Carrie is such a unique experience that I feel everyone should watch at least one. Everyone knows it as a classic horror movie, coming from the mind of Stephen King and referenced dozens of times. The imagery of the ‘insane prom queen’ has been used by the band Hole, by Olivia Rodrigo, by Q Magazine in a photoshoot with Lana Del Rey, and is always a popular Halloween costume. It symbolizes the destruction of a feminine, all-American archetype. Yet, I feel like the prevalence of this movie in the cultural zeitgeist has taken away from the truly powerful nature of the narrative. The story is so much deeper than I thought it would be going in, and altogether, it was such a brilliant piece of cinema that I was angry at myself for not having seen it sooner. 

Carrie is a story about teenage bullying, abusive parents, and the moral skewing of religious concepts. It carries a supernatural undertone throughout, but the climax is built from the tension that comes from the emotional toll the titular character of Carrie faces. The horror does not come from the destruction and gore; rather that portion of it seems almost satisfying. This movie can capture a deeper, psychological form of horror, which I always love. When you first meet Carrie White, you see her being mercilessly bullied for being horrified at getting her period. She has somehow lived her life unaware of what a period is and is thus, petrified at what is happening to her. With this simple introduction, you learn the main conflicts of the story; Carrie gets viciously bullied at school and she grows up in a household that is abusive enough to withhold basic information about life. The framing of every scene paints a picture so effortlessly, without needless exposition. We learn that Carrie’s mother is a hyper-religious woman, one who believes virtually everything to be sinful. She blames Carrie’s period on her having ‘lustful thoughts’, the period being an act of punishment from God. Her distorted view of religion adds an element of religious trauma to Carrie’s situation, which is already dire with the incredibly cruel way she is treated in school. Once she starts realizing her supernatural powers, one almost hopes she will violently retaliate against everyone who has wronged her. As a whole, the plot is pretty well-known, but it is more complex once you watch the movie. 

The performances were simply stunning. Sissy Spacek plays Carrie with such a sincere innocence that both makes her character believable and allows her to work as a character. The audience must be able to fully sympathize with Carrie for the plot to work as intended, and this would not be as possible if Ms. Spacek did not act as well. I also want to highlight Patricia Clarkson’s performance as Carrie’s mom. She felt so genuinely terrifying. Even though it was nothing like my experience with my mother, I did feel the terror Carrie felt with this character being her maternal figure. She holds this deadpan erratic quality, which is so deeply unsettling in such a complex way. 

Additionally, the cinematography was phenomenal; in fact, I would say it’s revolutionary. It was aesthetically gorgeous and meaningful, and often incredibly inventive. The prom setting was so dreamy and fantastical that you do get the rose-tinted appeal of the event that Carrie has. It feels like she is going to a fairytale ball, which is akin to the significance this dance holds for her. Moreover, the dancing scene is shot with a rotating camera shot, which only gets more dizzying as it goes on. It becomes disturbing in the way it is so unnatural, foreshadowing the dark turn the dance ends up taking. To add to this, the sound design was also genius. When the famous pig blood scene happens, the audio cuts, having previously been normal, romantic prom music, and the silence is deafening. If you are a big fan of cinema, this movie holds so many gems in its artistic qualities, and you are sure to love it. 

As a warning, however, if you are sensitive to blood, violence, gore, religious trauma, severe violent bullying, and/or parental abuse, this movie is not for you. In addition, it is meant to be spooky, so please be careful watching this if you are not in the right headspace. If you would like to watch this classic, though, it is available for free on YouTube, which is where I watched it. It is also on Amazon Prime, Hulu, Max, and Apple TV for $3.99.


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