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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Brian De Palma's Carrie will be one of four films to get an anniversary IMAX presentation at next month's Glasgow Film Festival. Carrie, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, will be screened on Friday, February 19th-- otherwise known as the day after De Palma's Obsession, which also turns 40 this year, will screen in Hollywood as part of a double feature in remembrance of Vilmos Zsigmond. The other film on that Zsigmond double-bill? De Palma's Blow Out, celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.

Two of the other four films in the Glasgow "Anniversaries at IMAX" series are James Cameron's Aliens and Tony Scott's Top Gun, both released in 1986. A 1996 film will be voted on and chosen by readers of The List from among three candidates: From Dusk Till Dawn, Scream, and Trainspotting.

Posted by Geoff at 9:49 PM CST
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Friday, October 30, 2015
Matthew Lawrence at Unicorn Booty posted an article this week titled, "The 5 Favorite Horror Movies Of Queer Studies Professors." Brian De Palma's Carrie was chosen by three out of the eight professors, which included our old friend David Greven. "There’s a zillion listicles about the best queer horror movies of all time," Lawrence states in the introduction, "but to be honest the films are often campy as hell, have laughably low-budget production values or just plain suck. So we asked some experts — LGBTQ academics who study film, media, queer studies and, in a few cases, queer horror films specifically. Their eight answers have a lot in common – note all the Hitchcock shout-outs – but it seems that there is clearly one reigning queen of the horror prom. Get your tampons ready."

Here are the three who chose Carrie, and what they had to say about it:

David Greven, Professor of English at the University of South Carolina

Hitchcock’s Psycho, with its sense of an essential bleakness at the heart of modernity, is the greatest horror movie ever made. But to choose my personal favorite, it is without question Brian De Palma’s 1976 film Carrie, starring Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie and based on Stephen King’s novel.

The film has a mythic, fairy tale, revenge-plot narrative that speaks to timeless themes – the outsider, the ostracized, the pariah. “The Outcast of the Universe,” to use Hawthorne’s phrase. Carrie White, played so magnificently and poignantly by Sissy Spacek, is the the pariah we can all relate to. We get to know and understand her and like her and root for her so intimately that all of the pain and terrible abuse she suffers hurts us as well. The queerness of the film emerges in part from this shared experience of shame and abuse. Brian De Palma’s masterful, voyeuristic, deeply emotional filmmaking style makes the whole experience of watching this film uncannily, intimately personal. Carrie White’s emergent telekinetic powers are directly linked to the terrors and the pleasures of her emergent sexuality — and it is this dynamic that makes the film so queer. In addition, it has a dreamy, fantasy aspect in which we are put in the position of longing for but then – fleetingly –attaining a romantic ideal, in this case the blonde, charming, sensitive prince Tommy Ross (William Katt).

The other queer dimension, oddly, is that this is a film entirely dominated by female power. Carrie’s crazy, sensually passionate religious fundamentalist mother Margaret White (Piper Laurie) commands attention, but so do the gym teacher Miss Collins (Betty Buckley), the would-be do-gooder Sue Snell (Amy Irving) whose misguided attempts to solve Carrie’s problems put the horror-plot in motion, and the smudgy-lipped teen villain Chris Hargenson, played with aplomb by Nancy Allen. Male power takes a decided back seat to these vivid, memorable women and the dark power they wield. Miss Collins, far from a blandly sympathetic character, is actually quite suspect. You wonder if she may indeed be laughing at Carrie at the prom! She certainly seems to have an overly intense need to punish Chris and may be the person that Chris really wants to punish.

As I argue in my book Representations of Femininity in American Genre Cinema, the movie retells the story of Demeter and Persephone. The famous prom sequence is justly celebrated, but the sequence at the climax – largely De Palma’s own invention – in which Carrie kills her mother by telekinetically impaling her with kitchen utensils, is just as brilliant. One thing about De Palma: you can be laughing, or feeling terrified, and then suddenly you’re emotionally wounded in a profound way. The keening cry that bursts out of Carrie when she realizes that her mother is dead and that she is now utterly alone – that’s the true moment of movie horror.

Darren Elliott-Smith, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television at the University of Hertfordshire
I’m always reticent to say what my favourite horror film is, as you will probably appreciate there are so many. At the moment and regularly throughout my life, Carrie often thrusts its undead hand into my consciousness. Despite De Palma’s tendency to rip Hitchcock: the style of direction, use of colour and editing are often wildly excessive.

Excess I think is what appeals to the queer viewer, taking pride (and shame) in outrageous spectacle: the frenzy of split screen slaughter, the scenery chewing hysteria of Piper Laurie’s Margaret White, the pig’s blood spattered palette of the red, white and blue of the American dream. It is a nostalgically campy and cult film, it is genre-bending, it is a spectacularly made, classic teen-melodrama-horror. Empathising with the burgeoning sexuality of Carrie, her humiliation, the fantasy of revenge – the film speaks clearly to the queer spectator as a coming out tale. The shame Carrie experiences resonates with the queer spectator who fears that “They’re all gonna laugh at you!”

Christopher Mitchell, lecturer at Rutgers University
It’s hard to pick one favorite, but if I had to it’s probably one that a lot of others will choose: Carrie. There’s really nothing I can say that hasn’t been said before about this film, but the real horror of the movie isn’t the supernatural stuff. It’s all the supposedly normal stuff in our everyday lives.

From a queer lens, in which the normal evokes horror, Carrie seems to have all of it, but I’ll follow the rule of three here and just point out the following three big observations, which, again, are hardly original: first you have the adolescent body that becomes an object of horror in the context of the American high school (the opening scene [of Carrie having her period] in the girl’s locker room), then there’s the violence latent in Christianity and its ability to transform parenthood into filicide (Carrie’s mother), and finally the bloody rites of a social hierarchy that stigmatizes outsiders (when Carrie is literally marked with pig’s blood).

The best part of this horror film is that it’s not really possible to identify a single villain: Chris Hargenson and Carrie’s mom are not really individual villains, they’re basically stereotypes and agents of the larger cultures (the church and the schoolyard) that they parrot. I would entice a friend to see it by either saying “It’s so good!” or, y’know, subtle intellectual shaming, because academics are trained to persuade people to consider media in this way.

Posted by Geoff at 8:46 PM CDT
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Thursday, October 29, 2015
Doug Cox, who played Freddy “The Beak” Holt in Brian De Palma's Carrie, will take part in a Q&A following a screening of the film tonight (Thursday) at 7pm at the Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville, Illinois. The Belleville News-Democrat posted an interview yesterday, which includes a video (scroll through the photos to find it) in which Cox describes auditioning for the film, De Palma changing Cox's role on the first day of filming, and being called back to shoot the tuxedo scene, which De Palma thought up during the course of shooting the film, and which Cox says was all improvised. Here is my transcript of the video:
I can’t believe it was 39 years ago. Oh, man!

Carrie, my first film. I was lucky… a friend of mine, his wife was the casting director on it. So she got me an audition for it. And I got it. It was amazing. It was the first movie for a lot of us, and… it was just playing, we just had a great time. It took three weeks to shoot the prom scene, so there was lots of sitting around, and we just had so much fun, exchanging stories, and bonding, and then we just really became great friends from it. And I already had some friends who were in the film, too, so that was a lot of fun. You get to work with your friends. What’s better than that?

It was interesting, because at first we thought she was a little standoff-ish. And then we realized, no, she’s in character, because her character Carrie was different from the rest of the kids. And that was the way she got into her character. It was fun hanging out with Betty Buckley, who was the teacher. Was a great friend. She always had her little dog with her. John Travolta, it was terrific, and Nancy Allen, Amy Irving… because we were all around the same age. Like I said, it was the first film for a lot of us. We had no idea it was going to be a big film. It was just this low budget little horror movie. And we had no idea that it was going to turn into what it did. And the Academy Awards nominations that it got. We were shocked! It was so much fun, also, the first time I saw it. I went with a bunch of friends to a midnight show in Hollywood. And to see yourself on the big screen like that, and get laughs, that was the best part.

I played “The Beak” in Carrie. I was originally going to be the drummer at the prom, in the band, the drummer in the band. And we got to the first day of shooting, and Brian said, “Mmmm… I don’t know about that. Let’s give you a camera.” So I became the photographer. And I don’t know who’s idea it was to give me the T-shirt with the tuxedo printed on it. But it was a gift, believe me. Because it made me different from everybody else, at the prom. And I had this hat—I still have the hat. [Gets his hat] This is the hat I wore in Carrie—there’s even still some fake blood spots on here someplace. This is my own hat. I got this at Famous-Barr, and, I don’t know, I guess I wore it to the audition, and Brian, the director, said, “Keep it!” So it helped me make the character. And it was a lot of fun. I was really lucky, because I’d worked on the film, I’d been released, I was done shooting, and then like a week later, they called up and they said, “Brian’s come up with another scene. Are you available?” So that’s where we got the tuxedo shop scene, which was all improvised. And improv is what I do, so it was a lot of fun, just coming up with stuff. And a great time—me, and Bill Katt, and Harry Gold—we were the three guys in that scene. We spent a lot of time together, and really became great friends. It was a lot of fun. And here it is, almost 40 years later. Hard to believe that it’s still playing. And it plays every Halloween on TV all over the place.

Posted by Geoff at 1:24 AM CDT
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Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Ryan Murphy directed the first hour of tonight's two-hour Scream Queens premiere on FOX. The premiere opens with a scene set in 1995, at a sorority house party. The first shot is a close-up on a girl's blood-soaked hands, the right one quivering. She holds them palms-up as she walks through a party crowd to her sorority sisters. When the head sister sees her, she says, "Did you just get your period all over yourself?" [Small SPOILER ALERT]..... It turns out that the blood belongs to a pledge who has just given birth in a bathtub upstairs. The kicker (and this is so very 1995) is that the girl didn't have any idea she had even been pregnant.

Scream Queens is a much jokier affair than Murphy and Brad Falchuk's American Horror Story, although it is cut from much the same tonal fabric, with a heavy syrup of Glee. (Falchuk, who directed tonight's second hour, co-created Glee as well as Scream Queens with Murphy and Ian Brennan.) Aside from Carrie, the premiere episode reminds of Heathers, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Halloween (via star Jamie Lee Curtis), Psycho, Friday The 13th, and Tim Burton's Batman. There's also an outrageous murder conducted via text messages and Facebook posts that you can't help but give in to-- I was laughing out loud, all the way to the final gasp of an implausible but uproarious punchline.

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, September 23, 2015 12:10 AM CDT
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Friday, August 28, 2015

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Posted by Geoff at 1:27 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, August 8, 2015 1:30 PM CDT
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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Brady Schwind's audience-immersive stage version of Carrie The Musical runs through April 5th at La Mirada Theatre in southern California. Here are some review samples:

Renée Camus, Reel Life with Jane
"Full disclosure: I’ve never read [Stephen] King’s book, or seen the movie; either the classic 1976 Brian De Palma film, or the recent remake. I generally don’t watch horror films—yet my favorite musical is Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the brilliant and hugely successful horror musical by Stephen Sondheim. So why not a musical based on Carrie?

"...The show starts with Carrie’s classmate, Sue Snell (Kayla Parker), under a harsh spotlight, being questioned about the events that happen at the end of the musical. We know we’re headed for badness—but most of us know that going in anyway (the ubiquitous pictures of Sissy Spacek dripping red told me this without seeing the film). Lights brighten as the cast joins her for the opening number, which dissolves into Carrie in the gym shower discovering that she’s bleeding. Not knowing this part of the story, I was surprised to see the women all stripping down to their underwear, and I wondered why it was necessary. Then I noticed Carrie off to the side, directly in front of a single line of audience members at the back of the space, completely nude.

"Apparently the story calls for at least a reference to nudity, with its close association of sex and sinning, but I didn’t feel it was completely necessary for the cast to strip down (they probably could have hid it or made it less obvious). Having the audience so close to the action made it that much more uncomfortable. Especially given Margaret’s warnings to Carrie not to shower at school, it’s surprising that she would.

"Director Brady Schwind and producers Bruce Robert Harris and Jack W. Batman set out to create an interactive, immersive experience by transforming La Mirada Theatre into Carrie’s high school. Audience members get wristbands that separate them into freshman, sophomores, faculty members, or other school delineations, based on their seating assignments. They’re then taken into the 'assembly' by class, passing by beat-up lockers and graffitied desk-chairs, and seated in bleachers built onto the stage. Despite the attempts at emersion and interaction, the staging didn’t add much. The four sections directly on the floor are pulled and moved around, which perhaps put those audience members more in the thick of it, but for those of us further back on the immovable bleachers, it wasn’t quite such an interactive experience. Well, except for the pain in our buttocks from the vastly uncomfortable seats (make sure to bring a cushion with you when you go)."

David C. Nichols, Los Angeles Times
"Never underestimate the power of stagecraft. Case in point: Carrie: The Musical, now receiving a mind-blowing immersive production at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts...

"However, Carrie is a better musical than before, but it's still not a great one. Gore’s tunes are pleasant but, barring Carrie and Mom's songs, not very individuated, Pitchford’s lyrics are prosaic, at times prolix, and [Lawrence D.] Cohen’s book doesn’t explore its All Teens Are Alienated theme beyond surface considerations.

"That will scarcely matter to audiences craving a full-throttle theatrical experience -- Cirque du Soleil meets Disneyland, with pig’s blood -- and musical theater cultists should flock."

Eric Marchese, Orange County Register
"Lawrence D. Cohen, who wrote the screenplay for the 1976 film version, has crafted a book that gets at the heart of the story’s characters and themes. Composer Michael Gore’s gorgeous music and lyricist Dean Pitchford’s powerful, poetic lyrics express from-the-heart emotions, but without being sappy or trite.

"Director Brady Schwind’s immersive production unfolds on the venue’s stage, where roughly 200 patrons are positioned amid the cast. The movable front sections of seats are pushed and rolled to and fro, making the experience all the more intimate.

"Schwind and choreographer Lee Martino make full and brilliant use of the play itself and of a superb cast of 19. To top it off, illusionist Jim Steinmeyer’s special effects make Carrie’s telekinetic powers real, as objects move, levitate or fly at her command.

"At every turn, Carrie the Musical puts the angst of teendom on full display, its climax a stunning, bloody explosion of chaos and mayhem. La Mirada’s intimate staging is at once gripping, horrifying and beautifully moving. It’s also one of the best shows you’ll ever see anywhere – one not to be missed."

Steven Stanley, Stage Scene LA
"Suffice it to say that King/De Palma fans won’t be disappointed...

"The La Mirada Theatre has found its dream Carrie in Emily Lopez, who not only gives us the heartbreaking, deeply-felt portrait of a troubled teen discovering strengths she never dreamed she had, she sings with gorgeous power pipes and makes us believe in Carrie’s transformation from ugly duckling to exquisite swan."

Don Grigware, Broadway World
"The stage is the back part of the regular theatre stage and it has been cordoned off, serving as the high school gymnasium. Audience sit in the three-quarter and watch the action literally a few feet away from them. There are seats on two levels. The first group of seats called the pods are level with the stage. There are levels above for audience through which cast members make entrances and exits and sometimes play/sing and then there is a third level playing area above for only actors. Those sitting in the pods are moved at various intervals to the left and to the right, sometimes mirror imaging each other and other times, not. Hardly your ordinary seating arrangement, but it definitely puts you smack dab in the middle of the playing field. You are there, feeling what the characters are feeling, almost a part of the action.

"I sat in the tier above the pods so I had the advantage of looking down at the action on the stage and also up to what was transpiring on the third level. One scene in particular in Act One involves Carrie praying to Jesus on the cross within a room of her house. Jesus literally comes down off the cross and while this is happening, on the third level, Tommy Ross (Jon Robert Hall) and his girlfriend Sue Snell (Kayla Parker) are making torrid love. Quite the contrast as blatant sexuality and spirituality clash in full force right before our eyes! In Act Two what served as the back wall of the gym with basketball scoreboard opens up and becomes the dance floor for the prom. Stephen Gifford's scenic design for the entire show is awesome as is Schwind's staging of the actors, who are literally everywhere within the space, putting audience at arm's length for every experience, good and evil."

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 12:06 AM CDT
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Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Last summer, Playbill announced that La Mirada Theatre in southern California would be premiering Carrie The Musical in March of 2015 as an audience-immersive theatrical event. Now that the premiere is coming up next week, Playbill's Sheryl Flatow has posted an article in which director Brady Schwind discusses his vision for the show. Noting that the space at La Mirada Theatre "has been reconfigured to accommodate an audience of 250," Flatow quotes Schwind: "It's intimate but epic, because that's what I think the story is and what it requires." Here's an excerpt from Flatow's article:
Schwind has been fascinated by the show since he was a teenager in Texas and read about it in Ken Mandelbaum's book, Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops. He then found a bootleg recording of the score, and "fell in love" with the music. Many years later he saw a video of Terry Hands's RSC production, which became the legendary Broadway production that ran five performances in 1988. He was also in the audience in 2012 when Stafford Arima directed an Off-Broadway production that received mixed but respectful reviews.

"I really liked how the material had been reevaluated and changed for that production," says Schwind. "And I immediately thought of doing Carrie as an environmentally immersive production. I think Stephen King's story has endured because the horror of the piece is rooted in the memory that we have of our own high school experiences. And because we all have memories to bring to this piece, I thought it would work as immersive theatre."

Schwind brought his idea to composer Michael Gore, lyricist Dean Pitchford and book writer Lawrence D. Cohen — who also wrote the screenplay for the 1976 Brian De Palma film — and they were eager to reexamine the material yet again. "They are still in love with the show, and they are very open to new ideas," says Schwind. Together they explored the material for two years, with the previous productions serving as a catalyst for this new incarnation.

"Terry Hands saw the show as a Greek myth, but he wasn't interested in the high school stuff," says Schwind. "Stafford had the idea of making the show a parable about high school bullying. He was not as interested in the supernatural aspects. But I feel the show is about many things and you have to hit on all of them. You have to make the audience care about these characters, and you must find plausibility in over-the-top situations.

"It's a horror piece and a visceral piece, and the audience wants to feel frightened. They want blood. They want it to be an overloaded sensory experience, because that's closer to the feeling that we all have in high school. I wanted this to be a Greek tragedy and a horror story and entertaining and fun. You should root for Carrie till she kills you."

At La Mirada, part of the audience will be in seating units that move throughout the piece, following the actors along. They'll also have the opportunity to get out of their seats and go to the prom. "We're hoping to dissolve the fourth wall so that the audience becomes one with the cast and characters by the end," says Schwind. Those who prefer to watch from a safe distance will also be accommodated. "To me, immersive theatre is about creating an environment in which people can choose their own adventure."

If successful, producers Bruce Robert Harris and Jack W. Batman (On the Town, Clybourne Park) plan for more productions. "It's a grand experiment," says Schwind. "I think some of the ideas we're playing around with have never been done before with a linear book musical. The audience will tell us what we've created."


Posted by Geoff at 12:50 AM CST
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Thursday, February 19, 2015
Brian De Palma's Carrie will be projected from Blu-ray Thursday night, as part of Grimm Up North's Stephen King Season, at the Dancehouse Theatre in Manchester, England. The other films in the series are Tobe Hooper's Salem's Lot, the anthology Creepshow, and Mary Lambert's Pet Sematary.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Posted by Geoff at 12:05 AM CST
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