As Hallowe’en approaches, Video City’s own blood-sucking ghoul takes us on a trip
into the dark…
by Lally Pollen.
The original poster for Carrie shows two images of the same young girl. The first version of her is holding flowers in her arms, her long golden hair shining in the spotlight underneath a glittery crown, a blissful smile beaming down on her unseen audience.
The second is holding no flowers, her slick wet hair grips the sides of her head, its deep red hue almost lost against the dark background. Stark white glows from all sides of her pupils, her smile replaced by a hard, intensely focused stare. The blood covering her body hides the party frock, instead emphasising the protruding collar bones which cast shadows across her thin body.
This poster sums up the film well. It is about how girl one turns into girl two. A film about transformation, and not just Carrie’s but ours as well.
Based on the book by Stephen King, Carrie was released in 1976 and is amongst Brian De Palma’s first big hits. Carrie (Sissy Spacek) is a teenage girl hated by her entire school, teachers included, and her mother, a religious fundamentalist, believes her to be a child of Satan. Carrie assumes she’s dying when she get her first period, her mother having left her ignorant of the facts. The opening scene is of the traumatic start to her sexual awakening. Slow-motioned, steam-filled shots of a crowded shower room depict lively, ethereal, dream like creatures that turn into vicious cackling tormentors at the helpless pleas of our protagonist. These are high school bullies, teenage girls presented as something akin to the sirens in The Odyssey. These terrors however, are all merely a build-up to what we should be truly scared of.
The abuse Carrie is subjected to bonds us to her plight, we can not but sympathise with her as she is bullied by all those around her. We long for her to be accepted, to have at least one night of undisrupted joy. Despite the ever-present sense of impending doom, we dare to hope.
However, her helplessness and inability to face her foes from the start develops another desire. A longing for revenge takes over. This desire reaches a boiling point when the fatal prank is pulled. As her justice is blindly thrown at all in her line of sight, we are simultaneously caught up in her blood-lust and in fear of it. Carrie is the victim that turns into a monster, yet so are we.
Despite all the awful acts committed through-out the film, it is the final scene that cuts to the heart of some basic human fears. The horror of helplessness, the prospect of losing control and of being on the outside looking in.
The director makes good use of the universally understood fear of nightmares, using a multitude of camera tricks to give many of the film’s key scenes a dream-like quality. Using split-screen, revolving shots and many other techniques, the realistic fears of the cruelty of teenagers and mob mentality, bountiful in high school situations, are blended with the surreal, mysterious and supernatural possibilities of nightmares.
Just as De Palma was influenced by Hitchcock, referencing Psycho both by using the famous four-note soundtrack and the Bate’s name for the high school, so in turn has he influenced many others after him; a dialogue continued over many generations of film.
“After Carrie, everyone had to have a second ending” Wes Craven