Tuesday, October 8, 2019

31 Days of Halloween: "Carrie" 1976

I have a daughter, and even though she is one years old, I worry all the time about when she goes to school and the possibility that she will be bullied. I know that's probably extreme, and that anything like that is completely out of my control. But, I've always possessed a nasty habit of jumping to conclusions. I'm a big, fat worry-wart. I love my daughter very much and I want what's best for her at all times, even though I'm thinking way too ahead and there's nothing I can do to stop any of that. Rest assured, she won't be treated like how Margaret White treats Carrie White in "Carrie."

It wouldn't be a Halloween-themed October without some Stephen King. The original novel was the first book King got published, and it coincidentally was the first King book I ever read. The book gave me the creeps, and the 1976 movie adaptation certainly did too. For anybody unaware of the novel or any of its many adaptations. Carrie White is an unpopular girl at high school who is vicious bullied by everybody at her school. She then gets to go home and spend time with her hysterically religious mother Margaret. Carrie slowly begins to learn that she has telekinetic powers and begins harnessing those powers, practicing with them. Essentially when the bullying goes a step too far at her prom, she uses her powers to get revenge on those who mocked her. Basically, its the Stephen King version of Cinderella.

Sissy Spacek plays Carrie White and she is to die for in the role. When it comes to Stephen King adaptations, very few of them ever end up being revered as great. "Carrie" has stood the test of time, and its because it remains spooky. But I do appreciate how tender and innocent much of the first half of the movie plays. You really do feel tremendous empathy for Carrie. She's introverted yes, but her social life sucks, her home life sucks and she just wants to be left alone. Its really easy to feel for her, and when the movie moves into its darker territory, it never feels like a cop out. 

In fact, the movie never really gets super scary until the last half hour, when Carrie finally lets loose on her powers once she's finally had enough of her tormentors. When two kids prank her via dumping pigs blood on top of her head, the film enters hallucinatory mode, we are never really sure if all the students and teachers are really laughing at her. We just get the idea that she's tired of her bad hand in life. The scene of Carrie taking out all of her classmates still holds water today. It might look a little outdated watching a fire hose shoot water by itself, but much like the movies of the 1970's, there was a very matter-of-fact way people died in movies. It always felt very raw. Even though we are in the 21st Century, fight scenes and deaths in movies just seem very fake these days. 

Can we go ahead and talk about Piper Laurie's work as Margaret, the evil mother in this movie. She literally stalked my nightmares growing up when I finally saw the movie. Not just the twisted way she spews religious rhetoric. There's a scene when Carrie gets home from the prom and goes upstairs to her bathtub to clean the blood off of her and the camera slowly follows her into the bathroom. For a whole five minutes we kind of see Margaret standing by herself behind a door. She never once says anything to Carrie during this scene. It's the weirdest fucking scene in any movie and it gets under my skin every time. Such a simple scene that has so much power. And the way she wide-eyed smiles while carrying a bloody knife down the stairs, I am getting shivers thinking about it. Stellar casting, just stellar.

Look for John Travolta, he doesn't have many scenes, but he does make them count. P.J. Soles was also one of the most adorable actresses of the 70's and she appeared in many of my favorites of that decade and she doesn't disappoint here. The acting is solid across the board and there are small things that really freak you out. (I get the willies starring at the White family's light-up Jesus). I wish when someone sat down to make a Stephen King adaptation, they used this movie as a template. We'd probably get more good adaptations.

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