Movie Information

The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Carrie Thursday, Feb. 24, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of the Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
Genre: Horror
Director: Brian De Palma
Starring: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, William Katt, Amy Irving, Betty Buckley, Nancy Allen, John Travolta
Rated: R

Classic modern horror doesn’t get any more classic than Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976)—arguably the best film adaptation of a Stephen King novel ever made, with the possible exception of Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). Here—as in perhaps no other film—De Palma’s non-stop stylistic flourishes completely complement and enhance the proceedings. While his flashy style is invariably entertaining, it rarely melds this well with the material. This is one of those rare films where—in 1976—you actually saw things you’d never seen before. Add to this the absolutely magnificent performances of Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie (both Oscar-nominated, both shamefully passed over by voters) and that classic—the classic—shocker ending and you have something very close to a perfect horror movie. And more.

In 1976 few people really knew what Carrie might be because few people knew much of anything about De Palma. His earlier films were little seen and his rock ‘n’ roll horror comedy Phantom of the Paradise (1974) had never gone beyond cult status. (Though it was here he found his Carrie, Sissy Spacek, who had served as set dresser for her husband, production designer Jack Fisk.) His other 1976 film, Obsession, only barely beat Carrie into theaters and hadn’t exactly set the world on fire. Audiences in general had little clue about his style—the flashy camerawork, the split-screen work—and even those who did weren’t really prepared for the sensuality revealed here. And—though it’s demonstrable, on examination, that the shock ending is constantly telling you that what you’re seeing isn’t real—that ending scene was like something out of the blue.

Looked at as something more than a horror movie, Carrie isn’t just the ultimate high school nerd revenge fantasy, but it’s a particularly terrifying look at repressive religious beliefs. Both of these elements are taken to levels never previously attempted—and perhaps never attained in any subsequent film. Piper Laurie’s portrayal of Carrie’s sexually repressed fundamentalist mother is one of the most chilling in the history of horror—and years of parodying her “They’re all gonna laugh at you!” line (thank you, Adam Sandler) have done nothing to dim its power in context. While a lot of 1970s horror doesn’t always hold up, Carrie is a film that seems as fresh today as it did in 1976.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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4 thoughts on “Carrie

  1. Marjorie J. Birch

    I had the dubious pleasure of seeing “Carrie” at an afternoon showing, when I was the only person in the theatre.

    What was really scary (especially in context of the movie) was that when I left (shaking) the main doors in the lobby WOULD NOT OPEN.

    I was also disturbed by the Piper Laurie death scene — it was hard to tell whether she was in agonizing pain or in the throes of a long-deferred orgasm. (The ambiguity was probably deliberate.)

  2. Ken Hanke

    Yes, I think the ambiguity is deliberate.

    What I’m hoping for tonight is an audience who has never seen the movie and knows little or nothing about it. That seems unlikely, but you never know. I’m constantly surprised by what people haven’t seen.

  3. Ken Hanke

    We had a packed house (I watched it standing up) and only one person who hadn’t seen it. She jumped at the shock effect in the last scene.

  4. Jill

    Favorite horror movie. Watch it every Halloween. And no matter how many times I see it, I STILL jump at the end.

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