Tuesday, April 27, 2010

CARRIE (Brian DePalma, 1976, USA)

Carrie White is baptized into adulthood by blood and fire, victimized by religious dogma and high school drama. Director Brian DePalma adapts the Stephen King novel which offers an excellent narrative foundation without excess, unlike many of King’s subsequent books. Depalma cut quickly to the chase by depicting the characters as iconic representations: the jock, the bad boy, the promiscuous girl, etc. In the hallowed halls of high school hierarchy, stereotypes are an essential element of exclusivity. This allows the film to burn quickly forward as Depalma pulls focus upon the titular outcast, eschewing subplot and exposition. We know these characters by different names and wearing different faces, but they haunt our own past.


The film begins with a slow tracking shot through a girl’s locker room, nubile young bodies like ghosts in the showery haze. DePalma doesn’t linger upon the nudity but glides through the steam until he rests our attention upon a single young lady who is masturbating in the shower. He cuts to close-up of her freckled face, then her hand washing the inside of her leg, up and down in a sensual rhythm, until blood interrupts Carrie’s reverie. When the girls taunt and ridicule poor Carrie (and they all do), it is an uncomfortable and disgusting scene because it taps the pregnant vein of our high school neurosis: fears of abasement and denial, of not fitting in, of not being handsome enough or wearing the right clothes. Inside dark shadows of our psyche lurks a Carrie White being laughed at, and how we wish for the power to even the score. CARRIE is about these fears but it is also about the troubling obsession of religious extremism, how mythology overrides reason and becomes a dangerous weapon of humiliation and mind control. Carrie’s mother wields that weapon like a scythe, locking Carrie in the closet with a gruesome depiction of her crucified god.

DePalma utilizes split screen once again, a technical signature, during the prom sequence as literally all hell breaks loose. Covered in pig’s blood, Carrie’s perceptions are cursed with her mother’s mantra so she takes revenge upon the world…and burns it down. She wanders home to seek her unjust reward. Final Grade: (B+)

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