Stephen King adaptations seem to miss way more often they hit as movies. And for me, I think the strike rate is even worse than box office receipts would show. Even something like The Shining, which has an amazing reputation among movie nerds, never grabbed me. As is legally require by anyone of my generation, I really love Stand By Me. And The Shawshank Redemption is one of those movies I can’t turn off if I stumble across it while channel surfing. Which I guess means I like his non-horror stories way more than the horror work that made him the highest selling author of all time and possibly the most adapted by Hollywood. And that all began with his first published novel that would also go on to be the first to be made into a movie, Carrie.
In what has to be one of the greatest pieces of casting ever, Sissy Spacek is Carrie, a lonely, strange girl, isolated from the realities of life by her crazy, protective, religious mother (Piper Laurie). Everything different about Carrie has also made her the target of the popular, pretty girls at school. After the latest round of abuse at school, Carrie is taken under the wing of Betty Buckley’s gym teacher, Miss Collins.
Miss Collins threatens the mean girls with being banned from the prom after their last piece of emotional abuse, and head bitch Chris (Nancy Allen) decides to get the ultimate revenge, with the help of her boyfriend Billy (John Travolta) and a whole mess of pig’s blood. Meanwhile, former mean girl Sue (Amy Irving) has decided to try to make amends by having her dreamboat boyfriend Tommy (William Katt) take Carrie to the prom. Oh, and because this is a Stephen King story, Carrie is also developing telekinetic powers while all of this is going on.
Everything good about Carrie comes down to Sissy Spacek. That vacant look behind her dead doll’s eyes… The slumped over, beaten down posture of someone with no concept of confidence… The look of evil and cold satisfaction that comes when she unleashes her powers… All of these things make what is a ludicrous character within a ludicrous story seem kind of believable.
Watching Carrie for the first time, I guess I can kind of see why it’s still so famous and iconic today, more than 35 years later. But it didn’t blow me away in a way that makes me now want to read more King horror and watch more horror movies. It’s a silly story taken just seriously enough by De Palma and his actors that it’s kind of scary and intense. I’m kind of glad I’ve filled a hole in my movie knowledge, but at the same time, it didn’t have any surprises for me that hadn’t been ruined years ago after a lifetime of references, parodies and knock offs.
Directed By – Brian De Palma
Written By – Lawrence D Cohen