In recent years we have been exposed to countless remakes of horror films. The majority of the horror films that are being churned out seem to be “re-imaginings” of American horror films from the nineteen seventies. Rob Zombie’s dull reworking of John Carpenter’s Halloween has led to the birth of a completely new and separate franchise of the terrifying world of Michael Myers. We have also seen reboots of Friday 13th and the hideous remake of The Wicker Man. Although these new versions of classic horror films make millions there is also a lot being lost. Complex character, originality and the importance of story seem to vanish from the minds of those recreating classic horror villains such as Freddie Kruger, Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers. Although William Friedkin’s The Exorcist is yet to be recreated and tainted, every year we witness numerous exorcism and possession based horror films leak into our cinema. This Winter we can prepare for the reboot of Carrie to hit the screens. The anticipation of this has caused me to reminisce about Brian De Palma’s original version and consider what it is that makes this such an iconic and sentimental horror film for the horror fan within.
Carrie is often forgotten about amidst the abundance of slasher and possession horror that dominated the nineteen seventies. Carrie is a very flawed film. There is nothing revolutionary or particularly intelligent about it but that makes it all the more loveable. Most of the performances are stiff and the script is full of problems but this does not change the fact that Carrie is responsible for a variety of iconic and memorable horror cinema scenes. The plot is simple and deals with the politics of the high school experience. Carrie herself is an underdog. We root for her; understanding her confusion and isolation. Sissy Spacek gives an exceptional performance here; a performance that has undoubtedly defined her career. The contrast between the first hour of the film and the final half an hour is enhances by Spacek’s intensity as an actress. The balance between vulnerability, power and anger define Carrie and are brought to the role exquisitely by Sissy Spacek.
Piper Laurie plays Margaret White, Carrie’s demented and overtly religious mother. Her control over Carrie is the real horror that echoes through this story. It is Carrie’s mother who seals her daughter’s fate, failing to educate and prepare her for life outside the walls of their own home. As Carrie grows more courageous and independent, Margaret’s decent into madness is portrayed by Piper Laurie with an eccentricity and flamboyance that makes the film and her specific scenes all the more entertaining and captivating. Laurie manages to display an ideal blend of horror and exaggeration. Outside of the mother and daughter, there is very little going on in the characters of Carrie. Teachers and students take up the rest of the screen time and there is very little to care about and understand; making the finale of Carrie even more of a guilty pleasure.
The simplicity of the story allowed Palma to play around with the film’s cinematography and artistic flare. Palma keeps his audience lingering in fear and anticipation for over five minutes once Carrie has been announced as prom queen. Everyone, except for Carrie and most of the students attending the prom, knows what it about to happen, most importantly we as the audience know. Palma is fully aware that we for-see her humiliation and chooses to prolong the inevitable for as long as possible. The over dramatic music improves this famous scene and makes your skin crawl with angst and a sly sense of pleasure. It is then that the film dives into its climatic final third. As Carrie wreaks havoc on her classmates we are filled with a sense of gratification as all of those awkward high-school cruelties, that we all experienced, are avenged ever so slightly.
The trailer for the remake of Carrie has hidden nothing. Every turn the story takes is present and blatantly displayed. Julianne Moore and Chloë Grace Moretz star as the deranged mother and confused teen. Being a huge fan of both actresses, I feel disappointed and yet hopeful about what the remake has to offer. As far as I can tell there is very little transformation or development from De Palma’s vision of Stephen King’s novel which makes the whole thing seem pointless. De Palma’s Carrie is not one of the most insightful or intelligent horror classics ever made but it is a contemporary classic none the less. With a sense of fun and suspense always present, Carrie has remained one of my favourite horror films; due to its melodramatic tones and bravado, if nothing else.
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