Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Carrie (1976)

Carrie is a movie I had seen before, but so long ago, it seemed due for a reappraisal, especially in light of the new remake starring Chloe Moretz that's rumored to be in development. It's a great Stephen King story, and a classic of the horror genre. Interesting is the fact that pretty much all of the villains are female. You have Carrie, who is a sort of anti-hero, with her emerging adolescent psychic abilities, and her mom, a rabidly sex-negative religious fundamentalist, and the bullies at school who are predominantly female. There are some guys who are jerks, but they're pretty much along for the ride, the girls are the ones in charge. You'd almost be tempted to call it a feminist movie, except that few of the characters are genuinely likable.

And for a movie where the horror generates almost exclusively from sexual anxiety, the opening scene in the girls' locker room is refreshingly idyllic (at least until Carrie makes her unfortunate discovery). It may be heavily inspired by male fantasy - young girls giggling and playfully teasing one another, half-dressed or naked from just stepping out of the group shower - but I don't care, I appreciated it greatly. And the willingness of Sissy Spacek - who is just fantastic in the role of the awkward (but not unattractive) titular teen - to bare all (or most) for the role enhances my appreciation of the movie (and respect for the actress) enormously.

Carrie's psychotically religious mother is played well by Piper Laurie, although it occurred to me that she might be even more horrific if she played a more realistic portrayal of a religious lunatic. It's just a thought, but true religious fanatics may be rare (I would hope), but I could imagine a more believably devout character being just as abusive toward Carrie, especially in matters of sexual education, given our culture's great shame on that topic.

One strike against the film that I have is the too-heavy reliance on the shrieking sound effect that was famously utilized in Psycho. It's a good device, but too much of it just draws your attention to it. And it dates the film a bit, although that's not the only detail that contributes to that. Still, the climactic scene where Carrie explodes at the prom is just such an iconic and almost archetypal (in totally relatable fashion) expression of high school bully revenge fantasy, that despite the dating, it is oh so satisfying to watch. Still, even though I'm usually wary of remakes, I think this is one movie that could do well to be updated for a modern audience, provided it's in good hands. Though perhaps my appreciation for Chloe Moretz as an actress (I love her fearlessness in the face of doing horror roles) is influencing that opinion. ;-)

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