In my day when Halloween came round we would make our own costumes comprising of an old bed sheet, Mum’s lipstick and lashing of tomato sauce. Then we would knock on doors in the vain hope of gaining the odd sweet. Nowadays it’s a costume off the peg from the supermarket and, accompanied by Mum, ringing bells with the expectation of receiving a bag of sweets, probably from the same supermarket. How things have changed, it’s no wonder dentists are unable to keep up with the workload. Well as the witching festival is here again then it’s time to select an appropriate scary movie to match the occasion. My choice this year is the Brian De Palma adaption of Stephen King’s masterpiece Carrie, just in time to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
Carrie is a shy naïve teenager who is dominated by her mother, an obsessive pious fruitcake. When Carrie experiences her first menstrual event years later than most girls, she panics as if mortally wounded. Led by the class bully Christine the other girls persecute and make fun of her and only teacher Miss Collins offers any sympathy to the frightened and bewildered Carrie. Once the mother enters the movie one can understand why Carrie is so socially underdeveloped. Just about every activity other than praying is a mortal sin to mother who cannot have a conversation without turning it into a sermon. Casting Sissy Spacek in the role of Carrie is what made the movie so memorable as she delivers a truly mesmerising performance and Laurie Piper was not far behind as Mother. Both received Oscar nominations for their efforts.
Queen bully, punished by teacher for her humiliation of Carrie, seeks revenge on the social outcast and arranges this with the help of unwitting friends and her dozy beyond belief boyfriend Billy, which was a fitting role for the newcomer John Travolta. The DVD cover tells you that it involves bucket loads of blood. All this is to take place at the end of year Prom, that nauseatingly sugary exhibition that is part of the US education culture. Tommy the school heart throb is persuaded to ask the introverted Carrie to the Prom unaware of what’s in store and for a while it begins to reflect a modern day version of Cinderella even though the audience by now must be expecting the worse.
Carrie however is not entirely defenceless as she gifted; but also perhaps cursed; with telekinesis. This ability starts off low key by having small objects move about without touching them but gradually it becomes more severe and violent as the movie progresses. While this is what one would expect of a movie ramping up the tension, the severity reaches an astonishing climax. With Carrie’s power to effect objects rapidly increasing one could be forgiven for assuming that the crescendo of horror and mayhem she dispenses at the prom was the highpoint of the movie. Just wait till she goes home to mother.
There is a great soundtrack by the ever productive Pino Dinaggio that is in perfect sync with the cinematography, and the visual effects depicting her gift, or infliction whichever way one views it, are quite stunning and graphic for the technology of the seventies. When all is done however it is the relationship between mother and daughter as interpreted by the Oscar nominees, which alternates between tenderness and outright violence that makes it such an iconic movie.