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Entry updated 17 January 2022. Tagged: Film.

1. Film (1976). Red Bank/United Artists. Directed by Brian De Palma. Written Lawrence D Cohen, based on Carrie (1974) by Stephen King. Cast includes Nancy Allen, Amy Irving, Piper Laurie, Sissy Spacek and John Travolta. 98 minutes. Colour.

This was the breakthrough film for a director who had worked with fantastic subjects before, notably with Sisters (1972) and Phantom of the Paradise (1974). Only borderline sf, more centrally a Horror film, Carrie tells of a repressed and innocent child (Spacek), just entering puberty, whose powers of Telekinesis awaken partly in response to the dreadful religious bigotry of her mother and specifically to brutal teasing at high school, where other students regard her as a freak. Carrie is quite innocent of all sexual matters and her first menstrual period, which begins in the school showers, results in her total panic and a savage attack on her by the other girls. This leads to the film's central incident: at the school prom a bucket of pig's blood is dumped over her, at the very moment she feels she has been accepted by her fellow students. Provoked beyond endurance, she unleashes her Psi Powers to the limit, killing almost everyone in the building and setting it on fire. She then returns home, where her mother, convinced that Carrie is a witch, is waiting to kill her. Fatally wounded, Carrie causes every sharp implement in the kitchen to fly into her mother, than brings the whole house down on their heads.

Widely praised and commercially successful, Carrie is pyrotechnically directed, especially in those scenes where Carrie strikes back at her tormentors. Undoubtedly impressive, the film is, however, more simplistic about its fantasy of impotent-victim-becoming-potent-avenger than was its source novel. De Palma went on to make another film about Psi Powers, The Fury (1978).

A belated sequel with a closely similar storyline, centred on Carrie's similarly gifted and tormented half-sister, is The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999; vt Carrie 2) directed by Katt Shea. For the 2002 television remake of Carrie, see 2 below. [JB/PN/DRL]


2. Made-for-tv film (2002). MGM Television/Trilogy Entertainment Group for NBC-TV. Produced by David Carson and Stephen Geaghan. Consulting producer: Paul Monash. Directed by Carson. Written by Bryan Fuller based on Carrie (1974) by Stephen King. Cast includes Angela Bettis, Patricia Clarkson, Emile de Ravin, Kandyse McClure, Tobias Mehler and Rena Sofer. 132 minutes. Colour.

Painfully shy and lonely teenager Carietta "Carrie" White (Bettis) is a victim of her psychotic, abusive, fanatically religious mother (Clarkson) and is tormented at school by bullying classmates. The worst of these is Chris Hargensen (de Raven) who leads an especially vicious clique of young women; after an incident with Carrie, Chris is suspended from school, and begins to devise a plot for vengeance. Nice guy Tommy Ross (Mehler) is "bribed" by one of Carrie's few repentant classmates, Sue Snell (McClure), into asking Carrie to the upcoming school prom. Miss Dasjarden (Sofer), a sympathetic staff member, thinks matters are improving for Carrie – unaware of Chris's and her friends' plan have White elected Queen of the affair, then dump a bucket of pig's blood on her head when she and Tommy are accepting on stage. Carrie has discovered she possesses powers of Telekinesis which first manifested themselves when she was a child, but have been suppressed since until now. Prom night arrives; Chris' plan is carried out despite last-minute efforts to stop it; the humiliation sends Carrie into a psychotic rage during which she unleashes the full extent of her Psi Powers. First destroying the school gymnasium venue, and killing almost everyone present, she walks home levelling the town of Chamberlain along the way, and apparently dies along with her mother after the latter's attempt to kill her. The conclusion, however, reveals that Carrie was in fact revived and hidden by Sue, who helps her leave the area.

Told in flashback by the survivors of her rampage, mostly by Sue, this less highly regarded film is in some ways more faithful to King's novel than 1 above. While most cast members were slightly too old to portray teenagers, their performances are acceptable. Given a considerable budget and running time, the film showed aspects of the novel that 1 could not – in particular the destruction of the town. Allowing Carrie to survive is of course a major change, necessary since this was a pilot for a series that presumably would have followed Carrie about the country, dodging police and others. [GSt]

see also: Cinema.

further reading

  • Joseph Eisenberg. Carrie (Lakewood, Colorado: Centipede Press, 2011) [nonfiction: in the publisher's Studies in the Horror Film series: pb/]

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