7 March 2011

Clarky's Review: Carrie

I'm really not sure what to say about Carrie. On the one hand it undoubtedly has some great performances, the direction and camerawork is typically showy (as you would expect from De Palma), it is widely regarded as a classic and I can't really think of anything negative to say about it. However....

When reflecting on the film for this review I realised I just didn't enjoy it as much as my fellow members. Partly I think that it has something to do with the reputation that precedes Carrie. You're expecting a masterpiece, and as Ally noted, it undoubtedly must have been something on first viewing, but it to me it has not aged as well as some other films from that period. I guess to a certain extent it would be like showing Die Hard to a teenager - they wouldn't understand how stunning a film it is given the number of rip offs there are these days, diluting the genius of the original.

I guess I'm the teenager in this situation, and whilst I can understand why it has the reputation it does at the same time I can't believe it would get the same critical reception today. The film is well made and I was quite involved with the storyline, but some of the secondary characters seem to be underwritten. De Palma's direction is also sometimes a bit too much and pulled me out of the story, reminding me that I was watching a film.

A lot of the things I liked in Carrie also relate to some of the negatives of the film. In particular I liked that the film went straight into the story, the opening scene and the initial scene between Carrie and her mother giving the viewer an instant access point into Carrie's life and setting the scene perfectly (the cut scenes of Carrie as a child seem like a good decision from my point of view). However, I also kind of wanted the story to build a bit more and to really push Carrie to her breaking point. Instead the last 5 minutes just go a bit mental. The pacing off the film just felt a bit off to me. I was left feeling cheated and wanting more.

Were it not for the last 5 minutes, specifically the iconic image of Carrie drenched in blood, you would be hard pushed to call this film a horror. The three main villains of the piece thought their roles were so over the top that the film was a comedy!

With the exception of the pacing of the last 5 minutes. the direction is notable, specifically the scene on the dancefloor with Carrie and Tommy Ross which is excellent. You are left reeling with your head spinning, just as Carrie must feel to be dancing with Tommy Ross, and his golden locks. De Palma uses the camera as a story-telling tool, with many of the initial shots of Carrie and her mother from Carrie's point of view, with her mother looming over her, oppressing her, giving you an uncomfortable feeling and putting you firmly in Carrie's shoes, helping you to subconsciously connect with her.

The long single track shot (a De Palma staple) through the prom to the bucket of blood is also excellent, but I felt that the split screens at the end was a bit much and the double lens, that De Palma is also so fond of, is slightly overused. Still you have to admire his ambition for such a young filmmaker and there is more to enjoy than detract. De Palma is often said to pay "homage" to other filmmakers, notably Hitchcock, and the score certainly has elements of Psycho's score to it.

I did feel that the scenes with Carrie and her teacher were involving and their relationship was interesting. But it was those with her mother that were the most effective and creepy. especially when Carrie comes home from the prom and her mother is upstairs waiting, and when Carrie was locked in the cupboard to pray with the statue of St Sebastian (is De Palma saying that the mother was persecuted? Surely she's the villain of the piece).

Sissy Spacek gives a wonderfully low-key performance as the put-upon teenager, racking up the performance as Carrie loses control and starts lashing out after the prom. A stickler for detail, she apparently slept in her blood/soaked clothes for 3 days to ensure the continuity was correct, and even had herself buried for the final scene rather than get a stunt double.

Not only was this De Palma's first majorly successful film, but it was the first Stephen King novel to be adapted into a movie. As with a number of things with this film this has both positive and negative connotations to me. Undoubtedly there have been some classic Stephen King adaptations, but this film also led the way to a number of shocking adaptations and knock offs.

In conclusion, when comparing it to last week's film, Hellraiser, I would probably rate the films similarly. But as I had such low expectations for Hellraiser I ended up enjoying it a lot more. Conversely, I had heard so much about Carrie and had such high expectations that it was always going to be difficult for the film to live up to them.

A very solid film and a worth addition to horror club. There are some films that if you stumble across on TV you end up watching them all the way through; I don't know that if I came across Carrie whilst flicking channels that I would keep it on, most likely I would keep going until I found something else to watch.

Having said that, I feel I need to finish on a positive and this is the first film in a while that had me genuinely shouting at a character on the screen to stop something from happening (which is all the more impressive when you know Carrie is going to get drenched in blood - it's on the poster for heaven's sake!). Its not often a film does that, especially as it is a scene so well known that it should have no effect. Its testament to De Palma's direction, and your emotional involvement in the film up to that point, that it is a genuinely tense and thrilling moment as it unravels in front of your eyes.

1 comment:

  1. "I don't know that if I came across Carrie whilst flicking channels that I would keep it on, most likely I would keep going until I found something else to watch."



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