1976 VERSION IS "ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT MOVIES OF MY LIFE"
Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman posted an essay on his blog Friday with the headline, "The original Carrie is the movie that made me want to be a critic." Here is an excerpt:
"The release of Kimberly Peirce’s faithful, solid, efficient, and therefore essentially pointless remake of Carrie gives me the opportunity to look back at the 1976 original, which is still one of my favorite films — and, in fact, one of the most important movies of my life. It’s one of the two films, the other being Robert Altman’s Nashville, that made me want to be a critic. And that’s because Carrie did more than thrill, frighten, and captivate me; it sent a volt charge through my system that rewired my imagination, showing me everything that movies could be. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Carrie, at my local mall the day after Thanksgiving. I was a teenage geek who was fast on his way to becoming a movie freak (in this culture, we all need a role, and that would be mine). But I was still finding my way in cinema world, so even though the film had been out for close to a month, I knew nothing about it. I hadn’t read any reviews; I had never heard of the director, Brian De Palma, or Stephen King, whose 1974 novel the movie was based on, or any of the actors.
"The opening moments were like a hallucination — all those teenage girls horsing around in slow motion in a high school locker room, and then pale, freckled Carrie (Sissy Spacek), lost in a private reverie in the shower, caressing her skin and dropping the soap and getting her period for the first time, which makes her think that she’s dying. It’s a completely shocking, horrific sequence, yet it was set up with lushly tender and swelling orchestral music (by Pino Donaggio) that sounded like it came out of the most sentimental Hollywood love story ever made. It was as if Carrie was trying to freak you out and, at the same time, make you swoon over how freaked out you were getting. The whole movie was like that. It was the strangest, most exhilarating thing: a googly-eyed romantic teen-dream-turned-nightmare. Watching Carrie, I felt like I was being lured right into the action on screen, and that feeling never let go. As memorable as the whole experience was, though, if I want to be totally true to that first viewing, I can hardly overstate the importance of the film’s great shocker of a trick ending. I didn’t just jump, I stood up in my seat with terror and felt a tremor go through my soul.
"Emerging from the theater, I knew how powerfully Carrie had affected me, but I had no real idea why. Even the ending carried a tingle of mystery: I’d been scared by other big shock moments in horror films — why did the fear factor of this one cut so deeply? From that first viewing, the movie possessed me, and somehow, I had to understand what it was about Carrie that had gotten into my system. And so I thought about the movie. All the time. And went back to see it. Again and again. And even tried to write about it (badly). I was trying to figure out why the movie possessed me, and in doing so, without knowing it, I was becoming a critic.
"Today, something that strikes me about Carrie is that the movie has carved out a place in film history without ever really getting full credit for being the pop masterpiece it is. For many people, it’s a beloved film, yet when you read about it, Carrie gets described with words like 'cult classic' or 'creepy horror movie' that somehow reduce it. And I don’t think I’m just speaking out of my own personal nostalgia for what a seismic movie it was for me. The singularity of Carrie, and the reason that film history has never completely known how to classify or to judge it, is that the film is so many different things at once."
Go to Entertainment Weekly to read the rest of Gleiberman's magnificent post, including the part where he states, "To me, movies like Blow Out, Dressed to Kill, and Casualties of War are gliding-camera pastiches, yet none of the director’s fabled serpentine tracking shots ever matched the giddy power of the simple slow zoom he uses in the establishing shot at the prom in Carrie. Effortlessly, he fuses the film’s tones — high school cheese, YA empathy, pop-gothic Tennessee Williams, the zap! of telekinesis — and the deliriously extended slow-motion set piece of Carrie walking on stage to be crowned prom queen, that bucket of pig’s blood poised above her, may be the single greatest suspense sequence of the post-studio system era. In Carrie, it’s because De Palma used his fantastic technique, in every shot, to serve the movie’s emotional core that his virtuosity, for once, instead of being all about itself, really did attain a level comparable to that of Alfred Hitchcock."