1970s / Body Horror / Brian De Palma / Literary Adaptations / Nancy Allen / P. J. Soles / Pino Donaggio / Piper Laurie / Psychics & Telekinetics / Stephen King / Teensploitation

Movie Discussion: Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976)

  • Monthly Theme: Evil ChildrenCarrie-1976-Movie-Poster
  • The Film: Carrie
  • Country of origin: U.S.A.
  • Date of U.S. release: November 3, 1976
  • Studio: United Artists
  • Distributer: United Artists
  • Domestic Gross: $33.8 million
  • Budget: $1.8 million
  • Director: Brian De Palma
  • Producers: Paul Monash, Louis A. Stroller & Brian De Palma
  • Screenwriter: Lawrence D. Cohen
  • Adaptation? Yes, of the 1974 novel Carrie by Stephen King.
  • Cinematographer: Mario Tosi
  • Make-Up/FX: Greg Auer & Ken Pepiot
  • Music: Pino Donaggio
  • Part of a series? There was a 1999 sequel called The Rage: Carrie 2 featuring the character of Sue Snell.
  • Remakes? Yes. It was remade as a tv film in 2002 for NBC with May’s Angela Bettis in the title role. The tv film was intended to kick off an ongoing tv series, but low ratings killed the idea. There was a theatrical remake in 2013 by Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Peirce, starring Chloë Grace Moretz in the title role.
  • Genre Icons in the cast? Yes. Genre icon Piper Laurie (Trauma, Ruby, etc.). Scream queen Nancy Allen (Dressed to KillBlow Out, etc.). Genre actress P.J. Soles (Halloween, Blood Bath, etc.).
  • Other notables?: Yes. Hollywood stars John Travolta and Sissy Spacek. Character actors Amy Irving, William Katt, Betty Buckley, Priscilla Pointer and Edie McClurg.
  • Awards?: Special Mention and Grand Prize at the 1977 Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival. Best Actress [Spacek] at the 1977 National Society of Film Critics Awards.
  • Tagline: “If only they knew she had the power.”
  • The Lowdown: Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is an awkward high school girl who is traumatized when she gets her first period in the locker room showers. Carrie’s been so sheltered by her fanatically religious mother (Piper Laurie) that she mistook her menstrual blood for a fatal illness. Severely bullied by her peers over the incident, Carrie’s latent psychic powers begin to get more intense now that she’s sexually maturing. When some school bullies (Nancy Allen, P.J. Soles, John Travolta) hatch an elaborate plan to humiliate Carrie at the senior prom, the results are brutal and bloody…

If you haven’t seen Carrie our discussion will include massive SPOILERS.

Sean: Obviously the most important question to start this discussion with is: How are your dirty pillows?

Kristine: Oh my god – that phrase. Mrs. White is so much more perverted than someone who is actually sexually liberated. The way repressed people talk about sex is filthier than the filthiest Penthouse forum.

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Who misplaced this clot? Cuz it’s in my hair!

Sean: It’s so true. The amount of pathos and suffering embodied by Carrie White is pretty overwhelming and hard to take, at least for me. Especially in those moments where she – in her soft-spoken but steely way – tries to stand up to her mother. “Breasts, Mama. They’re called breasts and every woman has them,” she says, and I just want to storm into that room and be like, ‘Yeah, that’s right!’ in Mrs. White’s face. The way that Carrie’s journey is about realizing that there’s nothing wrong with her body, that she doesn’t have to be ashamed or scared of her sexuality, is some of the most subversive stuff in the movie. Would you agree?

Kristine: For sure. Also subversive is the movie’s notion that sometimes the result of discovering your own power and self-worth means that the culture around you will try to destroy and humiliate you. I mean, we mentioned Monica Lewinsky’s Vanity Fair piece earlier this month. It’s not a perfect corollary, but the country’s treatment of Lewinsky and the school’s treatment of Carrie White resonate with each other. Or things like the Duke Fuck List girl or the treatment of female writers online or any of the ten thousand news stories where a rape victim is blamed and pilloried by their communities – its all part of the same story about a culture that’s unprepared and unable to deal with female sexuality, or that views the female victims of cultural sadism and violence (the girls and women that get metaphorically ‘splattered with pig’s blood’ routinely by their communities) with disgust and revulsion.

Sean: Right, and that’s been the word on the street about Carrie since day one, right? Just like with Psycho, I feel like the universe has already discussed Carrie ad infinitum and its intimidating to know where to start.

Kristine: I agree. I was thinking the same thing. It’s universally considered one of the best Stephen King adaptations, as well as just an excellent stand-alone film, correct?

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Sappho’s graveyard

Sean: Yeah it is. There’s a handful of universally-praised King adaptations and this and The Shining are probably the two crown jewels. For his horror stuff, at least.

Kristine: Well, Carrie is one of the only movies we are discussing that I had seen from before we started our horror blog project, but I was very impressed when I rewatched it. I was also shocked by the abundant and luxurious 1970s bush (and just the frank sexuality in general).

Sean: Oh totally. Also, would you agree that Nancy Allen steals the movie as megabitch Chris Hargensen? She is perfection.

Kristine: Ha ha, yes. Is Nancy Allen ever cast as a non-slut type? She is cursed/blessed with slut face.

Sean: She plays a cop/action star in 1987′s Robocop.

Kristine: I love her pet name for Billy Nolan: “stupid shit.”

Sean: Their violent relationship – always slapping each other – was one of the major things that gave the movie an overall tone of kink and sexual sadism.

Kristine: Agreed. I was weirded out that she seems so unfazed by Billy slapping her around. The movies implies that she is used to such treatment, right? I like how the characters aren’t written with broad strokes. Even the baddies like Chris and Billy have some nuance. This is most clear in the aftermath of the wrenching shower scene, particularly when Miss Collins (who was lez perfection) confesses to the principal, “I knew how [the bullies] felt. The whole thing just made me want to take her and shake her, too.” It’s not simply black and white, good victim versus bad bullies. I mean, what would you do if spazzy moppet Carrie White lurched towards you with period blood hands?

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Meanies in love

Sean: No, the period blood hands are too much for any mortal to handle. I just want to add how perfect Sissy Spacek is for the role, because she can play the abject freak mongoloid in the shower, but also be lovely and pretty and lovable when she’s all cleaned up for prom. Also, a note: The actress who plays Miss Collins is named Betty Buckley and she was the star of a tv show that I was obsessed with as a young boy called Eight Is Enough. It was about a huge family with lots of daughters and I wanted to live among them and to have all those sisters. Betty Buckley played the stepmom. I remember when I first watched Carrie (I was like, 11 or 12?) the thing that haunted me for days and days was that Miss Collins dies. I was traumatized and like, “But she was nice!” and I think I cried and lost sleep over it. It affected me deeply.

Kristine: Aw, Sean. I loved her, too.

Sean: Just fyi, in the King novel, Miss Collins lives. De Palma made the decision to kill off that character. I think it was the right call, because of the amount of pathos and trauma that it inspires. Plus, I was really into how De Palma focuses on Chris’ reaction to Miss Collins’ death.

Kristine: One of my favorite moments is when Miss Collins is in the principal’s office and he’s so clueless and visibly revolted and upset by Carrie’s period blood stain on Miss Collin’s shorts, continuing the motif of female sexuality being feared and loathed.

Sean: I clocked the principal’s revulsion to the bloodstain, also. It’s a great little moment.

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Feather to feather

Kristine: I heard that Stephen King wrote this when he was teaching high school to makes ends meet and was horrified by the high school caste system and social infrastructure.

Sean: Yes, but I’ve also read that Carrie White is a composite of weird girls from his own schooldays. Would you feel comfortable making the statement that Carrie is a women’s picture?

Kristine: Yes.

Sean: It passes the Bechdel Test with flying (blood red) colors and also, all of the P.O.V. characters are ladies. All the plots are orchestrated by the women, and are about how the women feel. I was really struck this time by how Tommy Ross is essentially a gigolo and that Sue’s ‘act of charity’ in making Tommy take Carrie to the prom might actually be worse than the bucket of pig’s blood.

Kristine: I thought that, too. When Miss Collins is asking Sue and Tommy Girl why they are doing this to Carrie and to what end, I was yelling, “Yeah? WHY?” at the screen. Sue is dumb.

Sean: Also when Carrie asks Tommy Girl on the dance floor, “Why am I here?” and his answer is “Because you liked my poem,” I was just thinking, ‘This is fucking cruel.’

Kristine: Tommy Girl has the golden curls of an angel. I love how when he doesn’t want to or doesn’t know how to answer a question, he just falls back on his big grin – because he knows it works.

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The joyous lesbian

Sean: He is… a lesbian. Isn’t he? Tommy Girl as a heartthrob is one thing that does not survive the 1970s. I mean, on The L Word he’d be a great love interest, but not for a heteronormal suburban prom. I sort of hated him.

Kristine: Aw, Tommy Girl. He was okay. Just clueless.

Sean: I want to talk about female sadism.

Kristine: What else is new?

Sean: To me, that is Carrie’s true subject. I think that Chris Hargensen and Mrs. White are doubled again and again in the movie.

Kristine: Interesting. I like this. Continue…

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Vogue if you want to

Sean: They are the ones who want to inflict physical pain on Carrie and they are the ones who take intense pleasure in her suffering. In both cases, they’re projecting their own perverse/violent self-hatred onto her. I was really struck by the connection between Chris seeming to “enjoy” being slapped by Billy and Mrs. White’s confession that she liked being raped. Which is pretty dark and problematic.

Kristine: Yeah. That is deeply upsetting.

Sean: Mrs. White and Chris are the movie’s sociopaths, right?

Kristine: Yes and they are both steeped in deep, deep anger. You don’t usually have female characters that are allowed to express rage and anger like this. And, significantly, for as much as the movie exploits that female rage, it is also sympathetic to it. Mrs. White is a terrifying character, but there’s pathos to her suffering. Same with Chris, who is enough of a relatably petulant teenage girl that she’s still human.

Sean: I agree. Chris is not extraordinary in her sadism and anger. She’s very ordinary, as a matter of fact, which is perhaps even more unsettling. Though the movie does add these phantasmagoric touches to her misanthropy and sadism, like how excited she is by Billy slaughtering the pig, or how she’s licking her lips in excitement as she pulls the rope on the bucket of blood. The movie has exploitation roots in those moments, which chafe against the socio-realism of the movie’s suburban high school setting. But both Chris and Mrs. White take erotic pleasure in inflicting pain on Carrie (and themselves). They give and take pain with great excitement. Chris is aroused as she “strikes” Carrie with the bucket of blood, just as Mrs. White moans with pleasure when stabs Carrie later – and also moans with pleasure as Carrie impales her with kitchen implements. For what it’s worth, this movie takes female sadomasochism seriously, most dramatically in the figure of Carrie White herself, who knows the social danger of attending prom with Tommy Girl but does it anyway. In fact, the thrill of the social danger she’s in seems to fuel the eroticism between herself and Tommy Girl throughout the prom sequence.

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Two heads are better than none

Kristine: I want to ask you about a specific scene. When Carrie is fighting with her mom in her bedroom, waiting for Tommy Girl to pick her up on prom night, and they both look out the window, the camera cuts to the street below, where two cars are driving towards each other. It looks like there might be a head-on collision, but it’s just an illusion and they safely pass. Then you notice the white cross painted on the street in front of the house. Then the camera frames Carrie and Mrs. White in the window from the outside and you see just their heads together, like a double-headed monster or Siamese twins. Do you know the scene I am talking about? What do you make of it? It really stuck with me, but I wasn’t sure what it was saying.

Sean: I remember that moment where she looks out the window and its not Tommy (yet), but I didn’t notice those details. I was aware of how we kept seeing people in the windows of the White house from outside. Like, Carrie is in the window at the top of the house early in the movie. I just thought those moments where we see figures framed in the windows were examples of De Palma invoking the Gothic tradition of the ‘madwoman in the attic.’

Kristine: That house. That closet Jesus cracked me up, actually.

Sean: The doubling of Closet Jesus with Mrs. White’s dead, crucified body was ridiculous, over-the-top mania. I was definitely into the movie’s representation of religion as lunacy, and I loved how the movie contrasted Mrs. White and Mrs. Snell as oppositional maternal figures (Miss Collins is also a kind of mother-figure).

Kristine: Sue Snell and Mrs. Snell both perform ‘acts of charity’ for the Whites, but only in order to alleviate their own guilt. They are both kind of disingenuous, right? But I dug Mrs. Snell day-drinking and being over it.

Sean: Just fyi, Sue Snell and her mom are mom/daughter in real life. But were you struck by how this movie and Dressed to Kill end in the exact same way? Because I found it interesting how Sue has her mother there to hold and comfort her in the end.

Kristine: Whoa. I didn’t even think of that, but you’re right. Both movies end with a woman waking up from a terrible dream about the events of the horror narrative, suggesting that they’ll always be haunted and terrorized by what they’ve been through. They’re both PTSD endings.

SueSnellEnding

Mommy apocalypse

Sean: In Dressed to Kill, that ending felt sadistic and mean, like a way of punishing Liz and denying her the happy ending that she deserved. But here it is the exact right ending. Sue should be haunted/scarred forever by the tragedy of Carrie White. She doesn’t get her happy ending because of her complicity and profound misunderstanding of sisterhood and empathy and what it truly means to stand up to the institutional victimization of women. Sue is a tragic character because she is too young and naïve to really understand what has happened – thus it makes sense that she’s traumatized and haunted. But Liz is a full-grown woman, presented as incredibly savvy and street-smart, in control of her sexuality and her choices.

Kristine: Well, it’s all Sue’s fault. I agree that she deserves her ending.

Sean: I was also struck by how De Palma is always pigeonholed as a Hitchcock imitator and I feel like this is not a very Hitchcockian movie. Except for the one big Hitchcockian setpiece. Did you clock the Hitchcock moment?

Kristine: I’m not sure. Tell me.

Sean: The whole terrible, suspenseful sequence where Sue sees the rope and discovers the bucket just as Miss Collins sees Sue and throws her out of the prom. That moment is vintage Hitchcock and I was sort of blown away by it. That whole bucket of blood setpiece is just pure cinema – so beautiful.

Kristine: No, I didn’t recognize it as a Hitchcockian moment, but of course it is. I did think that the famed De Palma long take with whirling camera work was highly effective during the Tommy Girl and Carrie dance scene. You really feel as woozy and dreamy as I imagine Carrie is feeling.

Sean: Oh yeah. Did your boyfriend watch this with you?

Kristine: He watched most of it. I think he relates to Tommy Girl, sorry to tell you.

Sean: My fella watched this with me, and the one moment where he was like ‘WTF IS THIS????’ was that bizarre moment where Tommy and his friends are tuxedo shopping. Did you notice how weird that was? It was like the movie suddenly became an episode of Welcome Back, Kotter for five seconds.

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The Three Stooges go to prom

Kristine: Totally. It was like the required fun-time makeover/shopping montage that is de rigueur for all teen prom movies. It is so out of place, but awesome. I like to think about Carrie’s relationship to the teen movie genre, and I love how it takes the “one crazy prom night” trope and fucks it up the ass.

Sean: Yes, agreed. And like a lot of teen movies, this movie is a ‘revenge of the repressed’ fantasy (á la Some Kind of Wonderful or Revenge of the Nerds).

Kristine: For sure, but a brutal and merciless revenge fantasy.

Sean: What do we feel about Carrie once she goes Wide-eyed Blood Goddess at the end?

Kristine: Well, don’t you think that Prom Carrie all covered in blood is very similar to the opening images of her trauma in the shower? She’s abject, hair pasted down, dripping with blood – but its also the total opposite of her shower humiliation. She’s now in command of her power and is inflicting pain instead of receiving it. She is awesome and surely someone on RuPaul’s Drag Race has used Blood Goddess Carrie as a style icon at some point.

Sean: Raja in Season 3. There is a drag queen musical version of Carrie.

Kristine: What? Where?

Sean: It was staged by drag queens in 2006 with Sherry Vine as Carrie White.

Kristine: This is amazing.

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Never read your own palm

Sean: I love how early in the movie Mrs. White accuses Carrie of being a witch (meanwhile Mrs. White is the one running around in black capes and 14th c. sorcerer’s robes) and in Carrie’s killcrazy fugue state she invokes all the classic tropes of witchcraft – fire (witch burnings), water (witch drownings), blood and Satan.

Kristine: Good point.

Sean: Carrie all wide-eyed, killing everyone, is amazing and I love her.

Kristine: How many times have you wanted to ‘Carrie out’ on a room full of people? I have about 10,000 times.

Sean: Oh, just in middle school. I wanted to bring fire and death and destruction on all my peers back then.

Kristine: Hmmmm.

Sean: We have to at least mention P.J. Soles as Norma. Actually, out of all the bullies, I hated her the most. Because I was kind of living for Chris.

Kristine: Wow, I agree.

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They just found out what all that rainbow paraphernalia will mean in the future

Sean: Tell me why.

Kristine: Norma is just this dumb bully idiot. It’s interesting how butch she is (with the red baseball cap and the macho swagger), because she also acts like classic boy bully – just being cruel to weaker kids because… why not? Whereas Chris is acting out of real, deep feelings of hatred and self-loathing, Norma isn’t motivated by anything other than empty-headed misanthropy.

Sean: Yeah. The person pointing at the act of cruelty and going “Ha-ha!” is perhaps worse than the person perpetrating the act of cruelty.

Kristine: This movie demonstrates the truth about how kids get pigeonholed in the high school caste system. Is Carrie really less attractive then the spectacled pudgy girl? Is she weirder than Norma and her crazy outfits? No, but she is the designated weird girl because her peers decided it, and so that’s her lot in life.

Sean: Yeah, for sure. Can we talk about Sue Snell? I think she’s fascinating and the movie wouldn’t work without her character.

Kristine: I couldn’t with Amy Irving’s hair.

Sean: I love her hair. I love frizzy wild crazy girl hair.

Kristine: Her hair was fine when it was all curls, but when she pasted down the first two inches flat with barrettes? No. When she and Tommy Girl are talking by the bleachers and there is a tight shot of just their heads, it was curl overload.

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I don’t know. How do you deal with fly-aways, Sue?

Sean: I kind of loved Sue bossing Tommy Girl and storming around coming to feminist consciousness.

Kristine: I didn’t really love her manipulating Tommy Girl and then going back to her “studying” (which looked like copying a textbook word-for-word in longhand). I think Tommy Girl was hoping for some loving in return. Speaking of loving, how insane and hilarious was it when Chris is going down on Billy while murmuring, “I hate Carrie White”?

Sean: I know. That was the most articulate blowjob in the history of time. Plus, that scene brings up how this movie is such a lesbian text, right?

Kristine: Um, yes.

Sean: Can we enumerate all the lezzie-ness?

Kristine: From the opening scene of nymphets frolicking in the locker room …

Sean: Oh my god, that opening where the locker room is this free-love lesbian paradise of crinkling bush and enlarged nips. My boyfriend was actually upset by all the bush on display and asked me for a lot of explanations.

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The pelts of yesteryear

Kristine: I discussed the preponderance of ‘70s bush with my boyfriend, too. What did your guy want to know?

Sean: He just wanted to know why. Why was it happening? What was the reason? And I was just like, ‘Darling, it was the 1970s.’ He wanted to know if all that pubic hair would scratch the corneas out of people on the regular.

Kristine: I don’t know, it felt more deliberate than just being the 1970s…

Sean: Remember the soapy bush that opens Dressed to Kill?

Kristine: So, was there something in the water in the 1970s? Or, did De Palma do a casting call specifying huge, dense bush? I mean, they had to have specifically chosen their pubic regions, right?

Sean: It is just the free, wild natural state of things. Tell me more lesbian things about the movie.

Kristine: When Miss Collins tells all the girls that they have detention “on my field, you get the picture?!” It’s all S&M-ie and sexually perverse.

Sean: Miss Collins as the coded lez teacher is pretty amazing. When she slaps Chris and it is just like Billy slapping Chris?

Kristine: Is there something about Nancy Allen’s perpetual slut face that begs to be slapped? I don’t like that idea.

Sean: I felt like the force of Miss Collins’ anger stems from being an outsider/freak, right? That’s why she’s so merciless with the people who humiliated Carrie?

Kristine: I agree that Miss Collins is a lez and she is fighting for justice writ large, not just for Carrie.

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Have you ever heard of fisting, Carrie?

Sean: Miss Collins is like, ‘This is how it feels!’ while slapping teenage girls and parading around. Plus, that story she tells Carrie about trying to kiss a boy in stiletto heels was bizarre. I felt like it was no accident that the prom date from her story had ‘freakish’ proportions. She says, what, that he was 6’7”? Plus the whole story is about heterosexual courtship gone awry – he’s abnormally tall so she has to buy special shoes (equipment) and the truck breaks down and her feet are so blistered she can’t dance. The date doesn’t “go right.” Plus her blistered feet are another symbol of sadomasochism, of inflicting pain on yourself in order to try to be normal, to follow the conventional narrative about how prom ‘should be.’ Plus, it didn’t escape me that the reason Miss Collins’ prom experience was “magic” was because she got out of having to dance with or touch her date and instead got to have a prom filled with “just talk.” Coded lez! Coded lez!

Kristine: Also, Miss Collins’ big tits made the principal uncomfortable. I love that the trifecta of big tits, female rage, and period blood made that creepy principal want to die. Miss Collins giving Carrie makeup and styling tips in the mirror was… Well, it was very lez-rotic.

Sean: “You are beautiful! Look at those lips.” (‘Those netherlips,’ is what she wanted to say.)

Kristine: No, it was: “Look at that girl! She’s a pretty girl!”

Sean: I mean, Miss Collins is offered up as an alternate mother-figure for Carrie, in opposition to Mrs. White. But that undercurrent of lesbian desire makes the whole thing a bit perverse and more interesting.

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Moonblood spaz attack

Kristine: Exactly. Plus, Tommy Girl and Sue seem to have a nonsexual, sibling relationship. I think Tommy is actually just a stand-in for Sue, and really it is Sue and Carrie going to prom, which is why Sue was so insistent that Tommy make Carrie “change her mind.” That is my radical analysis. Sue loves Carrie.

Sean: I am so into that.

Kristine: Didn’t Carrie make a beeline for Sue during her menstrual trauma freak out?

Sean: I don’t remember, but Carrie definitely anoints Sue with her moonblood.

Kristine: I think she was headed for Sue, instinctively. Also, remember the whole premise for the Tommy/Carrie date is that fey poem that Tommy reads in English class? But Tommy didn’t write it, Sue did. So the poem Carrie loved was Sue’s. More evidence that there is a lesbian connection between them.

Sean: That is hot. That poem is so 1970s, too, because it starts off being about ecological disaster (very It’s Alive) and then segues into being about teenage sexuality. The poem is from the current batch of teens to their parents’ generation, accusing them of both ruining the environment and spying pruriently on their sexuality. It is a request that the adults make room for the kids to discover love and sexuality in a new and profound way. That is what Carrie responds to, which makes sense considering how oppressive her mother is.

Kristine: How much of a jerk was that English teacher, mocking Carrie for appreciating the poem?

Sean: He was also a homosexualand I didn’t appreciate that offensive characterization. Here’s what I want to know. If the pig’s blood incident hadn’t happened, would Tommy have made some moves on Carrie after the prom? And not told Sue?

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When a mop falls on a doily

Kristine: I think we are supposed to wonder about that. They kiss on the dance floor. Was that part of Sue’s ‘plan’? What are the exact specifications of her plot? All of that is murky and weird and I loved it.

Sean: Here’s another thing I’m curious about – Are there women like Mrs. White out there, with that exact relationship to religion?

Kristine: Yes, there are for sure women like Mrs. White, who channel all their erotic feelings into religious fanaticism. Ecstatically swaying whilst praying. Remember Mrs. White’s orgasmic death scene by impalement?

Sean: Oh, she was loving being stabbed over and over. She was all about it.

Kristine: Like she loved being raped? Not sure I can forgive the movie for that speech.

Sean: I just want to add that I was really into the music this time around, especially that freakishly bizarre 1970s soft rock ballad that’s playing as Carrie and Tommy dance. And the lyrics are like, “There must be a God!”? It was crazy.

Kristine: Yes. “It’s as though we’ve been lovers all of our lives” is super inappropriate for a high school prom, right?

Sean: Especially because, according to the logic of the song, getting on laid on prom is proof of the existence of God. I guess in some ways this movie is an argument for modernity, right?

Kristine: That the movie is advocating for maternal figures like Miss Collins over Mrs. White?

Sean: Yeah. Doesn’t this movie argue, ‘Let them eat dick. Let them flounce about. Let them do prom’?

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Chanté you stay

Kristine: I don’t know. Prom is already outmoded in the 1970s. When Carrie is going on and on about how beautiful the decor is and it’s just the dumpy gym and some half-ass cardboard glitter stars…

Sean: True, but that is an example of this movie’s drag queen logic: that prom IS this ultimate aspiration of femininity and being THE QUEEN is the end-all be-all.

Kristine: Right.

Sean: Can I just say that I was very impressed by Chris and Billy’s understanding of physics in setting up their expertly executed blood-dump? If I tried to set that up, the bucket either wouldn’t budge or it would just all crash out of the rafters before Carrie even made it up to the stage.

Kristine: I give all the credit to Chris.

Sean: I knew girls like Chris.

Kristine: Super smart with a massive chip on their shoulder?

Sean: The best, realest part of Chris is her reaction to Miss Collins’ detention and how she is totally being unable to not be a bratty and entitled. Being like, ‘No one tells me what to do!!’ even though she’s sabotaging something she really wants (to go to prom). Another example of masochism.

Kristine: Yes. My bf and I were discussing how all those bitches were ungrateful because people pay big bucks for that kind of old school calisthenics workout these days – it’s called CrossFit.

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Camel toe drill sergeant

Sean: My boyfriend said the same thing. He was like, “Miss Collins is doing them a huge favor.”

Kristine: I know. Tightening that shit up before prom? Free training?

Sean: Is getting your first period traumatic?

Kristine: Yes.

Sean: Why?

Kristine: Because even if you know all about it, you don’t know what to do. Like, the first year I had my period I was constantly checking to see if I needed to change my pad or if it was leaking or whatever. Like, going to the bathroom after every single class, and sometimes during class. It doesn’t help that starting periods are super unpredictable, too, and having a leaking period or visible period stain is the biggest nightmare of teen girl life. Just anxiety 100% of the time. Awful.

Sean: If a contemporary person said that this movie is misogynist because of all the blood/period stuff, do they have a case?

Kristine: No.

Sean: Because a lot of critics have said that the movie is about King’s fear of liberated women and female power. But what’s weird about that is that there are no male figures in the movie trying to place limits on or contain female power.

Kristine: I think it’s the opposite. I think Carrie is an exposé of society’s fear of liberated women and female power, not the author’s fear.

Sean: Do you think the movie makes the argument that the biggest threat to individual women discovering and harnessing their potential is…. other women?

Kristine: Hmmm. Possibly. Or just that it’s a ladies world.

Sean: And Tommy Girl is just living in it.

Kristine: Exactly.

Ratings Roundup

The Girl’s Rating: Masterpiece!

The Freak’s Rating: Masterpiece! AND Pop perfection

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6 thoughts on “Movie Discussion: Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976)

  1. I love Carrie. I haven’t seen either of the remakes but I can’t imagine a horror movie this frank about sex being a mainstream hit today. Whatever his sins, Brian De Palma never gave a fuck what people thought of him and just put it out there.

    I can’t wait for your Lifeforce write-up. I still have difficulty believing that movie got made.

  2. Hey girl and freak, I’m at a film music conference hearing a talk about DePalma’s 1973 “Sisters” (score by Bernard Herrmann). Thanks for your recent DePalma discussions – I feel very up to speed!

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