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Carrie

review by Zach B. and Anthony D.

 

Rated R

Studio: MGM

Running Time: 98 minutes

Starring Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, William Katt, Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley, John Travolta

Screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen
From the novel by Stephen King

Directed by Brian DePalma

Retail Price: $24.98

Features: Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen, English Mono, English Closed Captions, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Scene Selections

Stephen King's mind may have given her birth, but in the hands of Brian DePalma "Carrie" came to magnificent life. A mature macabre tale which most adults can identify, whether once the givers or receivers of hurtful high school antics. Herein Carietta White is the victim, make that VICTIM. She lives with her single mother, Margaret whose religious fervor and fanaticism hasn't earned her much respect in the small town where they reside. Carrie is the epitome of repression, sexual and otherwise. She dresses in ill-fitting clothes sewn by her mother, whose fashion sense is as outmoded as her revivalistic take on religion. Carrie can't even hit a volleyball on the court during gym class. Constant brow-beating at home, coupled with the complete contempt of her peers has so introverted Carrie that a mouse has more character. But suddenly with the onrush of her womanhood, the flow which comes from Carrie is not merely resigned to flesh and blood; for with the coming of menses, Carrie's subconscious creates a telekinetic power capable of annihilation in epic proportions. It is a power which comes with the blood, a power (if Margaret White is to be believed) that started with Eve and has transcended through the bloodlines of the weaker sex.

When Lawrence D. Cohen adapted King's debut novel for the screen, he chose to concentrate on the power of the blood, and director DePalma lays out that sanguine fluid in gothic over saturation. Once Carrie's own menstrual blood is displayed in the shocked and traumatized hands, the image of blood remains a constant factor in the dialogue as well as cinematography. It's a Grand Guignol device that enriches this inside-out take on the classic "Cinderella" story, and turns it on its ear. For who is Carrie, but a modern-day Cinderella, who gets her chance to go to the ball, be treated as royalty (she is elected Prom "Queen") until... (it's no wonder that "Carrie" has registered with so many young women who were raised on that fairy tale)...well, Carrie's midnight revenge is a far cry from Cinderella's "they lived happily ever after."

I believe that "Carrie" has become a part of our national consciousness, so only a brief plot outline should suffice: The pathetic Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) literally becomes a woman under the cleansing school locker room showers. Thinking that her ignorance of things sexual is a reason for mockery, the girls (led by Sue Snell and Chris Hargenson) toss tampons at her with the chant-like cries of "Plug it up!" Carrie's agony grows and an electric light blows up. Kindly gym teacher, Miss Collins, reprimands the girls, and comforts Carrie. In the principal's office, the many mistakes of the principal calling her "Cassie," causes an ashtray to fling itself from the desk. As Carrie walks home, a child on a bike calls her "Creepy Carrie!," and is promptly thrown by some force from his bike.Carrie is sent home to her strange mother, who proclaims that with the blood come the boys. Margaret advises Carrie to pray. Carrie stares into a mirror which violently breaks.

Miss Collins doles out a week-long detention and loss of prom tickets for the shitty thing that the girls did to Carrie, and as she takes on the force of a drill sergeant, Chris vows revenge while Sue thinks of a better plan. Sympathetic to Carrie's plight, Sue has her boyfriend Tommy, a guy with looks and brains, ask Carrie to be his date for the prom. After much cajoling, Carrie relents, if only so that Margaret will not see him at their door. In the meantime, Sue's plan for revenge takes on a diabolical tone, as she has her boyfriend slaughter several squealing pigs.

When the prom day arrives, Maragaret is shocked by Carrie's hand-made pink dress, calling it red, the color of sin - - and begging Carrie to stay at home and pray with her, lest everyone laughs at her. Carrie and Tommy are the hit of the prom, if only because of a stuffed ballot-box, and are crowned king and queen. Then in a stunning display of film making, Chris' plan is set in motion. With the tug of a rope, a bucket of pig's blood drenches Carrie - - and everybody laughs at her. Wrong thing to do, as Carrie's telekinetic powers now seem to have a life of their own: she creates a holocaust at the prom, dispenses with the villains and returns home to a purifying bath. Instead of comforting Carrie in her moment of despair, Margaret plunges a kitchen knife into her, declaiming Biblical verse "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Carrie and Margaret remain in locked in turmoil as the house itself implodes upon them and rocks torrentially pour down from the skies. Following a peaceful moment, DePalma still has one last shock up his sleeve.

I could go on forever about the incredible cast "Carrie" contains. Following a fifteen year, self-imposed retirement, Piper Laurie returned to the screen as Margaret White. It is a role that re-identified her, and re-affirmed her status as one of the un-heralded great film actresses. In a tricky role, Laurie is allowed her over-the-top moments of religious fervor which in lesser-talented hands would cause unintentional gales of laughter (as it is, the laughter is earned as that thin line between fantasy and illusion is trod). Laurie's peers were in on the joke, as they rewarded her with a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Two television stars, ironically linked to the same ABC series, launched commendable careers with "Carrie:" Betty Buckley and John Travolta. (Travolta was engaged to "Eight is Enough" star Diana Hylands, whose untimely death brought Buckley to the Bradford fold as stepmother Abby). Buckley portrays the only sympathetic character in the film - - the gym teacher Miss Collins, with an utterly believable empathy, while Travolta plays upon his "Welcome Back Kotter" sweathog persona as Chris' partner in love and crime, Billy Nolan. In a very strange turn of events, Betty Buckley would become further associated with "Carrie" for all time, when she took over the role of the musical Margaret White in an infamous theatrical fiasco, more on that later. Amy Irving is stunningly beautiful, baby fat and all, as the remorseful Sue, whose story arc is well-developed right on through to the final zinger. Irving's real life mother, Priscilla Pointer, plays her on screen alcoholic mother in two brief but telling scenes. Making their debuts in film are a trio of gals who would continue the bloody reign at the box office: Nancy Allen as Chris has the difficult task of making the villainy inflicted believable, she would fare better in "Dressed to Kill" and "Blow Out," also for DePalma; P. J. Soles as a classmate with an agenda would go on to baby-sitting immortality in John Carpenter's "Halloween;" and most surprising of all, is a very youthful Edie McClurg, best know today for her voiceover work, but directed brilliantly by Oliver Stone in his blood-fest, "Natural Born Killers" (she's Juliette Lewis' mother in the faux sitcom sequence "I Love Mallory). William Katt has just the right amount of surfer boy charm as Tommy Ross, who also falls victim to Chris' vengeful plot.

And then there's Sissy Spacek's titular turn: face it, without Sissy, "Carrie" would be just another teen horror flick. With Spacek, then mostly unknown, Carrie takes on character. There is not a single moment of Spacek's Carrie that rings false, she is that immersed in the role. And those eyes! Soulful when listening to a poem by Tommy Ross, scornful when she realizes the implications of the bucket of pig's blood. Wide open beneath a shimmering veneer of blood as she makes the most of her revenge - - there's not a trace of pleasure in her deeds, it's a demonical gaze that demands these deaths, as if in a catatonic state Carrie's revenge is swift, powerful and non-judgmental (when the only person who has been kind to Carrie is cut in half by a basketball hoop board, you know that this comeuppance is non-selective) . Spacek's Carrie does not thrive on this violence as say an action hero would knowingly gloat over such bloodshed; this holocaust is a necessary evil, and her Carrie carries it off to the best of her abilities. In a very rare moment of lucidity, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rewarded Spacek's brilliance with an Oscar nomination as Best Actress - - a feat never accorded to stars of "horror" films, and would not be repeated again until Jodie Foster's nomination and win for "The Silence of the Lambs."

Presented in 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen, "Carrie" features a very underwhelming transfer. Detail is decent, but colors are a bit undersaturated and the black levels aren't that great. Artifacts, blemishes, nicks, scratches, pieces of dirt... you name, it's here. Very disappointing to say the leas, as a lot of it comes together and becomes distracting.

The English mono track on "Carrie" is nothing special. You can understand the dialgogue, but it's all so standard. It sounds its age to be sure, and it is a little distorted. Still, it's appropriate for what it is.

The Theatrical Trailer. Wait for the special edition.

The sound is old, the picture is terrible and the features are non-existant. Yes it's a good movie, but wait for the special edition to come around.

(4/5 - NOT included in final score)

(2.5/5)

(2/5)

(.5/5)

(2/5, NOT an average)

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