victim to throughout the film.

There is also a wonderful bit of cinematography when Carrie's mother dies in exactly the same style (visually) as St Sebastian (who appears in scary statue form in Carrie's home). It seems to be an answer to Carrie's mother's dream - she is finally the martyr she wanted to be.

Wonderful shots and cinematography - but what do you expect from the director who gave us Phantom of the Paradise.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi-- I enjoyed your review, except I have to set you straight on at least one thing in the movie:

The prank is not set up by the gang of girls. While they are at detention, Chris (Nancy Allen) refuses to cooperate, and so the instructor tells her she can no longer go to the prom. THIS is what sets up the rage inside Chris, and she devises the prank. Only a select few know about the prank (and it seems to be more of a girl thing to hate Carrie White-- recall Travolta getting the bj from Chris and he says, "Who's Carrie White?").

fingersandtoes said...

Oooh I think I must see this now.

And why shouldn't Velma be hot? She's always been my favourite.