PAINTING THE TOWN RED, QUITE LITERALLY

FROM THE MGM STABLE

CARRIE (1976)

CAST: SISSY SPACEK, PIPER LAURIE, AMY IRVING, NANCY ALLEN, WILLIAM KATT, JOHN TRAVOLTA, BETTY BUCKLEY.

DIRECTION : BRIAN DE PALMA.





This is based on a single viewing of the classic horror thriller and was written originally on 24th January, 2015. Of course, back then, it was solely written in a notebook. Such is the impact of that single visual  experience that I remember every detail seen, heard and imbibed. It’s truly classic fare that correctly interpreted ‘horror’, per se, as more than just a series of jump scares.

**

In the long list of teenage campus capers, CARRIE sparked a revolution of sorts – a cinematic U – turn that held Stephen King’s original written material in good stead.

On the face of it, Brian De Palma’s script appears to be another flighty ball about a couple of high schoolers’ hijinks and a leading lady under fire. In other words, precious little signifying nothing, at least at face value. After all, many years down the line even classics lose their hallowed lustre. Carrie does not swerve too far from its central pivot and the first hour gives us a sneak peek into the machinations of some unapologetically nasty kids who would make Regina George ( that iconic high-school villainess played by Rachel McAdams in 2004’s MEAN GIRLS) look like a babe in the woods.

If the opening moments’ embarrassment in the locker room, alluding to the uneasy core of adolescence that horror films usually do, isn’t enough to bring outcaste Carrie’s sagging profile down then things are more extreme on the home front. Piper Laurie is pure enigma and terror then as her fanatical mother who subjects her to an unique daily ritual meant to uphold her temperance. To top it all, her classmates plot to pull off a fast one on her at the senior high prom- almost like a coup d’etat for them.









D day arrives and the story’s atypical leanings come to full fruition when struck by another bout of unholy torment, Carrie’s latent and festering telekinetic powers are unleashed. Like a woman scorned, her rage gets the better of her and the exploding pressure valve exposes the prom venue to a rampage that leaves her detractors (and even those simply laughing at her) scrambling for life. I cannot forget the expressions on Ms. Spacek’s face especially those eyes as she controls proceedings without much swift movements, in her bloodied dress amidst a burning hall. Under the red lights of the room and the laser like background score that tracks her powers from all directions, presented in split screens . You have to watch her to grasp her expertise here.

The events, while eschewing overall logic, invite a validation on the viewers’ part in terms of anti bullying as the innocent lead protagonist avenges her history of indignities and uncorks the force within. Director Brian De Palma ensures our empathy is on the part of the protagonist and rightfully so since she is played by Sissy Spacek who’s versatile to a t. You see the first flush of spring in her expressions when she experiences the honour of being adjudged Prom Queen minutes before her stars look fallen. Her horrid volte face make up for the remainder of the last half – hour, easily some of the most thrilling climactic entertainers at the movies.




















Ratifying the scales between its emotional investment and thrilling kernel, CARRIE goes for a startling thematic sprint even if it calls for our willing suspension of disbelief.

***