1001 Films: Carrie (1976)

‘These are godless times’

Carrie (Sissy Spacek) is the daughter of a highly religious mother who’s constantly picked on by her peers at school and also has the ability to move things with her mind (telekinesis).

Horror films seem to always find ways of framing innocence, religion and sexuality in ways that perturb most audiences. With a film like this, that begins with an extended slow motion sequence of teenage women naked in the locker room and ending with Carrie experiencing her period (what we can assume is her first time) it’s hard not to be perturbed. Brian De Palma’s use of these symbols to help progress the tale of Carrie and how her powers, and social standing, progresses throughout the film creates the base for a horror classic that everyone can dive into.

When Carrie returns home to her mother, Margaret White (Piper Laurie), after having her period and we’re treated to the manner in which she’s treated by her mother we quickly see how repressed she is under the weight of the bible’s teachings.  While being a skewed version of the bible and religious teachings where “the raven was called sin” and “the first sin was intercourse” are some of the lessons being shared it’s obvious that this will not end well.

The introductory sequence in slow motion is what returns to our mind as the finale sequence at prom plays out as Carrie and Tommy Ross (William Katt) walk up to the stage to accept their prizes as Prom King and Queen. Unbeknownst to Tommy with the pig’s blood prank ready to go on Carrie the crowd is in for a night they probably won’t survive. With the blood from the beginning representing Carrie’s becoming a woman, her sexual life beginning and the beginning of the development of her power over the world (via telekinesis and being a woman) it’s right to see her douses in blood burning down the building.

Women have the power to give life in this world and that power is so direct that it’s impossible to ignore them. So when we bully and push them to the point of no return this is the result. The film keeps a standard hold on women’s place in society and how they strive to usurp that limited position. When Margaret tries to inhibit Carrie’s actions via the teachings of the bible all she’s doing is propagating the  same problems that have existed in society as it relates to women’s roles just as we see Chris (Nancy Allen) pushing Billy (John Travolta) to do this horrible prank via her sexual favours.

In addition to all of these thematic strengths the film has even more to offer with the acting talent of Piper Laurie as Margaret. Some may say that she’s busy off in another film where everyone is on her level all the time; however it keeps the audience in a shocking surprise every time we get a scene with her. Everyone else in the film understands that they’re in a 70s horror film on the level of a Halloween acting requirement it would seem, but Laurie went for the fences and it’s great to watch.

Rating: 7.5/10