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CARRIE: SPECIAL EDITION

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Sissy Spacek, Amy Irving, William Katt, Nancy Allen, John Travolta, Piper Laurie
Director: Brian De Palma
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Mono, French Mono, Spanish Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: MGM/UA
Features: See Review
Length: 98 Minutes
Release Date: August 28, 2001

“I got invited to the prom.”
“That’s wonderful! So what are you moping around for?”
“Tommy Ross asked me.”
“That’s even better. He’s really cute, huh?”
“I know who he goes around with. They’re just trying to trick me again. I know.”

Film ***1/2

A story from master of horror Stephen King combined with the directing of no less than Brian De Palma makes Carrie, for me, one of the more riveting horror movies ever made. The novels of King have had of being made into movies directed by mostly top quality filmmakers. Such cases are Stanley Kubrick with The Shining, John Carpenter with Christine, and Frank Darabont who directed both The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption. Carrie was De Palma’s first stab at an all-out horror movie, and it was also the first Stephen King novel to ever be adapted for the screen. In addition, it was a big step for the movie’s mostly young cast, who were unknowns at the time, many of whom would go on to have notably successful film careers. The movie is also noted as John Travolta’s first movie role, following his television success with Welcome Back, Kotter. Perhaps the most stunning aspect of the movie is the terrifying climax because what leads up to it is a story with a mostly subtle feel.

Carrie starts out as an involving character study of a young girl who is very much an outcast. Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is a quiet, very shy who is unfairly tormented at school by fellow classmates. As it turns out, Carrie is in fact not like other students in the sense that she possesses the power of telekinesis, the ability to move things without touching them. In addition to being the big school joke, Carrie endures a wretched home life. Her mother (Piper Laurie) is religiously charged to a deranged degree, and the anger that is thrown Carrie’s way in a way charges up he telekinesis as a unique weapon of defense. Her mother forbids just about everything from sex to forming normal friendships, and is constantly punishing Carrie simply for uttering possibilities of such activities, but locking her in a darkened closet, with only statues of Christ to talk to.

The center story of Carrie is a cruel trick plotted by several students at the school to take place at the upcoming prom. It involves Carrie being asked to go by popular jock Tommy Ross (William Katt). Tommy’s girlfriend, Sue (Amy Irving), sets up the date, manipulating Tommy into considering taking Carrie to the prom, though he’s not in on the actual joke. Cut to prom night, and it’s a stunning revelation, as Carrie White turns out to be quite a pretty girl, and actually being with a date for this evening, she actually feels like a normal teenage girl. Then the cruel trick is executed, and the movie takes a quick and terrifying turn, making for a most memorable finish.  De Palma’s split-screen technique is used to a dynamic effect in this pivotal moment in the movie, and his directing of the prom sequence in general is indeed a masterstroke of brilliance.

I can’t bring myself to reveal anymore of what happens in Carrie, in particular the ending, which is truly a shocker. What I can say is that it’s a horror movie not to be missed. The world of Stephen King was first brought to life on the screen with this movie adaptation, and it’s one of the best adaptations to date, thanks in most part to the skill of a masterful director.

Video **1/2

Carrie was already a DVD release, but released in a non-anamorphic format. MGM has thoughtfully reissued the movie in an anamorphic format, though the video transfer is far from being completely perfect. Image quality is mostly soft and at times grainy, but since the movie is 25 years old, I wasn’t expecting anything remarkably perfect. Image cropping is nicely done, and there are some instances of crisp, clear quality, but overall the transfer for Carrie doesn’t rank with the best of De Palma’s movies that are available on DVD.

Audio **1/2

A moderately impressive 5.1 Digital audio track is issued in an adequate performance of audio use. The standout moments are that in the movie in which Carrie executes her powers, where upon which sudden music sounds are thrust from the top speakers, which really make you jump at certain points. Other than that, a not-too-superior sounding disc.

Features ***1/2

Some nice extras are founded in this re-issue. The top three features are three new behind the scenes featurettes, including a 45 minute documentary titled “Acting Carrie”, a 40 minute documentary titled “Visualizing Carrie”, and a brief featurette on the premise of  “Carrie: The Musical” from screenwriter Lawrence Cohen. Also included is a trailer for the movie, an animated photo gallery, and a biographical article titled “Stephen King and the Evolution of Carrie”.

Summary:

Carrie is a stunning horror movie achievement, and a standout in the genre, too. The visions of Stephen King and Brian De Palma blend perfectly for a stylish fright fest.