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Cult Cinema

Guilty Treasures: Revisiting 1976’s Carrie

If you walk out of your latest cinema, tune into telly or even dotted around your street, you will see adverts for the latest horror movie Carrie. Starring Chloe Mortez and Julianne Moore, it is a movie about a teenage outcast who is bullied by her mother and fellow pupils at school. That is until she discovers she has telekinetic powers that might boil into a raging attack on them all. Omissible from the tirade of promotion there is the tagline “You Will Know Her Name.” Innocuous at best due to her name being the whole damn title of the movie, people should already know her name from the brilliant original movie of the Stephen King adaptation.

Made in 1976, Carrie was a delightful horror story that is still fresh in some people’s minds. Launching the career of Sissy Spacek, Brian De Palma (of Scarface fame) it was a great and terrifying piece of cinema in its own right. Award nominated and critically acclaimed, the original is still as captivating and haunting with today’s audiences. De Palma did a stunning tribute to the book, creating a movie that digs under the skin.

Why? Because De Palma presented different elements of the Carrie character. Carrie is a girl hounded by everyone. Sweet, innocent and naïve, She is also likeable and foolish. All her life she has lived on the outskirts of real human connection. Her mother Margaret, played impeccably by Piper Laurie, is a religious tyrant who punishes Carrie for her own sins. The girl is so abused simply for being alive that you can’t help yearn for her to find acceptance somewhere.

The reason Carrie is a classic movie is because there is no fear of her from the beginning. It is more the fear of what people around her are pushing her to do. Carrie is tarnished from the beginning because no one has loved or cared for her. She is pushed away from all of society because they deem her as either filthy, evil or weird when she is simply growing. De Palma translates these themes effectively on screen, creating a humanistic horror story about supernatural powers. The wide eyed act from Spacek drags you into a world where you want her to flourish. She isn’t the monster here and by no means should be treated as one.

Much of Carrie’s frightening descent into murder comes through the criticism of people around her. Although brutal in revenge, there is always the nagging feeling that none of this would have happened if Carrie had been left to grow and develop as this young women. When the pig’s blood descends on her head, before she succumbs to her rage, you are shocked. And De Palma stages the act as an empty and embarrassing prank. Those who try to help Carrie are equally shunned and it is more the tirade against her than the powers we fear. Because most of us have either suffered or perpetrated bullying it is a comment on the evil people do and how they can break something fragile. It is an astonishing piece of work.

When the remake was announced, opinion was split in two. On one side, the impressive female cast and directing (Kimberley Peirce who is renowned for Boys Don’t Cry) is an instant draw. In particular, Moretz is a hotly tipped actress who has all the traits to become an infamous Carrie. On the other hand, after seeing initial trailers, it seems that the remake misses the point and chooses to rely on the horrific finale rather than develop the iconic lead character. It will be disappointing if Peirce relies too heavily on the telekinesis because it isn’t the main focus of the story.

So the release tomorrow could well be an earnest adaptation but the main stumbling block here is that with the old film a near masterpiece in horror, the whole affair seems highly unnecessary.

Let us know what you think in the comments section below…


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