Carrie. 1976. USA. Directed by Brian De Palma. Screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen, based on novel by Stephen King. With Sissy Spacek, John Travolta and Piper Laurie. DCP. 98 min.
Sheltered, terrorized, and kept in the literal and metaphorical dark by her unhinged religious zealot of a mother (Piper Laurie, in an Oscar-nominated performance), shy, mousy Carrie White (Sissy Spacek, also nominated) is woefully unequipped for the travails of high school—and completely blindsided by the arrival of her first menstrual period in the school showers, for which she is mercilessly taunted by the other girls. The arrival of her “sin,” as her mother calls it, also brings with it a rather unsubtle metaphor, in the form of powerful telekinetic abilities. When a cruel prank at the prom breaks what remains of Carrie’s spirit, her nascent powers are unleashed in a crescendo of murderous, indiscriminate retribution that is all the more disturbing in a post-Columbine world. Yet the fiery spectacle of Carrie’s revenge ultimately has little to say about teenage outsiders. Rather, in a country still riven by the gains of second-wave feminism and Roe v. Wade (and in the hands of a male novelist and a male director), Carrie herself seems, first and foremost, to embody male anxiety surrounding the “mystery” of the female body and the threat of its burgeoning sexuality.