The Horror of Coming of Age in Carrie (Brian DePalma, 1976)


Whenever I see a horror move, beyond the shock and gore, I find an artistic paradox. Horror, like science fiction, is a genre for cinema (audio-visual) but coming up with a good horror story is difficult. Horror rampantly objectifies people (especially women and teen-agers) to the point there is barely any humanity left. This explains the lack of respect for the genre. Also, ever since its beginnings, horror cinema greatly relied on literature; Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and much later being inspired by actual events especially crimes; Psycho, Texas Chainsaw, and for countries like the Philippines and other ‘developing countries’, folklore. Without these secondary sources, horror is nothing but shocks, screams, and occasionally sex and nudity. Luckily the likes of Stephen King continue to produce materials whose primary intention is to tell a story but just happen to be terrifying. Carrie (1974) is his first novel and it immediately gave him the admiration of readers he continues to maintain to this day. One after another, King generates horror literature classics that film makers are willing to adapt into screen.

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is your usual outcast teen-age girl who found out she has telekinetic powers after being bullied because of panicking after having her first menstruation. Her naive perception of her body is due mainly to her upbringing by her religious fanatic mother Margaret White (Piper Laurie). Carrie reads up about her ‘condition” while her bullies are being punished in detention. Sue Snell (Amy Irving), in order to make it up to Carrie asked her boyfriend Tommy Ross (William Katt) to go to prom with Carrie instead. Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allenon) on the other hand plans to get back at her. They set up Carrie to be crowned prom queen and while she is at her most glorious moment, humiliate her in front of the whole school. Carrie unleashes her powers, hurting, and killing a lot of people. She goes home hoping to find consolation with her mother but was deprived by it. She also destroys her home (literally) and becomes the small town’s devil personified in its local history.

Brian De Palma told a story of monsters and people with the line occasionally blurring. He doesn’t capitalize on effects and gore but takes a character study approach. My only problem is the abundant stock characters. Outside scenes with Carrie and her mother, things get a little predictable. But still, with the help of an excellent musical score (reminiscent of Psycho); we are made to sympathize with Carrie at the same time fear her. Carrie lived and died a loser. But her decision to leave the world of contradiction is an honorable one. Carrie is in every one of us and her story will linger in our minds. And maybe haunt us in our sleep.


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