Stephen King novel adaptations are now all over the place. It, Gerald’s Game, The Dark Tower, and others have been flooding our screens. Over the years, there have been so many adaptations, from horrible flops to great works. How can you blame someone for adapting his work? He has written so many stories over the years, it’s ripe for an up and coming director to give it a shot Recently, the work has been too Hollywood, but I also haven’t seen every adaption, nor have I read the source material. If I were to, we would have our next President. I won’t be comparing the source material today. Anyway, the very first film adaption from King’s work is still one of the best. Carrie is haunting, dramatic, and exciting to watch. For any teenager who is going through high school, the original Carrie film is an important look into the life of a typical, bullied teen. The less-than typical is her telekinetic powers.
I did watch Carrie in high school, and, though I was never bullied to the extreme like she is, I still had to go through the usual tribulations of any high schooler. The film shows the tension between students of different social groups in a believable way. Brian De Palma, the film’s director, crafts each scene straightforward instead of beating around the issue. There are many scenes of Carrie’s (Sissy Spacek) interactions with classmates and her mother that make the viewer both uncomfortable and feel guilty. The first scene is incredibly uncomfortable. I can only imagine the embarrassment and fear a woman has when she first experiences her period. When Carrie has her first in the school bathroom, a place she already feels isolated, that fear is cranked up. The other girls throwing tampons at her is still an image engraved into my mind. The guilt that the audience cannot stop these terrible acts upon Carrie continues when we are introduced to her mother (Piper Laurie). Both at school and home, Carrie is in a hostile environment. An abusive, religious mother treating a moment that should be shared between a mother and daughter with care is instead treated with abuse. Carrie’s menstruation is not natural, but brought on by sin, as her mother believes. As the film goes on, we see Carrie be “accepted” by others. We see her smiles, the happiness that any teenager deserves, but we know that this is all a joke to other students who only wish to cause her misery (hey, another Stephen King adaptation!).
Similar to Donnie Darko, Carrie’s anger and fear about how the world treats her is exerted through her powers. Stephen King is known to throw in whatever he chooses into his work, but the powers that she has are symbolic. Throughout the film, we see her shatter glass, make a kid fall off his bike after mocking her, and the prom scene. That build up to the famous prom scene is very good. I love how she researches her powers. She’s not a bullied teenager who discovers these violent powers and uses them for her own use. She is still human. She wants to be normal like the others. This adds to the emotional attachment we have toward her already. We don’t pity a murderer; we pity a normal teenager. The story would be mishandled if it were the other way around, where, when she discovers her powers, she unleashes them slowly until the cathartic ending. There would be no attachment to her at that point.
Carrie is an excellent horror movie with an unfortunately real glimpse into a bullied teenager. Years later, the work is still relevant. A teenager goes through so much during those times that they feel like everything is weighing them down, and the only way to break free from the stress is to explode, in a sense. During the film, there are many signs that adults see that they ignore about Carrie’s situation. This is probably the most heartbreaking part of the movie. When you have others– older, wiser, and with greater influence– just brushing off Carrie, that sadness that we’ve felt as we watch other films hit us again. De Palma knows how to bring to life true-to-life characters and situations with King’s horror and supernatural elements. Carrie, as well as a few others following it, is a perfect example of how to adapt the source material. Stick to its guns, create your image, and make an impact.
dir. Brian De Palma
Screens Monday, 10/30, 7:00pm @ Coolidge Corner Theatre. Double feature with Christine. Part of the series Big Screen Classics.