Directed By: Brian De Palma
Starring: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving
Tag line: "Take Carrie to the Prom. I Dare You!"
Trivia: Amy Irving was originally cast as Carrie, but was given the smaller role of Sue once Spacek came on board
Carrie, Brian de Palma’s 1976 film based on Stephen King’s best-selling novel, contains a number of classic scenes, some of which border on the iconic. But its status as one of the greatest horror pictures of the 1970s has more to do with its remarkable cast than anything else.
Carrie White (Sissy Spacek), a shy, introverted teenager, is ridiculed on a daily basis by her classmates, a tortured existence that’s further complicated by her religious mother (Piper Laurie), who subjects Carrie to the harsh judgment of her twisted puritanical beliefs. Ms. Collins (Betty Buckley), the gym teacher at Carrie’s school, tries to ease Carrie out of her shell, yet her attentions only intensify the venomous hatred some have for Carrie, especially Chris (Nancy Allen), who humiliates the poor girl every chance she gets. But what nobody realizes is Carrie’s inhibitions are masking a dark secret: she possesses telekinetic powers, which make their way to the surface whenever she’s upset. Which of Carrie’s peers will be the first to step over the line, thus unleashing her terrible wrath?
Sissy Spacek is both sensitive and creepy as the title character, bringing us into Carrie’s world of loneliness and torment from the get-go. Even by high school standards, Carrie’s situation is, to put it mildly, unusual, yet thanks to Spacek, we buy into her predicament and sympathize with her almost immediately. Countering Spacek’s angst is Piper Laurie as the God-loving mother from hell, a woman so obsessed with her own interpretations of biblical right and wrong that, for years, she’s ignored her daughter’s basic needs (while showering after gym class, Carrie gets her first ever period, and not knowing what it is, believes she’s bleeding to death). The scenes these two share are easily the picture’s most intense. Amy Irving is well cast as Sue, the callous girl who has a change of heart and tries to befriend Carrie, and William Katt turns on the charm as the boy who eventually asks Carrie to the prom. But a film like Carrie must have a good nemesis, and we get that in the form of Chris Hargensen, played to perfection by Nancy Allen. The only one to hold onto her hatred long after the others moved beyond it, Chris is downright ruthless, embarrassing Carrie at every turn, and usually with the help of her dim-witted boyfriend, Billy (John Travolta). Even as things improve for Carrie, we’re never truly comfortable because we know Chris is probably lurking nearby, ready to snatch any happiness away without a moment’s notice.
As with any Brian DePalma film, Carrie has plenty of style; the opening sequence, which begins with an aerial shot of a volleyball game, is a visual treat. Yet what makes this a memorable motion picture is its cast. Thanks to them, Carrie remains, to this day, one hell of an eerie horror movie.