Directed By: Brian De Palma

Starring: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, William Katt, Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley, and John Travolta

"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."
-Margaret White (Piper Laurie)

High school can be the toughest time of a person's young life.  At this stage in the game, you're not a kid anymore, but you're not an adult either.  This means that you must navigate the complex social landscape of all your friends and classmates discovering themselves and what the world has to offer them.  At the same time, you're still dependent on your parents and aren't necessarily free to go and follow your friends to do something insane.  It can be an incredibly frustrating time in a person's young life.  When you have telekinetic powers as Carrie White does, however, you have a pretty powerful coping mechanism.

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is a 17 year-old girl without a friend in the world.  Abused by her extremely religious and unstable mother Margaret (Piper Laurie), she's too ill-equipped and uninformed to deal with the social challenge that is high school.  This is abundantly clear when she begins her first period in the locker room with her fellow classmates.  Needlessly horrified at all the blood and completely unaware of what a menstrual cycle is, Carrie beseeches her classmates for help and becomes an easy target for ridicule, literally.  Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen), Sue Snell (Amy Irving), and other girls from her gym class proceed to throw tampons at her.  Thankfully for Carrie, her gym teacher Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) intervenes and rectifies the frightful situation.  In the midst of the chaos, a light bulb bursts out of nowhere.

After the incident in the shower, Carrie is sent home for the day.  There, her mother calls the incident a curse of blood for her lustful thoughts and locks her in a closet to atone for her sins through prayer.  She warns Carrie of the dangers of boys and sex.  While Carrie is excused from gym class for a week, Miss Collins has Chris, Sue, and the girls under vigorous punishment akin to a boot camp.  If they don't play by her rules, they won't be going to their senior prom in the coming weeks.  Repentant for the anguish she brought down on Carrie, Sue takes the punishment dealt to her and even finds a prom date for Carrie in her male friend Tommy Ross (William Katt).  Conversely bitter about the punishment, Chris and her boyfriend Billy Nolan (John Travolta) plot to embarrass Carrie on the most memorable night of her young life.  They all fail to realize that the light bulb bursting in the gym that day was no mere coincidence.  Carrie is discovering her telekinetic powers, and they shouldn't piss her off.

I'm a big fan of director Brian De Palma, and I believe that Carrie is a fine addition to the horror genre.  For some in fact, it may be the quintessential supernatural horror movie.  That being said, there are many obvious parallels to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.  De Palma adopts Hitchcock's style in a very obvious way.  From the creepy violin music to the haunting visuals, this is abundantly clear.  De Palma even makes a direct reference to Psycho in the film with Bates High School, an ode to the cross-dressing maniac Norman Bates.  While I like that De Palma shows deference to the master of suspense, I don't like that he reduces Carrie to a Hitchcock imitation at times.  This undermines the authenticity of the movie and isn't necessary.  Carrie is a damn good film on its own.

The raven was called sin, and the first sin was intercourse.  This is a major theme of Carrie, which helps usher gore and nudity in horror movies to new heights.  From the opening shower scene with Carrie having her first period to the bloody climax on prom night, De Palma mixes horror with sexuality.  Given all the gore and sexual overtones in Carrie, the fact that the shower scene in Psycho was considered risqué just sixteen years prior is unfathomable.  I guess Hollywood learned during that time that sex sells.  All that being said, De Palma deftly balances the guts and girls in Carrie with all things supernatural.  His curiosity for demonstrating Carrie make the impossible possible and exploring what this means for his main character in her journey of self-discovery are the methods by which De Palma keeps the film afloat.  They're the methods by which he keeps the film from being just a trashy Hitchcock imitation and turns it into something more, a potent supernatural horror flick.

As our titular character Carrie, Sissy Spacek really does a great job depicting this pariah as a loner who just wants to be left to live her life freely.  Whether avoiding the pressures of high school or the insanity of her mother, Spacek's Carrie is a really sad loner.  At the same time, Carrie is a girl taking control of her life with her new telekinetic powers, and Spacek brings quite a bit of emotional depth to this aspect of her character.  However, what's most notable about Spacek's performance as Carrie is when her character snaps at prom.  In this moment, Spacek gives us a truly creepy character.  Every step she takes and every move she makes is fueled by vitriol and vengeance.  Her eyes are cold, dark and listless.  In this moment, Spacek gives us a horror icon, a furious witch.

The supporting cast members deliver noteworthy performances as well.  As Carrie's wacko mother Margaret White, Piper Laurie delivers one eccentric performance.  She gives us an embittered woman who abusively and crazily tries to protect her daughter from making the same "mistakes" she did with boys.  As Chris Hargensen, Nancy Allen gives us one nasty high school girl who has serious issues with Carrie.  Her contempt for Carrie is more than just your typical high school drama.  It's pure, unbridled hatred, and Allen makes this quite clear throughout the film alongside her comical on-screen boyfriend Billy Nolan portrayed by a young John Travolta.  For her part as Sue Snell, Amy Irving gives us a remorseful matchmaker who unknowingly sets the horrific prom night into motion and is genuinely a good character in a tale of antagonists and killers.  Lastly, we have Carrie's gym teacher Miss Collins, who is portrayed by Betty Buckley.  She's one tough chick and a fierce advocate for what's right despite the fact that she empathizes with Chris and the girls at times.

I will never say that Carrie is one of the greatest horror movies of all time.  I will say that it is one of the most influential horror flicks and helped pave the way for many of today's scary movies.  It's certainly a good film from director Brian De Palma, but it's not a great film.  Carrie gets a 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.