"IT'S ALMOST LIKE HORROR'S 'GREASE'" ; ALSO, "IT'S MY 'TITANIC', IN A WAY"
The A. V. Club's Keith Phipps called upon Edgar Wright to provide this year's 24-hour horror film marathon. The site encourages readers to rent the movies and watch the marathon at home. Wright's fest would begin at 6pm with David Cronenberg's The Brood, and by 1am, viewers would be watching Brian De Palma's Carrie. Wright explains to the A. V. Club the idea for his fest:
I had this crazy idea, which mostly works, and then there’s one film that completely doesn’t work, and I sort of just lobbed it in. I was trying to think, “Wouldn’t it be good to do a 24-hour marathon that was based on the seven ages of man?” [Laughs.] So I thought “That’s pretty much 15 films in 24 hours, that leaves about two per age, and then you’ve a bonus round at the end.” That’s my idea. So the seven ages of man, as laid out by Shakespeare in As You Like It: the infant, the whining schoolboy, the lover (or teenager), the soldier (and I’m going to interpret that as soldier/young professional), the justice (or the man/adult), the age shifts (becoming old), and the end of this strange eventful history (death). And then I’m going to add eternal life as the bonus at the end.
So in Wright's fest, Carrie falls into the age of the lover:
AVC: Are we on to a new stage of man?
EW: We are. We’re now in the lovers stage, and my favorite horror movie of all time: Brian De Palma’s 1976 film Carrie. The reason I love Carrie so dearly is because I feel like it’s a horror film that absolutely anybody can watch and enjoy. Maybe enjoy is the wrong word, but I think everybody can relate to it. You sympathize with the main character so much, which is unusual for horror, which frequently has no characters to truly care about. Another great thing about Carrie is that it almost plays like horror’s Grease, in that everybody can watch Carrie and say, “Oh, I was that person,” or “I was that person.” You were either the bullied, the bullier, the person who stood by and did nothing, or the person who tried to help. It’s an amazing movie. I only recently read the book, and it gave me more appreciation for the adaptation by Lawrence Cohen, because in the book, they have a lot more of the city-wide rampage. Basically, the second half of the book is Carrie blowing the town to smithereens. But because of budget, the film wisely climaxes at the prom. My favorite moment in Carrie is the lead-up to the bucket of blood falling, where it totally becomes opera.
Brian De Palma is at his best when he becomes almost like a silent filmmaker, where the plot mechanics are all in action, and it can just play out like a horrible dance of death. And the section setting up the geography of the prom, and where the bucket of blood is, and where the rope is, and who’s holding it, and P.J. Soles swapping the ballots, and Tommy Ross and Carrie White walking up to the stage is glorious. All set to that Pino Donaggio cue called “Bucket Of Blood.” I love it. It’s just amazing. One of my favorite sequences in cinema. So brilliantly conceived and edited. The score is perfect. I love this movie. If I had made something like Carrie, I’d probably retire. It’s just absolute pop perfection.
AVC: The only scene that ever sticks out to me as not working 100 percent is—
EW: Is where it’s sped up when they’re trying on tuxedos? When I look at that now, he’d obviously done stuff like that before in Greetings, the New Wave one. It almost looks like there was a line he didn’t like, and he just sped through it. I totally agree, it stands out from the rest of the movie. And it’s really short, but I’m thinking—and maybe someone can confirm this—that whatever the line is that gets sped through, Brian De Palma said, “All right, I like the start of this shot, and I like the end of it, but I fucking hate this bit in the middle. Let’s just speed it up.”
[A La Mod Editor's note: I've always thought this entire sequence from the start was intended to be sped up as a stylistic choice by De Palma.] Even the slight imperfections in Carrie are things about it that make me love it even more. This isn’t necessarily an imperfection, but I do love, not to give away the ending, the final scene, where Amy Irving is walking along the street to visit the grave, and when it cuts to the headstone, it goes from a sunny day to pitch-black night. And then the soundstage that she’s on is full black behind her. Normally, you would see that as a continuity error, but even that just totally works with the fucked-up dream-logic of the film.
I think there was something, just before they started making Carrie, there was a writers’ strike, and it gave Brian De Palma a full three months to just storyboard the movie. I think it shows, it’s just so perfectly paced. It’s like a Swiss watch, everything totally works. It’s my favorite film of his. I like a lot of his other films, but I think Carrie is the best Stephen King adaptation, favorite horror movie of mine, love it. It’s the perfect date movie as well.
AVC: In what way?
EW: I don’t want to sound sexist. I was going to say it is the horror film that most girls would enjoy, but I think that’s true. The great thing about the movie is that a lot of horror films are about a monster trying to destroy everybody. Here, you have a very sympathetic human being who really doesn’t want to hurt anybody. And although you want to see her reap revenge, you don’t want it to end as badly as it does. It’s my Titanic, in a way, in that every time I watch it, I want Tommy Ross and Carrie White just to have a nice night. I don’t want anything bad to happen. [Laughs.] Every time I watch it, I naïvely think, “Oh, maybe it’ll be okay this time.” You don’t think about those things if you don’t care about the characters. So as much as I enjoy the Grand Guignol climax, it’s a tragic end for her, and she’s an incredibly sweet character, you’re with her all the way. It’s unusual to be on the side of the character who has a destructive power in horror movies. In Carrie, there’s a person who has the ability to kill everybody in town, you’re completely on her side, and yet you don’t want her to exercise that power. It’s amazing.
AVC: Did you ever see the sequel?
EW: The Rage: Carrie 2? I never did. I never saw the remake TV movie, either.
AVC: I never saw the remake, but the sequel, surprisingly, for a movie that did not have to be made in any way, is surprisingly interesting. It’s worth checking out.
EW: I didn’t see that. I’ve seen a lot of the Carrie rip-offs. I remember—probably before I saw Carrie, I saw a film called Jennifer, which is almost shot-for-shot Carrie, where, if memory serves me correctly, she turns into a snake. 1978 horror film. “She’s got the power, and they haven’t got a prayer.” Two years after Carrie. And besides her also having telekinetic and psychic powers, there’s definitely a giant snake in it.