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September 27th, 2023

carrie 1976 spotlight pageCarrie White becomes of the victim of a cruel prank at her prom in this scene from the 1976 horror hit “Carrie.” Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


Since it’s October and officially the season for all things spooky, I’ve been spending a good chunk of this month acquainting myself with some old favorites as well as some new stuff that will become staples for my Halloween seasons in the future. 

In order to be successful during that quest to find spooky fare to watch, I turned to Netflix and found the 1976 horror classic “Carrie,” directed by Brian De Palma and based on the Stephen King novel of the same name about a frequently bullied outcast high school girl named Carrie White, who discovers she has telekinetic abilities. 

I will freely admit, I was hesitant to click on the movie because (A) In my experience, adaptations of Stephen King novels haven’t turned out the greatest and (B) The past two horror “classics” (i.e. the ones almost every horror movie list says should be watched by literally EVERYONE) I’ve watched – “The Shining” and “The Exorcist” – left me severely disappointed. But, given how it’s the Halloween season and I was looking for some spooky fare to watch, I clicked on the movie and settled in to watch how everything unfolded. 

And ultimately, I actually ended up being surprised with the result.

The first thing I have to give praise to is the acting from all the major players in the movie, starting with Sissy Spacek, who portrayed the titular character and did an amazing job portraying that awkwardness and anxiety felt by literally every teenage girl – you see the fear and pain every other emotion in her eyes throughout the movie and in a way, it took me back to my own school days when I felt rather shy and awkward and every other uncomfortable emotion everyone goes through during adolescence. And during the climactic scene where she sets her school on fire during the prom, her entire visage turns cold and uncaring and she is COMPLETELY without remorse as she does what she does – the look on her face and in her eyes is TERRIFYING. Also deserving of praise in the acting category is Piper Laurie, who plays Carrie’s disturbed religious fanatic mother, Margaret – admittedly, some might see her portrayal as campy and scene-chewing, but I believe that’s kind of the point since her character is written as extremely over the top in the novel and I feel she nails that description. I did a little research on the movie after I watched it and found out these two were actually nominated for Academy Awards for their respective performances in this movie, and I totally understand why. 

Another thing I liked about the movie is how relatively simple it is compared to the novel. I read the novel when I was in college and I honestly almost didn’t get through it because there were multiple viewpoints to read through and things like that, so it’s a bit of a jumbled mess. With the movie, however, it cuts through all the extra fat from the book and tells just the story of Carrie and what happens to her in a straight, linear way, and I’m very glad that’s how they approached it. 

The pacing of the movie is also done very well. With a 98 minute runtime, the movie goes at a quick yet steady tempo and not only tells the full story but also allows for character development to occur. So not only is this a good movie overall, it’s not one you have to set aside a full day for (unlike, say, any of the “Lord of the Rings” movies). 

Something else I found rather amusing was the costumes used in the movie, because they are so retro and make you acutely aware you’re watching a movie from the 1970s. Multiple times I was obliged to shake my head and wonder, like the many times I’ve seen pictures in my parents’ old yearbooks, “What were they THINKING back then?” and “What made them think THAT looked good?!”

I also liked how this movie, in a weird way, had a strong anti-bullying message – even back in 1976, media was dropping truth bombs about treating each other with respect, which is a message I really wish more people would actually understand and take to heart. 

Overall, while I did enjoy the movie, there is one major gripe I have with it. Part of the beginning of the movie concerns Carrie and her classmates cleaning up after gym class and there’s quite a bit of nudity involved – in fact, I thought it was bordering on pornographic with the types of camera shots they used for that scene and it just made me slightly uncomfortable. Admittedly, I’ve always been uncomfortable with that sort of thing, so that feeling might just be because of my own hangup. 

Overall, however, I was very much surprised by the movie and came away satisfied with the interpretation of the novel, and I would give it a "B-plus" grade. Since it is from 1976, it might feel slightly dated to newer viewers but overall, it’s a very good quality adaptation of King’s work. The acting is solid, there might be some nostalgia involved that will take you back to your own high school days and just overall, it’s a good movie. If you’re a fan of older horror movies, or Stephen King’s work, give “Carrie” a click on Netflix or see if you can find it somewhere else.