Directed by Brian De Palma.
Starring Sissy Spacek, Nancy Allen, John Travolta, William Katt, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, P.J. Soles, and Betty Buckley.
A shy teenage girl with a domineering religious mother unleashes hell with her telekinetic powers against all those who have wronged her.
On the back of their excellent release of John Carpenter’s The Thing on Blu-ray earlier this year, Arrow Video have yet again delved into the vault of horror classics from notable directors and given Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie a 4K restoration, presented here in a glorious limited edition featuring some juicy new extras.
Carrie White (Sissy Spacek – JFK) is a shy teenage girl without any friends, bullied at school by the other girls and sheltered from the fun of regular teenage life by her overbearing religious mother Margaret (Piper Laurie – The Hustler), who punishes Carrie whenever she shows signs of wanting to involve herself in activities outside of her home. After her latest embarrassment in the school showers Carrie becomes the focus of a plot to humiliate her in front of the whole school at the prom but little do the bullies know that Carrie has a unique gift that enables her to manipulate things with her mind when she gets angry and, with her disapproving mother waiting for her when she gets home, Carrie White is about to make everybody wish they’d left her alone.
As far as standing the test of time goes Carrie still manages to terrify over 40 years after its original release, and the moment when Carrie unleashes her full fury remains a benchmark in horror cinema, with Brian De Palma using every trick in his filmmaking book to maximise the effect of what is essentially one person standing still in the middle of a crowded room. Yes, the fashions may change but a solid story told by a master filmmaker will last and you only have to look at the flaccid and uninspiring 2013 remake to see that simply giving the film a contemporary setting is not enough to make the material come alive, and as well as Brian De Palma’s style and flair the top-notch cast is what gives Carrie so much character.
Sissy Spacek is wonderful as Carrie White, bringing out the awkwardness of Stephen King’s original character even though King wrote her as obese and Spacek is the exact opposite. She was also in her late 20s when she made the film, although you wouldn’t know it as she carries herself like somebody 10 years her junior and no doubt had a few understated make-up tricks to keep herself looking youthful. However, despite Spacek playing the title role and ultimately being the icon of the film it is Piper Laurie who steals the show as her deranged and God-fearing mother Margaret, preaching passages from the Bible and punishing her daughter at every opportunity. Interestingly, Laurie reveals in the special features that she initially thought the script was a comedy and so played Margaret White big and OTT deliberately for comic effect, although there is nothing funny about her final confrontation with her daughter and the way that she moves silently as Brian De Palma lights and frames her during those scenes is more chilling than the bloody violence we witnessed only moments before.
So Carrie still holds up and can quite rightly be put up amongst the best horror movies that the 1970s produced but is this set worth the upgrade if you already own a previous DVD or Blu-ray release? Of course it is, as not only do you get a sparkling 4K restoration that really shines once those red filters come down during the prom scenes but there are a plethora of special features – some transported over from previous releases and some brand new – that pretty much cover everything you could ever want to know about the making of the film, including a brand new audio commentary by authors Lee Gambin and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, and a visual essay comparing the three movie adaptations of the book. The new artwork courtesy of Laz Marquez that adorns one side of the reversible sleeve is also quite striking and worthy of note.
And also worthy of note is the lack of John Travolta in any of the supplementary material, which is probably to be expected, but the role of bad boy Billy Nolan was one of the actor’s early roles outside of TV work and if there was to be anything negative you could say against Carrie then it is about his performance as he gormlessly tries deliver his lines against arguably better actors who seem to know how to pitch their characters just right. However, he isn’t in the movie a great deal and it doesn’t detract from anything else happening so apart from that Carrie is very much one of the strongest – if not the strongest – Stephen King adaptations so far thanks to masterful direction, a (mostly) solid cast and the ability to still scare. It also helps that this lovingly put-together edition is likely to be the best this movie has ever looked and comes backed with some fascinating extras which, in a sane world, should turn people on to this superior version of the film rather than the limp and scare-free retellings that came later.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★