I managed to watch this film prior to it expiring as a free watch on Amazon Prime. I had always been meaning to watch this Stephen King classic at some point. I checked some of the reviews and found a rather hilariously asinine review calling this film derivative. I couldn’t help but think: “Derivative of what? Itself?” after reading it.
What took me by surprise, especially for a film made in 1976, was the disturbingly grim Jesus Christ metaphor throughout the film. Christianity isn’t treated as some nebulous good, but as the irrational and destructive superstition that it is. That surprised me. The lead actress did a thrilling job depicting the character of Carrie White and the awkwardness felt incredibly realistic and believable. It was cringe-inducing in a realistic portrayal. I recall watching the 2000s version and not liking the ending, whereas this had a far more interesting, thoughtful, and ambiguous ending that concludes strongly for a horror film. Carrie has essentially been mistreated and in an abusive relationship under her mother’s influence her entire life.
While most of the story was a fairly typical tragic fall into destructive actions as a quasi-horror, quasi-drama, and quasi-coming of age story; what I found most intriguing about this film is that the collapse of social order and Carrie’s trust in others occurred due to competing arguments about what was best for her. Her mother abused both physically and emotionally, often hurting herself when Carrie grew rebellious enough in order to force Carrie to obey her. Her mother was the most overt with her abusive behavior, but her classmate and her boyfriend’s conflict with the schoolteacher who tried to protect Carrie was perhaps the most interesting conflict. It wasn’t a case of abusers and people trying to protect the abused, but two well-intentioned parties who disagreed what was best for her. The most pertinent aspect regarding this disagreement, that probably had more to do with Carrie’s collapse into a mass murder spree even if inadvertently, was that both parties tried to do what was best for Carrie without ever really asking Carrie herself what she wanted to do. Carrie’s consent was something neither party thought about; they both saw her as a fragile girl and didn’t treat her as an equal. Their own discord over how best to help her was what resulted in the tragedy of the prom. When the classmate finds evidence of the bucket and goes to stop it before it falls on Carrie, the schoolteacher immediately assumes she’s up to no good and tosses her out. The bucket falls, the doubt and insecurity fostered by Carrie’s abusive mother overwhelms Carrie, and her emotional turmoil convinces her to go on a rampage to kill everyone in sight with her powers. What I like about this story is that Carrie intentionally chose this path instead of being a blameless victim of circumstance whereby the plot happens regardless of her actions. She isn’t reduced to a plot device, but intentionally makes the choice out of overwhelming fear, shame, and raw hatred due to years of school bullying. The pig’s blood seems to symbolically represent filth in Christianity and filth in how Carrie feels for herself and for others, once it happens. Arguably, it is left to viewer interpretation if the helpful schoolteacher was also laughing or if Carrie just imagined it when the bucket fell. Her murder of her mother is more justified as self-defense, but she feels more guilt over killing her abuser than killing random innocent people and her school abusers who try one last time to kill her. Carrying her mother into the abusive penitent closet symbolically representing carrying the guilt and shame that her mother’s abuse caused her until it killed her instead of abandoning the hateful teachings of Christianity for a better, well-adjusted life.
The ending dream sequence where the classmate awakes from a nightmare of having sympathy only for Carrie’s hand to rise from beyond the grave is intentionally left ambiguous as to whether it is a dream or not. The angry Jesus symbolism before Carrie’s powers cause her house to collapse on her seems to imply that Carrie did indeed survive and rise from the ashes of her house. But, that’s up to viewer interpretation. Overall, I’d rate this film as an 8/10 and it is probably one of the better Stephen King adaptions.