Carrie (1976)

carrie poster 1976 movie spacek
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Stylized prom scene massacre, Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie


Movie Info

Movie Name: Carrie

Studio: United Artists

Genre(s): Horror

Release Date(s): November 3, 1976

MPAA Rating: R

carrie crucifix sissy spacek

Poor Carrie. Anyone with a crucifix this terrifying was going to be screwed up regardless…

Everyone laughs at Carrie White (Sissy Spacek).  When she is targeted by Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen) and her boyfriend Billy Nolan (John Travolta), Carrie could pay the ultimate price…but Carrie White has a secret:  she can move things with her mind.  Sacrificing her own trip to prom, Sue Snell (Amy Irving) thinks she can help Carrie by allowing her boyfriend Tommy (William Katt) to prom, but unwittingly could send Carrie right into Chris’s trap.  While Carrie’s mother (Piper Laurie) blames the Devil, Carrie has other ideas about her abilities…and Carrie’s going to be sure that no one laughs at her again.

Directed by Brian De Palma, Carrie is a horror classic.  Based on the 1974 novel by Stephen King (his first), Carrie is one of those rare horror movies that also got a lot of critical acclaim.  The movie received Academy Award nominations for Best Actress (Spacek) and Best Supporting Actress (Laurie).  It frequently is listed as one of the best horror films of all time.

carrie william katz afro sissy spacek

I’m sorry Tommy…I can’t stop staring at your glorious afro…

Carrie was one of those “intro to horror” horror movies.  I saw it pretty young and it helped set my foundations of horror.  If Carrie is on, or if Carrie there is free time, Carrie is always a great movie to pop in for a classic fright fest.

The movie is quick, short, and to the point.  It also says a lot about high school (although none of the kids look like they are in high school) and bullying.  It does take some changes from the novel which is set up in flashbacks as the case is dissected by the public and the courts.  The movie also eliminates the novel ending scene which had Carrie dying in a parking lot with Sue Snell near her and instead has the classic image of Carrie pull her own home down upon her and the body of her mother…in this, the movie actually improved upon the story.

carrie 1976 piper laurie crucified

Well…she got what she wanted

The movie was also a who’s who of up & coming actors.  It was cast at the same time as Star Wars and many of Carrie’s actors have test footage doing Star Wars scenes and Star Wars actors can be seen doing Carrie’s scenes.  John Travolta made the big leap from Welcome Back, Kottter to appear in this movie as Billy Nolan and Nancy Allen who played Chris Hargensen went on to marry DePalma.  Betty Buckley (playing the gym teacher Miss Collins) was a regular on Eight is Enough and stage productions (and was actually was just a few years older than most of the cast).  Amy Irving (playing Sue Snell) became Mrs. Steven Spielberg and was nominated for an Academy Award for Yentl, and Norma Watson (played by P. J. Soles) took her baseball cap and pigtail look to Halloween.  One of the blink and you’ll-miss-them actors is Edie McClurg as Helen Shyres who went onto fame as the secretary from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…and who can forget the future Greatest American Hero’s William Katt’s glorious blond afro.

carrie brian de palma sissy spacek

Stylish and terrifying

The visuals of the film are classic, but dated…which seems a bit intentional.  The movie has a real ’70s from the styles to the soft focus to the editing.  It comes off as stylish and fun.  I love the prom scene complete with red lighting, spinning cameras, and then harsh side-by-side edits once the massacre begins.  De Palma definitely has a style, and Carrie is a great demonstration of what made him known as a director.

Carrie is a solid film but it really boils down to the dynamic between Sissy and Piper.  The movie wouldn’t work if they didn’t kill the scenes they are in together.  It is over-the-top, quotable, and just fun.  See Carrie…don’t see the 2002 remake or the 1999 sequel Carrie 2:  The Rage.  Stick with the classic.  If you must, see the 2013 version just as a way to compare and contrast changes to the story…but this version is still the definitive Carrie.

Related Links:

Carrie by Stephen King

Carrie (2002)

Carrie (2013)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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