31 Days of Horror 2013: Carrie


As we approach yet another remake of Carrie it might be time to take a look at the original, the 1976 film that started it all, and Stephen King’s first novel that gave it life. Meet me after the jump as we get reacquainted with Carrie.

Now we’ve looked at Carrie here at Biff Bam Pop! before, hopefully I can offer a different view…


I remember specifically buying the book. It was the first ‘grown-up’ book I bought by myself. I would go to the store to buy the newspaper for my father everyday, walk past the comics (well, only sometimes walk past them), grab the paper and back to the counter to pay. But over the papers were the paperbacks, and at eye level, as if calling out to me, was Carrie by Stephen King.


I saw it everyday for weeks before breaking down and buying it for (are you sitting down?) $2.75. I know what grabbed my attention as well, besides the pretty illustration of a girl on the cover. The words on the cover read “a novel of a girl possessed of a terrifying power.” That sounded almost comic bookish, X-Men-like. I was hooked, and thus began a lifelong love affair with Stephen King.

The Book

Everyone knows the story of King’s wife rescuing this manuscript from the trash, and telling her husband to keep going, but what a lot of folks don’t know this isn’t really a normal book. The actual book was not written like other books, but done in an epistolary manner. It is composed of a rather short prose story told in fragments, and interspersed with excerpts from other books written about the incident described.


Carrie White was a girl relentlessly picked on in high school. That bullying escalated at her Senior Prom where she fought back with phenomenal telekinetic powers, basically destroying the town of Chamberlain, Maine. The book excerpts passages of other books written about this event, some written by scientists, some by survivors, and then the actual story by King. It is a fairly unique storytelling structure. Even today I marvel at it.

The Plot

The plot is pretty simple as I mentioned earlier. It’s a revenge and power fantasy, and a warning for bullies. Carrie, the outcast, fat and pimple-faced in the book, made fun of her whole life, and coming from maniacally religious broken home gets a adolescent surprise. Along with her first period, she gains telekinetic powers.

After one particularly traumatic incident in the girls shower at school, one of the mean girls, Chris, vows to get Carrie while another, Sue tries to make it up to her. Sue gets her boyfriend to take Carrie to the Prom while Chris arranges to have pig blood dumped on her at the same event. Carrie goes ballistic and kills almost everyone. Score one for the geek squad.


The Movie

Director Brian DePalma pulled out all the tricks for this film, all before they were considered DePalma cliches or Hitchcock rips. Here they work, and to his credit, he creates a new genre. Carrie is both horror film and teen sex romp. As much as its horror chills, there are legitimately fun moments as well. The casting also wonderfully gives faces to King’s characters, even when they don’t match physically.

I remember when it came out when I was in seventh grade. I didn’t see it, but everyone else did, and everyone was reading it as well, though their editions of the book had a bloody Sissy Spacek on the cover and a photo section in the middle. It was especially popular with the girls because it featured the first major movie role for that John Travolta guy from “Welcome Back, Kotter.”

As I remember the TV ads, “If you have a taste for terror, you have a date with Carrie,” it should be noted that the film did extraordinarily well. It earned Oscar nominations for Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, and made the careers of Amy Irving, William Katt, Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley, and Edie McClurg, among others. And then there’s also that amazing score by Pino Donaggio. This is a great film.

The Legacy

The 1976 Carrie is considered one of the finest horror films of its time, a time capsule of the 1970s, a high school Halloween viewing favorite, and a morality tale for bullies. It has spawned a sequel, a Broadway musical, a TV remake, and this month, a new theatrical remake. And that’s not even mentioning all the wannabe flicks like The Spell and The Initiation of Sarah. Carrie White lives, even today.

The newest version of Carrie, starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore is set for release on October 18th.

2 Replies to “31 Days of Horror 2013: Carrie”

  1. what i appreciated in the original film was that sissy spacek looked – well – spacey. her pale blue eyes made her look kind of creepy. morentz looks too good, like she was plucked from an episode of “glee” or something like that. she doesn’t work for me.

    about the book, it is my favorite of anything by stephen king for two reasons. first, the structure, as you mentioned, was fabulous even if not original. it was influenced by how “dracula” was written, as if someone is sifting through news accounts, journals, diaries, etc. with “carrie,” i believe it is a newspaper guy investigating the story, so we are experiencing the story through his point of view. it was fun, for sure. the second reason it’s my favorite of king is because it has something that few other king books have – an ending that works. most king stories end with pure silliness. i giant spider (It). the hand of “god” coming out of the sky to save everyone from destruction (the stand). a giant caterpillar thing that eats the murderer, although we’re never really sure why the murderer even wants to murder anyone (lisey’s story). everything just kind of goes away (from a buick 8). his endings are too convenient and occasionally with no real connection to the story. part of his problem is that he usually writes on the fly, no outline, just making it up as he goes along. i liken his books to a five-course meal in which four were outstanding and dessert sucked. i can still enjoy the soup, salad, appetizer, and entree, but a story really hinges on the ending. that hasn’t stopped me from reading many of his books, but i go in with average expectations.

    i’m sure i won’t see the new “carrie,” but that won’t stop me from watching the old one again.

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