Saturday, October 03, 2015
Based on the novel by Stephen King, Carrie is the story of a tormented high school student whose troubled life finally comes to ahead when she later becomes the victim of a prank led by a group of her classmates. Directed by Brian de Palma and screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen, the film is an exploration into the world of bullying as well as the life of a young girl who is also abused at home by her very religious mother as the titular character is played by Sissy Spacek. Also starring Amy Irving, Nancy Alley, William Katt, John Travolta, P.J. Soles, Betty Buckley, and Piper Laurie. Carrie is a tremendously chilling and mesmerizing film from Brian de Palma.
After a young high school student is bullied and tormented prompting the school’s gym teacher to take action, the film revolves around a few students who decide to play a prank on this troubled young woman named Carrie White for the upcoming senior prom just as Carrie is discovering about her telekinetic powers. It’s a film that plays into this young woman who lives a very troubled life due to the fact that she is often abused by her very religious mother Margaret White (Piper Laurie) who believes that the world around Carrie is full of sin. Once Carrie’s classmates are forced to serve detention led by their gym teacher Miss Collins (Betty Buckley), one of them in Chris (Nancy Allen) conspires a plan to humiliate Carrie at the senior prom. It would play into this event at the prom where Carrie is asked by the school’s quarterback who is unaware of the prank where all things go to hell.
The film’s screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen plays into not just Chris’ plan to humiliate Carrie with the aid of her boyfriend Billy Nolan (John Travolta) but also Carrie discovering about her own unique powers. Even as Carrie is someone who is very naïve about herself as the film begins with a shower scene where she notices blood is coming out of her genitals unaware of the concept of menstruation due to the fact that her mother would shield a lot of things from her. While one of her tormentors in Sue Snell (Amy Irving) would express remorse as she asks her boyfriend Tommy Ross (William Katt) to ask Carrie to the prom. It is Chris that wants to take action as she would eventually get the help from her friend Norma (P.J. Soles) who also despises Carrie. The sense of momentum which helps build the suspense would be key to the story as is some of Cohen’s dialogue. Especially the chilling words that Margaret would say to her daughter including some off-the-wall humor including a scene where Margaret looks at the dress Carrie wears and how she refers to Carrie’s breasts.
Brian de Palma’s direction is very stylish from the way he presents the film’s opening credits with this slow gazing tracking shot of young women at the girl’s locker room where some of them are naked. In fact, much of de Palma’s direction is stylish in his usage of close-ups and medium shots to the way he can create moments of suspense at an instance which relates to Carrie’s telekinetic powers. The usage of tracking shots and long takes also add to de Palma’s sense of style including the way he circles Carrie and Tommy’s dance on a low angle as it showcases something that can be innocent and fun though something bad will happen to Carrie.
While there are elements of suspense and terror that looms in the film, de Palma does balance that with humor such as the detention sequence where Sue, Norma, Chris, and the rest of the girls who made fun of Carrie are forced to do exercise activities. Yet, it would add to some of the terror in what Chris and Billy would do as the climatic prom scene where de Palma’s usage of split-screens and other compositions would play into full-on horror at its most visceral. Even in its aftermath which involves Carrie and her mother where it relates to the idea of good vs. evil. Overall, de Palma creates a powerful and terrifying film about a tormented and sheltered young girl who gets pushed to the edge.
Cinematographer Mario Tosi does brilliant work with the film‘s colorful cinematography from the naturalistic yet dream-like look of the daytime exterior scenes to the stylish usage of lighting for some of the scenes at night and the scenes set at the prom. Editor Paul Hirsch does amazing work with the editing with its stylish usage of jump-cuts, split-screens, and other cutting styles to play into the film‘s humor and the element of suspense and terror. Art directors Jack Fisk and Bill Kenney, with set decorator Robert Gould, do excellent work with some of the set design from the school gym and the look of the prom to the home where Carrie and her mother lives in.
Costume designer Rosanna Norton does nice work with the costumes from the red cap that Norma wears as well as some the plain clothes that Carrie wears. Sound editors Dan Sable and Ron Kalish do superb work with the sound in creating sound textures to play into Carrie‘s own troubled state of mind as well as some scenes of terror that are key to the story. The film’s music by Pino Donaggio is phenomenal for its orchestral-based score that ranges from being somber and ethereal with its lush string arrangements to sounds of terror with screeching strings as well as some low-key pieces while music supervisor Michael Arciaga bring in a mixture of songs ranging from and pop music plus a couple of songs written by Donaggio.
The casting by Harriet B. Helberg is wonderful as it features some notable small roles from Priscilla Pointer as Sue’s mother, Edie McClurg as the classmate Helen, Cameron de Palma as a young kid taunting Carrie early in the film, Sydney Lassick and Stefan Gierasch as a couple of faculty members, and Michael Talbott as a friend of Billy who would help be involved with the prank. P.J. Soles is terrific as Chris’ friend Norma as tomboy of sorts who always wears a red cap and braids in her hair as she too shares a hatred for Carrie. John Travolta is fantastic as Chris’ delinquent boyfriend Billy Nolan who is a troublemaker and master prankster that doesn’t like to be insulted though he is an idiot. William Katt is superb as Tommy Ross as the most popular guy in school who is asked to take Carrie to the prom by Sue as he befriends her as he becomes one of the few who are really genuine towards her.
Betty Buckley is excellent as Miss Collins as the school’s gym teacher who knows about Carrie’s sheltered life as she tries to help her as well as make the girls who tormented her show the error of their ways. Amy Irving is brilliant as Sue Snell as one of Carrie’s tormentors who would later express remorse for her actions as she tries to stop the prank from happening. Piper Laurie is remarkable as Carrie’s very religious mother Margaret as this very crazy woman who sees evil all over as she tries to make sure her daughter stays in the straight and narrow as it’s a very scary performance. Finally, there’s Sissy Spacek in an incredible performance as the titular role as this young high school student who is this oddball that has no clue about some of the ways of the world as she copes with her powers and the presence of her mother as it is just a performance for the ages.
Carrie is a spectacular film from Brian de Palma that features great performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie. Along with an amazing supporting cast, top-notch technical work, and a brilliant score by Pino Donaggio, the film is definitely one of the finest films in horrors. Even as it is told with such style and wit by de Palma as it is one of his essential films. In the end, Carrie is a magnificent film from Brian de Palma.
Brian De Palma Films: (Murder a la Mod) - (Greetings) - (The Wedding Party) - (Dionysus in ‘69) - (Hi, Mom!) - (Get to Know Your Rabbit) - Sisters - (Phantom of the Paradise) - (Obsession) - The Fury - (Home Movies) - Dressed to Kill - Blow Out - Scarface - (Body Double) - (Wise Guys) - The Untouchables - Casualties of War - The Bonfire of the Vanities - Raising Cain - Carlito’s Way - Mission: Impossible - Snake Eyes - Mission to Mars - Femme Fatale - The Black Dahlia - (Redacted) - Passion (2012 film) - (Domino (2018 film))
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