Starring Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, Nancy Allen
Directed by Brian De Palma
Distributed by Scream Factory
Adaptations of Stephen King’s literary works are often a gamble; some features are outright classics, while others stumble so badly they remain notorious flops for years to come (Dreamcatcher (2003), anyone?). To be fair, the bar for King’s page-to-picture legacy was set awfully high when a then-relatively-unknown Brian De Palma adapted the 1974 novel “Carrie” to great acclaim. His film, Carrie (1976), visualized King’s words via an artistic lens that is still, to this day, considered one of the finest works of horror ever produced for the screen. All of De Palma’s signature screen tricks are on display, giving Carrie a unique visual aesthetic that easily set it apart from most of the ‘70s horror fare. King’s novel, meanwhile, has proved to be a wellspring of entertainment, responsible not only for De Palma’s film but for a TV remake, a sequel, a remake, a musical, and a stage play. All of these pale in comparison to De Palma’s vision, and no matter how much Hollywood tries the magic of this movie simply can’t be replicated.
Social outcast Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is unquestionably the least popular girl in school. The classmates who do notice her can’t stand her, while the rest of the school – administrators included – can’t even be bothered to get her name right. Her mother, Margaret (Piper Laurie), is a religious whacko who finds sin in everything, admonishing all around her. When a distraught Carrie freaks out after getting her first period in the school showers, her classmates ruthlessly taunt her until she is reduced to a blubbering pile of tears. Carrie finds no solace at home, either, when her mother punishes her for becoming a woman, convinced her menstruation is nothing more than the work of Satan. Carrie is ordered to pray within a small closet, where the creepiest tiny statue of Jesus ever committed to film is enshrined. The only person who shows any sympathy toward Carrie is her gym teacher, Miss Collins (Betty Buckley), and even she finds the girl to be trying at times. Disturbed by the lack of empathy shown by Carrie’s fellow students, Ms. Collins orders the gym class to endure three weeks of detention on the fields, running and exercising, or else they’ll be suspended and denied permission to attend the prom. Everyone falls in line except for Chris (Nancy Allen), who gets a firm slap across the face for her refusal.
At least one student seems to feel remorse: Sue Snell (Amy Irving). In a bid to improve Carrie’s feelings, Sue asks her boyfriend, Tommy (William Katt), to invite Carrie to the prom. He agrees but convincing Carrie isn’t as easy; she rejects him repeatedly, positive his charm is a ruse, until finally agreeing when pushed. Things seem like they’re beginning to turn around for Carrie, and even though her mother is extremely disapproving of her going to the prom for once Carrie begins to act on her own accord. Margaret warns her that “they’re all gonna laugh at you” but Carrie rebuffs her words. This is one instance where she maybe should have heeded her mother’s caution because while Carrie is determined to have a fun night for the first time in her life, Chris and her meatball boyfriend, Billy (John Travolta), have something sinister planned. Little does anyone know that Carrie is more than just a meek loner, and soon the true nature of her hidden power is about to be unhinged.
The greatest success of Carrie is how humanistic it is, with the devastating drama making Carrie’s journey all the more tragic. Carrie possesses powers unknown and unclear – even to her – and the only time they are revealed is when someone has wronged her. Unfortunately, that happens virtually every day. She’s a sheltered young woman, ignorant to normalcy because her mother is a zealot hell-bent on preaching the gospel and worshiping the Lord. To her, all things in life are full of sin, even those that are out of our hands. Carrie’s menstruation is a rite of passage for most young women, but because her mother refused to educate her Carrie sees this coming of age moment as certain death. Her shrieking is a laughable joke to all the other girls. Seeing it from Carrie’s point of view, it must have been terrifying.
Carrie’s telekinetic abilities are never used exploitatively, either. She doesn’t move things with her mind just because she can; the only time her powers come out is when a person has done something cruel or dismissive. She doesn’t fully appreciate her unique abilities, using them as a tool for learning more than anything. Maybe people who do her wrong will think twice the next time, like that little shit on the bike who taunts her as she walks home. These little acts of retaliation are meant to be shocking but harmless. The problem for Carrie is when something so grievous happens to her she enters a catatonic state, emotions erupting from within, and she is nearly blind to her actions.
Carrie is less a horror film and more of a dark coming-of-age drama, with aspects that border on comical. Piper Laurie was convinced the script called for humor because her character is so outrageously over the top. She chews so much scenery even a master set consumer like Rod Steiger would be given pause. Chris and Bill’s revenge plot seems a tad farfetched, but you also have to remember kids in high school can be shitheads; it isn’t so outside the realm of possibility. One thing I still haven’t figured out, no matter how many times I have seen the film, is whether or not Sue and Tommy really care about boosting Carrie’s self-esteem or if it was all just a joke. De Palma suggests their motivations are true but I’m not so sure; I just have a hard time buying it. And that’s part of the fun, I suppose; the ambiguity of those moments. Studios can attempt to recapture the magic of this cinema classic all they want but it just isn’t going to happen. Carrie is a bonafide classic; a product of its time, done with style and substance.
MGM issued Carrie on Blu-ray years ago, featuring a subpar transfer with a weak encode; it was generally considered to be a flawed release. Scream Factory has trumped that edition considerably, going back to the original negative (something they don’t do often), commissioning a 4K scan that finally allows the film to look as good as it did on theater screens over 40 years ago. The 1.85:1 1080p image is a marked improvement over the last release, featuring tighter contrast, richer blacks, saturated colors, and improved definition. Cinematographer Mario Tosi shot the film with a deliberately gauze-y, dreamy aesthetic that causes many scenes to look soft and smoky. Taking the stylistic choices into consideration, this is still an excellent image filled with fine details and a stronger visual appearance than any home video release.
Both of Scream Factory’s audio options should please fans of the film, with the choice of either the original English 2.0 mono track or a 5.1 surround sound mix. If you’re a purist then, by all means, have at it with the mono mix but to my ears the remixed surround sound track is a clear winner. Dialogue sounds richer and clearer, rears are used sparingly to create tension and punch up some of the action, and – most importantly – Pino Donaggio’s absolutely incredible score sounds exquisite pumping through all available speakers. The soundtrack takes viewers on a rollercoaster of emotions, flipping from tragic cues to upbeat Italian funk to emotionally draining melodies. It is often said that score is 50% of a picture’s success and Donaggio’s music holds that adage to be true. Subtitles are available in English SDH.
Trailers for the original film, plus the 2002 TV remake and the 1999 sequel, The Rage: Carrie 2 are the only features found here.
“Interviews” contains the following sit-downs:
– “Writing Carrie”, with writer Lawrence D. Cohen.
– “Shooting Carrie”, with director of photography Mario Tosi.
– “Cutting Carrie”, with editor Paul Hirsch.
– “Casting Carrie”, with casting director Harriet B. Helberg.
– “Acting Carrie”, this archival piece features interviews with most of the cast & crew.
– “More Acting Carrie”, with new interviews from members of the cast & crew.
– “Visualizing Carrie”, with archival interviews from De Palma and others.
– “Bucket of Blood”, featuring a new interview with composer Pino Donaggio.
“Horror’s Hallowed Grounds” revisits the locations of the film, showing how they look today.
“Carrie, The Musical” is a look at the stage play version of the novel.
“More Carrie” contains a collection of five TV spots, two radio spots, “Still Gallery – Rare Behind-the-Scenes”, “Still Gallery – Posters & Lobby Cards”, and “Stephen King and the Evolution of Carrie Text Gallery”, a text-based feature that covers the writing of his novel.
As with most Scream Factory collector’s edition releases, the cover art is reversible and there is a slipcover on first pressings.
- NEW 4K Scan Of The Original Negative
- NEW interviews with writer Laurence D. Cohen, editor Paul Hirsch, actors Piper Laurie, P.J. Soles, Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley, William Katt, Edie McClurg, casting director Harriet B. Helberg and director of photography Mario Tosi
- NEW Horror’s Hallowed Grounds – Revisiting The Film’s Original Locations
- Acting Carrie – Interviews With Actors Sissy Spacek, Amy Irving, Betty Buckley, Nancy Allen, William Katt, Piper Laurie, Priscilla Pointer and P.J. Soles And Art Director Jack Fisk And Director Brian De Palma
- Visualizing Carrie – Interviews With Brian De Palma, Jack Fisk, Lawrence D. Cohen, Paul Hirsch
- A Look At “Carrie: The Musical”
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Carrie Franchise Trailer Gallery
- TV Spots
- Radio Spots
- Still Gallery – Rare Behind-The-Scenes Photos
- Stephen King And The Evolution Of Carrie Text Gallery