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Fathom Adventures: Carrie 45th Anniversary

Our feature this week is my favorite Stephen King adaptation. Many older adults I’ve chatted with all loved this growing up. This makes me glad I didn’t attend my high school prom.

Brian de Palma’s 1976 classic Carrie is a timeless and painfully relatable story with an unforgettable climax. It boasts outstanding performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie sending you on an emotional rollercoaster. Forty-five years later, Carrie still shocks people and conjures memories of prom night.

Meet Carrie White (Spacek), an unfortunate soul who’s the school punching bag. When she’s not severely bullied by girls at school, Carrie suffers abuse from her crazed Methodist mother, Margaret (Laurie). A planned invite for Carrie to the prom becomes a nightmarish sea of fire.

Spacek as Carrie tugs at your heartstrings and terrifies you simultaneously. She captures the disheveled look and timid personality synonymous with Carrie. In the infamous prom massacre, her blood-soaked death stare leaves you paralyzed – no dialogue necessary. Laurie as Margaret White balances craziness and believability. Her extreme religious fanaticism quickly turns deadly, making you cringe in fear.

I’ve always loved composer Pino Donaggio’s score for Carrie. He heavily mimics Bernard Herrmann’s shrieking strings in Psycho for suspense. His main theme played during opening credits paints a musical portrait for the doomed teenager. He uses strings and flutes to illustrate a somber, melancholic, hopeful and beautiful score. I love his theme rendition in the closing dream sequence. Donaggio makes it even more tear jerking with an overpowering flute.

Carrie brings the dangers of bullying and child endangerment to center focus. Vicious bullying from other girls diminishes Carrie’s self-esteem and worth. Such behaviors fuel her unstable emotions triggering her telekinesis – to her mother’s horror.

Margaret herself physically and mentally abuses Carrie for disobeying her religious demands. She condemns female biology like menstruation and breasts as indicators of sin. From hitting her with a bible to solitary confinement, Margaret blindly reduces Carrie to a shriveling, teary-eyed wreck. Carrie can’t grow into a healthy teenager with societal and parental damnation – the true definition of pariah.

De Palma made something really timeless no matter its 1970s style. Most people can see Carrie in themselves as subjects of bullying, unstable homes or religiously dominated life. She was an underdog turned villain by society. She was misunderstood by the world and needlessly ostracized for being different. Whether it’s yourself or a friend, we all know a “Carrie” somewhere.

MY RATING? 5/5. Brian de Palma’s Carrie successfully adapts and remains the superior version of Stephen King’s novel. He grounds science fiction into a high school horror drama. Pino Donaggio’s score provides a bittersweet soundtrack to Carrie White’s life. De Palma shows why you never push unstable teenagers to their breaking point.

Our next adventure takes us to Transylvania just in time for October. On Oct. 2, I’m seeing a special double feature for Universal’s Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931).



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