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This is based on a Stephen King novel, which I haven't read. It came out in 1976 (the year after I was born), but I didn't see it until 2013 (the same night the remake opened in theaters). Before I watched the movie, I wasn't sure if I'd put my review under "scary" or "supernatural & paranomral," but I guessed the latter. And after watching it, I decided I'd guessed right, because I didn't find any of it particularly scary. Once the basic premise is set up, not a single thing in the movie is remotely surprising. I know the movie is considered a modern classic of the horror genre, but I'm afraid I just didn't think that highly of it. My rating might look low, but I feel like I'm being slightly generous. I mean, Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie were reasonably good in their roles, but everyone else's acting, as far as I'm concerned, ranged from "meh" to... substantially sub-"meh." I guess all I can really say is that the movie is very 70s. And that is rarely, if ever, a compliment.
It begins with a volleyball game in a girls' high school gym class. The main character, Carrie White (Spacek), is responsible for her team losing the game. I don't think I've ever seen any group of people get so upset about one person being bad at sports, before. I mean seriously, her teammates' reaction is totally out of proportion, for something so damned trivial. But I guess everyone in her school already disliked her for being weird. Anyway, the next scene is set in the girls' locker room, and there's a surprising amount of nudity. (I wasn't expecting any, so I guess any would have been surprising.) Carrie is taking a shower, and um... enjoying herself... when suddenly she starts bleeding, and totally freaks out. I guess she's like 17, so it's weird that she's never had a period before, but of course, the other girls once again respond like mega-assholes. Her gym teacher, Miss Collins, stops them from tormenting her, and the principal sends Carrie home early.
Her mother, we quickly learn, is disliked by parents just as much as Carrie is by students. Margaret White (Laurie) is a religious fanatic, totally nuts. She had never told Carrie the facts of life, and I'd almost say that's for the best, because her grasp of such things is... insane. She honestly believes that if Carrie had never sinned, she never would have been given "the curse of blood." (I hate to say it almost seems like she has a point, considering what Carrie was doing in the shower just before it happened, but still... it's a pretty insane thing to believe.) So, she punishes Carrie by locking her in a closet.
Miss Collins oversees the detention of the girls who had tormented Carrie, which they all must endure, unless they'd rather have their tickets to the prom revoked. One girl, Chris, refuses to put up with Miss Collins's detention, so she won't be allowed at prom. Another girl, Sue, asks her boyfriend, Tommy, to ask Carrie to go to the prom with him. Carrie suspects Tommy is just trying to trick her, and though Miss Collins tells Carrie Tommy might be sincere, she later accuses Tommy and Sue of the same thing, but they insist they just want to help Carrie become more sociable. Meanwhile, Chris gets her boyfriend, Billy (played by John Travolta), to set up a prank to pull on Carrie at the prom. I kind of assumed Sue and Tommy were in on Chris and Billy's prank, but apparently they weren't. It's also important to note that, from very early in the film, we see strange things happen whenever Carrie gets upset, and eventually she reads about telekinesis. Anyway, Carrie finally agrees to go to the prom with Tommy, but when Margaret finds out about it, she doesn't want her daughter to go. But by then, Carrie has learned to control her telekinesis, so her mother can't control her anymore. (Of course, Margaret believes Carrie's power comes from Satan.)
So, Carrie and Tommy go to the prom. Carrie is still very nervous about the whole thing, but Tommy is really nice about it. And Miss Collins is happy to see them there. But finally the prank is pulled; it involves pig's blood, which is something I can't remember a time I wasn't aware of, since long before I ever saw the movie. (I didn't know until watching the movie that the idea behind the prank might have something vaguely to do with a scene from the beginning of the movie, and now that I do, I guess it's vaguely clever, but still mostly lame. The cruelest part of it was actually seeing how the blood was obtained in the first place.) I'm fairly sure that, whether Carrie had paranormal powers or not, she wouldn't have reacted so badly if she hadn't spent her whole life being so deeply psychologically damaged by her mother... and by the way other kids treated her, which I suppose they wouldn't have done if she hadn't been made weird by her mother. But her reaction is another thing I've pretty much always been aware of. I suppose if I was one of her victims, I'd have been scared, but just watching it on a screen (to be fair, my laptop screen, but I don't think my take would have been much different if I'd seen it on a larger screen)... well, at least it was more engaging than the prank itself. Because damn, the prank was lame. Not just mean, but really incredibly boring and pathetic. The people involved in pulling it off were amused, but no one else was. Because it was so. Lame. Just total weaksauce. Carrie's reaction... way over the top, and horrific in theory... but there's no way I could help thinking that I'm sitting here watching a movie, and none of this is real. So I couldn't be scared. (Incidentally, before the prom her mother said "They're all gonna laugh at you," a line which Carrie hears repeated incessantly in her head after the prank, which totally reminded me of something off an Adam Sandler comedy album that I listened to years ago. I don't remember it clearly, and at the time of course I couldn't have drawn a connection between the skit and this film, but now I suppose that must have been based on this. But all I could think of when I heard it in the movie was Adam Sandler being dumb. Or whatever.)
And then Carrie goes home and cleans herself up, but of course she still has to deal with her crazy mother, who thinks she's a witch. Again, nothing about that scene surprised or scared me, as horrific as it might have been. In the very end, Sue has a dream with one part that I also totally predicted, but it actually scared me very slightly... because even when you see a jump scare coming, it can still be effective. (And none of the other "scares" in the film are things that I would call "jump scares.") So, I dunno what else to say. It's not a terrible movie, it has some merits, I suppose. I mean, I can't help but feel bad for Carrie, for the most part. And I can't help but feel bad for most of her victims, in the end. And if any part of this movie happened in real life (again, with or without the telekinetic angle), it would be tragic. But I barely manage to really care about Carrie, and don't really care about anyone else in the movie. And most importantly, I never once get so wrapped up in the story that I even slightly forget I'm watching a movie. It's hard to really like a movie unless at least some small sliver of your consciousness accepts it, even briefly, as real, and that just never happened. To anyone who loves the movie, I apologize.
And if I ever see the remake, and end up liking it better than this, I apologize for that, in advance. Even if I also end up thinking you're completely and incomprehensibly wrong to like the original better. (I'm not saying I will think that, I'm just saying "if.")