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Monday, 5 September 2011

CARRIE (1976)

Adaptations of Stephen King's work are a hit-and-miss affair at the best of times, but there are some of them tat have become genuine classics not only in the realms of cult cinema geeks, but in the big, wide world of Genuine Appreciators of Fine Film. GAFFs, if you will. Carrie, King's first published novel, became this incredibly powerful supernatural horror film following on from the book's success.

Sure, Carrie herself is physically very different in the film to how she is described in the book (she's played brilliantly by the slim and ethereal Sissy Spacek in the film, while the character in the book is chunky and curly-haired), and the ending may be a little different (understandable considering the budget required to accurately film the book's climax), but it's a damn fine film.

Much more than just a screen adaptation, Carrie is very much a film in its own right. It has no pace issues, no problems with translation from page to screen, and a very strong cast (also featuring a young John Travolta). Carrie is an exercise in building tension, with the inevitable manifestation of her latent telekinetic powers clear from the beginning, making the final act hugely satisfying to watch, no matter how many times you view the film.

It tells the story of Carrie White, an innocent outcast suffering from bullies at high school, and her difficult life at home with her demented, hyper-religious mother (Piper Laurie). Carrie is constantly suffering at the hands of her peers, and when the prom rolls around, those peers plan the ultimate humiliation for her. Unfortunately for them, that humiliation brings her burgeoning psychic powers to life, resulting in an unforgettable orgy of destruction, blood and mayhem.

It's a pay-off that is very much worth the wait, and after much of the film has been told in a rather affectionate style, the manifestation becomes all the more horrific. The split-screen moments of the climax are ultra-effective, adding an extra blast of tension and shock to what happens in that hall.

Sissy Spacek is a revelation as the fragile, waif-like cinematic Carrie, and it is her transformation from timid victim into a telekinetic monstrosity that is so very compelling. I loved the book, but I think I may love the film a bit more. This is possibly due to the fact I saw the flick before reading the novel, but it also may be down to Brian De Palma's perfect handling of both King's story along with the budgetary and technological restrictions of the day.

Carrie is a masterpiece of storytelling, character and suspense, with one of the greatest endings of them all. Even when you know the story off-by-heart, neither the book or the movie ever lose their power. This is about as perfect a horror yarn as you could desire.

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