Stephen King is one of the most famous authors in horror and latterly fantasy fiction. His books and short stories have been adapted into a variety of Hollywood films including IT, The Shawshank Redemption, Pet Cemetery and The Green Mile. The first adaptation of his work came in 1976 when Brian De Palma has handed the reigns over King’s first ever novel Carrie. A huge commercial and critical success for a horror film, taking $33m from a meager budget of $1.8m, Carrie has become one of the most enduring and iconic horror films of all time.
Carrie (Sissy Spacek) is a shy, overlooked high school student from a strongly religious background. At the end of a gym class Carrie experiences her first period, leading to her getting mocked by her classmates, notably Sue Snell (Amy Irvine) and Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen). Back at home, her mother Margaret (Piper Laurie) punishes Carrie for having ˜the curse of blood’ due to her period and locks her in a closet. As she loses her temper, strange things start to happen around Carrie, but as she is befriended by Tommy (William Katt) and friends leading up to prom, her life finally seems to turn around. But behind this, lies a plot by Chris and Billy Nolan (John Travolta) to humiliate Carrie.
Created in the second golden era of horror films, Carrie continues the high bar set by The Exorcist and Jaws by combining a sense of realism to a wholly unrealistic situation. Sissy Spacek gives a fantastic central performance that underpins the escalating madness around her being frail, innocent, fragile and overwhelmed with frustration and anger. Her very physical performance adds extra weight to the final scenes and while it is a monstrous conclusion, it is easy to sympathise with the quiet, reserved Carrie.
One of the great strengths of Carrie is its ability to make the ˜villains’ of the piece so thoroughly unsympathetic. They are so disgusting that when they get their comeuppance feels entirely understandable, if not justified. It’s testament to a young John Travolta and Nancy Allen that they’re able to accurately portray such thoroughly unlikable people without becoming too clichÃ©d or two-dimensional. In many ways Carrie is a modern fairy tale It shows the cruelty and isolation inflicted on the shy and easily bulliable characters from youth and then gives them the power to fight back with disastrous and horrific consequences. It highlighted just how adaptable Stephen King novels were to film and started a number of his works to be adapted including The Shawshank Redemption and The Shining.