Viking Night: Carrie
By Bruce Hall
November 22, 2011
Anybody who knows me knows that I’m not a big fan of horror movies, mainly because I don’t like being horrified. Don’t bother snickering. There’s a difference between “horrified’ and “scared”. It takes a lot for a film to literally scare me, particularly since I am aware of the fact that nothing I’m seeing is real. It all started when I was a toddler and I ended up at a showing of The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. Why a film about a 13-year-old girl being stalked by an animal abusing psycho was not rated R is beyond me, but it was. So, imagine my little eyes growing wide as dinner plates as I tearfully watched Martin Sheen kill a hamster with a lit cigarette. I was promptly apologized to, and informed that in movies all the killing is only make believe. I was (thankfully) able to process this, and have had no trouble (with a handful of exceptions) distinguishing reality since then. But I still have trouble voluntarily subjecting myself to certain unsettling concepts on film.
I watch movies to be entertained, amused, amazed and on occasion challenged. I don’t mind being disturbed from time to time, but movies are a sanctuary for me. I go there to get away, and there are just some things I don’t want in the room with me. You know, things like watching a pedophile kill a hamster with a cigarette. I can handle twisted concepts as interpreted by my own imagination, but I don’t need to get inside YOUR head, lest I never get out. This is why I don’t read Stephen King’s books. I have before; I just don’t any more. The man is brilliantly talented, which is to say brilliantly insane. Thank God he writes stories, or he might really be killing people. and who’s to say that when he dies, they won’t be finding bodies on his property for years? Maybe most of his novels will turn out to be true stories, or things he was planning to unleash on humanity from his secret underground chamber of horrors.
But what would you expect from the guy who wrote Carrie? It’s not that I don’t like it - in fact I like it a lot. I like both the book, which is effed up, and the movie, which is effed up and on film. With his book, Stephen King crafted a simple story of alienation and cruelty that jumped off the page and into your skull, festering there like a parasite and giving you nightmares for weeks. It’s something he’s good at. And with his movie, Brian De Palma proves he is the peanut butter to King’s chocolate. His gift for making violent images and disturbing concepts leap off the screen, plow through the backs of your eye sockets and lodge themselves into your brain like lawn darts is well documented. So...like I said...what would you expect?
As in the book, the story begins with young Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) in the shower at her high school gym. It is here that the film hit me on the head so hard it made the rest of the story seem creepy by default. The fact that it actually IS creepy just happens to be a bonus. The opening credits appear as De Palma’s camera orbits Spacek like Apollo 8, lovingly photographing and cataloguing every inch of terrain down to the last detail. It’s like a Lexus commercial in its grim, clinical, serial killer-like precision - and it goes on for so long that you (should) start feeling really uncomfortable. And then it occurs to you that while the attractive, naked actress you are seeing IS legal, the character she’s playing is NOT.