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After reading Dan the Man’s comments on “Carrie” , and also after being reminded of the forthcoming remake, I thought it’s high time I check this one out again. As avid Stephen King aficionado, this is one of very few films based on King stories that I mention as “not terrible” when being asked about King adaptations. However, I have not really seen it in a decade or two, so about time I reassessed whether the memory of a really disturbing tale of a high-school teenager matches my memories of it.

It does not completely. The film has aged a bit, and I soon got the feeling that this will be a “wait for the climatic scenes” experience (of which fortunately there is one in the early minutes). Getting through the terrible hairdos and the sometimes equally problematic acting was more of a drag than I remembered. I also admit that I find it very hard to watch any film set in a US high-school, as the usual depiction of the people populating these high schools indicates these must be the most terrible places in the world, filled with obnoxious idiots interested in not much beyond their interpersonal shananigans.

Anyway: I was on the brink of dismissing “Carrie” as a film that was great at the time (i.e. I had the perfect age and mindset to thoroughly enjoy it when I first saw it), when the prom sequence started. Even there, the direction is a bit old-fashioned from today’s movie viewing experiences, with John Travolta and that Bad Girl Without Acting Skills hidden under the stage, and the editing going a bit too often back to her grinning face (however: the closeup of herself licking her lips in anticipation of the delicious dessert to the prom finale is still quite appetizing…). But how de Palma realises the building of hope, the feeling of belonging, the emerging beauty of a life, and then hammers it away with the throw of a bucket, how he stays on his heroine, how Sissy Spacek takes her time from being shocked, through being confused, through being angry, yet remaining the fragile little thing she is… even as an avenging archangel she looks as if a gust of wind could blow her away. And how she returns (walking very very slowly) to her home cradle, where everything was wrong all her life, but where at least there was cradling to be found, and where she hopes to find a place of rest at mother’s shoulder. This is stunning direction, still, using all the tricks from the director’s toolkit, the slow motion sequences, close-ups, and split-screens to add to the surreal horror that a cruel reality threw at Carrie White.

The film consists of a handful of what I would consider excellent scenes, linked by a narrative that de Palma did not really seem to care too much about. He was – my guess – interested in creating a half-erotic, half-disturbing disturbing shower scene (and he did, although I would still prefer the one from “Dressed to Kill”… hm… should watch again to make sure), and a prom finale that shows how all the disappointments, all the worries and fears, all of a teenager’s angst (including the unspeakable defeat of realising that “Mother Was Right All Along”) collide and merge, leading to a climax of blood and terror. In the best sense of Hitchcockian “movie theory”, de Palma never leaves any doubt about what perils are lurking, in case anybody does not know already from reading King’s breakout novel. He shows us “the bomb under table” early on, and not just when he takes us into the preparations for the prom prank. When Tommy invites Carrie, we know about everybody’s motives, and we are able to take a good guess on how well this will end. Maybe if you have only fed on modern tales of terror, you are not prepared for how very much  de Palma is a director (and King is an author) who does not give a damn about your hope for resolution. Catharsis is the best you’ll get, and that sometimes involves a lot of fire. If anybody had hoped for justice to be served in the end, the good being rewarded and the evil punished… Carrie’s rage is an equal opportunity avenger, and this is what I maybe like most about book and film.

I am glad I watched “Carrie” again. Despite the slight coat of dust it has collected, it still contains some milestone scenes and images, and in general is a story

And it made me really go back to the book again, this slim masterpiece of suburban terror: “there was a look . . . oh, dreadful. I can’t say it. Wanting and hating and fearing . . . and misery. As if life itself had fallen on her like stones.”

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