Stephen King's classic tale of teenage revenge is brilliantly brought to life in Brian De Palma's CARRIE! The poorly misunderstood Carrie White is tormented by her fellow classmates and scorned by an abusive mother, but her years of ridicule are now manifesting themselves into a powerful psychic force that she will use to avenge herself.
De Palma opens with a soft, sensual shower scene that is highlighted by Pino Donaggio's magnificent score. The mood immediately shifts to pure psychological horror as Carrie is assaulted by the other girls after her first period causes her to panic in the locker room. These feelings of repressed anger and sadness will continue to build throughout the picture. Sissy Spacek's Oscar-nominated performance as Carrie is crucial to the film's success. Her shy and apprehensive take on the character is played to a flawless perfection, while her fiery inner anguish is unleashed like a phoenix in the climactic ending.
CARRIE is lined by more fantastic performances from each of its supporting cast members, with Nancy Allen, P.J. Soles, and John Travolta delivering menacing roles as the high school bullies. It is Amy Irving and William Katt that become the most interesting of the teens as Sue and Tommy thanks to the growing ambiguity that is written into their characters. Tommy's charming smile can be read any number of ways, but always seems to allude to a vicious deception that never surfaces. It isn't until Sue's ironic ejection from the prom by Miss Collins that their true intentions are finally revealed.
Piper Laurie's exaggerated portrayal of the crazed Mrs. White is taken to a state of super-villainy, with her religious zeal serving as a constant source of satire. De Palma uses countless visual clues to accentuate Mrs. White's domineering persona. She is typically shot from low angles in full-frame, giving her an imposing presence on-screen. This is opposed to the high angles that Carrie is filmed from, which depict her as a cowering child that is forced into the corner of the screen. Little notes, like the weathered "For Sale" sign next door or Mrs. Snell's general unease, also work against Laurie's character.
De Palma uses many of his favorite techniques to create CARRIE's unique look, most notably in his use of split-screen and dual lenses to bring the foreground and background into focus simultaneously. In what may be De Palma's defining cinematic moment, the camera follows as the prom ballots are collected and swapped, tracing each of the co-conspirators before it ends up overlooking the prom from atop the fateful bucket of blood.
CARRIE is Brian De Palma's greatest achievement within the genre, and one of Horror's finest films. It epitomizes the teen revenge thriller, both with its incredible cast and superb direction.
If you liked CARRIE, check out:
FIRESTARTER, AUDREY ROSE, DONNIE DARKO.