Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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Film #122


A mousy and abused girl with telekinetic powers gets pushed too far on one special night.

Year 1, Day 122

BEFORE: The horror resumes with Carrie. No, not an early screening for the 2013 remake, I’m watching the original adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Carrie. Again, not much prior knowledge in this department but I do know that it is directed by old friend of the marathon Brian De Palma (last directed Scarface from the first week) and Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie were nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively.

AFTER: I’ve never read a Stephen King novel but I have seen many film adaptations of his works and all seem to have a common trait: they are extremely entertaining.

Carrie is no exception and in fact, is probably the creepiest (not scary, there really isn’t a lot of fear, but creepy definitely). I think De Palma accomplishes this using a variety of techniques including music, sound effects, and cinematography. The cinematography in Carrie is just stunning; from composition to lighting every shot not only looks great, but they also serve a purpose. To elaborate, I’ll use three examples: split-focus, circle dollying, and red lighting.

What a split-focus dipoter allows is two planes to be in focus: one in the foreground and one in the background. (For a visual example, check out this scene from Jaws as Brody looks out into the water - both the man and the swimmer are in focus)1. It’s unnatural and it gives off a mysterious vibe as if something’s not right and it really sets up the tone of Carrie early on. A bit later at the prom, De Palma circles around Carrie (Sissy Spacek) and Tommy Ross (William Katt) as they waltz in the opposite direction. As the dance continues, the speed of the circling camera increases until it reaches a point where you begin to feel disoriented. Again, this adds to this feeling of abnormality or peculiarity. The last example I’ll mention is the use of red lighting later on in the prom scene. I won’t spoil the plot details but I will say that using solely red lighting adds a final component to the tone of the film as the story reaches a fever pitch of commotion.

But Carrie isn’t all silver and gold as there are several problems in the plot department. Was John Travolta’s character really necessary (couldn’t Chris (Nancy Allen) have rigged the booby trap herself), when did the mom get so religious, why is the mom such a hard ass, and most importantly, where did Carrie get her telekinesis? While seemingly minor and easy to overlook, I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief and accept these inconsistencies to enjoy the film.

Carrie may have had some problems I couldn’t look past, but it also had a whole bunch of goodness. It’s yet another great horror story from Stephen King and while it doesn’t rank high on the scare-o-meter (for me at least) it definitely tops the charts in terms of creepiness. The cinematography alone is enough to watch this film and see some great camera techniques and how they can enhance a film.

RATING: 4 out of 5

  1. Side note: later on in this clip you can also see the Vertigo effect (which I talk about in my Vertigo review) and the origin of one of the production companies on House. ↩