September 13, 2011
The 1976 horror film, “Carrie,” directed by Brian De Palma and based on the novel by Stephan King, is a movie which experimented with creative shots, a chilling soundtrack, and several other visual aspects which anticipate surprising turn of events. All of these techniques were carefully molded together to set a mood which captivated an unsuspecting audience with true fear.
Carrie is a scapegoat teenager, in her senior year of high school. Her whole life, she was teased and taunted by her peers, because she was “different”. This is mostly due to Carrie being raised by a sheltered, psychotic mother who believes that almost everything is a sin. For instance, Carrie is tortured for getting her first period, because her mother believes it’s a sin. Carries house is a dark, with evil images of Jesus everywhere. During the scenes shot in her house, the music is slow and creepy.
The film begins with a slight birds eye angle shot which slowly zooms into Carrie. She is in gym class playing volley ball with her classmates, but she is tormented when she misses the ball, causing her team to lose. Right after, there is a slow motion, dimly lit shot of the girl’s locker room with a peaceful ballad playing in the background. Young girls are drying off from the showers and getting dressed, and the music accentuates a sense of grace. Without cutting, the camera slowly makes its way to Carrie in the shower where she is slowly bathing herself. The mood still emulates a sense of sensual purity, calming the audience. All of a sudden without warning, blood is seen dripping down her legs. The music fades, with only the sound of the running shower while Carrie looks down at the pool of blood with shock. All of a sudden, she runs out of the shower to all the other girls screaming, “HELP ME PLEASE,” and even grabbing someone’s white shirt with her bloody hand. All of the girls gang up on her with disgust and start laughing, because she obviously had no idea what a period is. The girls start to throw a bunch of sanitary napkins at her, as Carrie goes back into the shower crouching down in fear. “Plug it up, plug it up, plug it up,” they shout at her. This scene went from a calm beautiful mood, to an anxiety filled bullying. The audience does not know what to expect. During the racket, the gym teacher, Ms. Collin’s, comes into the locker room to settle Carrie down and shew the bullying girls. Carrie is in such emotional distress, that Ms. Collin’s has to shake her to get her to snap out of it. In the midst of Carrie crying and trembling, a shrieking sound affect, reminiscent of the film “Psycho”(1960) sounds right before a light bulb above the shower suddenly breaks. This foreshadows that Carrie has telekinesis, which is the ability to move objects while under an enormous amount of stress. Later in the film it is revealed that Carrie has always had this ability, and its power has progressed with age. There were such unpredictable twists and turns within the beginning scenes, which keeps the audience at the edge of their seat.
As the movie continues, the audience gets a glimpse of Carries life, and how she tries to fit in more once a boy named Tommy asks her to the senior prom. Between battling her controlling mother and telekinesis outbursts, the ring leading bully from her gym class was punished by not being allowed to attend the prom, so she seeks revenge. It is unclear what Chris sets out to do to Carrie, until the climax of the film. All the audience knows is that Chris got her boyfriend to murder a pig, and later they are both seen setting up some sort of trap inside where the prom will be held. This foreshadowing keeps the audience wondering what will happen on the night of the prom.
Aside from Carrie, the film reveals the points of view of other characters. Sue was one of the girls who bullied her in the locker room, yet later felt a tremendous amount of remorse. To make it up to Carrie, Sue asks her boyfriend Tommy to ask Carrie to the prom. When there are scenes of the characters other than Carrie and her mother, the lighting is bright and beautiful. At most times there is lighthearted and upbeat music in the background, giving a sense of a carefree mood. This is important, because the mood shifts from spooky to happy with comedic moments, so that the audience won’t expect what will happen next. In most horror movies, the mood is constantly anticipating fear, giving the audience fair warning of when something is bad is to happen. This does not happen with this film. The audience knows something drastic will occur, but exactly when, what and how is a mystery. Despite her mother’s strong disapproval of her actions, Carrie overcomes her shyness right before the prom, and she slowly emerges from a depressed somber girl to a smiling quiet soul who just wants acceptance. The mood is positive and exciting right before the prom, which purposely misleads the audience.
Right before Carrie leaves for the prom, there is a scene in her dark room where her mother desperately and crazily tries to stop her from going. “We’ll burn your dress together and pray for forgiveness,” she cries to Carrie while a forewarning soundtrack plays. “They’re all going to laugh at you,” she continues. Carrie stands up to her mother by using her telekinesis to push her mother down on Carries bed. Her mother is convinced that her telekinesis is “Satan working through her”. Right before Carrie leaves, Carrie assures her that she will come home early. “I love you mama..” She nervously states. Once Carrie departs from her house, the creepy music lingers and her mother states in a low voice, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”. The scene cuts to the next, causing the audience to wonder what her mother will do once Carrie returns home.
The following scene shows everyone outside of the high school on their way inside. Carrie silently says to Tommy in the car, “Maybe this was a mistake,” for she is hesitant to face her peers. Tommy reassuringly charms her, and opens to Carrie’s door. You see a crooked smile forming on Carrie’s face as an upbeat song begins to play. Suddenly there is another slight birds eye view of the inside of the prom. The same song is being played loudly, the lights are colorful, decorations vibrantly fill the gym, setting a playful and euphoric tone. The camera once again slowly zooms onto Carrie and Tommy as they come inside. Despite a view snickers by her peers, Carrie is treated with respect for the first time in her life by a handful of Tommy’s friends. Carrie is greeted by Ms. Collin’s, who had tried to emotionally support her. They sit and talk while the same peaceful music from the beginning plays. Carrie is complimented by a few people, and swept off her feet by Tommy. The prom seems to be a dream come true for her, and everything seems to be going swimmingly.
After a memorable slow dance, Sue sneaks over to the high school to see how everything is going. The audience sees her skipping down stairs in the middle of the night. The muddled sounds from inside give an eerie sensation. Meanwhile Chris and her boyfriend are hiding under the stage where the band is playing. Soon, the announcer says it’s time to vote for Prom King and Queen. Each table gets a balled, and on the very bottom are “Carrie White and Tommy Ross”. Though hesitant, Carrie and Tommy decide to vote for themselves. The lighting in this scene is still romantic and lovely. “The devil with false modesty,” Tommy states proudly, as Carrie agrees and checks off their names.
Soon, one of Chris’ friend Norma comes to their table to collect their balled. The camera follows her to each table as the collection gets larger. During this time, there are only sounds of people talking with no music. Norma then sees her boyfriend where she sneaks in a kiss, while secretly dropping the ballads on the floor and kicking them under a table, while receiving fake ballads from her boyfriend. At this time, frightful music starts to play, giving a cue to the audience that something big yet unknown will happen. Without any cuts, the camera continues to follow Norma, as she hands the ballads in to the announcer, then sneaks near where Chris is hiding and gives a couple warning knocks, as a cue that all is going according to plan. The camera pans to the divide between the stage and backstage, where Sue finally arrives to catch a peak on how prom is going. The camera slowly pans away from Sue’s curious face to the dividing edge, where there seems to be a rope leading up above the stage. With the camera following the rope, it leads to another birds eye view of the stage, and the rope is attached to a bucket balancing on a rafter, filled with a mysterious dark liquid. These transitions all occur in under thirty seconds. As the audience first see’s the bucket, the frightening music fades with a lingering minor chord. Simultaneously, the camera is still looking down onto the stage, and you hear the announcer say, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I’ve got the winners…I give you…Tommy Ross and Carrie White.”
Leaving the shot of the bucket, the camera zooms in on Carrie and Tommy, with a bright blue spot light shining on them. The soft musical theme from the shower scene plays. The song reflects an innocent and peaceful feel. All is in slow motion. Carrie smiles and seems to tear up out of disbelief and joy. The camera shows Carries point of view, as she makes her way through the applauding crowd, and onto the sparkling stage to receive her flowers and crown. Once again, the music and slow motion calms the audience down.
The camera starts to go back and forth between shots of Chris holding one end of the rope, as Carrie and Tommy climb the stairs to the stage. Still in slow motion, Sue is watching them, with a smile on her face. The music shifts between the peaceful theme, to a sinister theme. While the crowd is still clapping for Carrie, Sue notices the rope and bucket. She realizes someone is trying to pull a prank on Carrie, and tries to stop it. Before she reaches Chris’ hiding spot, Ms. Collin’s grabs Sue to escort her out of the gym. The suspenseful music picks up pace. The mood is tense and keeps the audience guessing. Carrie is smiling with glee, Chris’ hands are shaking while holding the rope, and Ms. Collin’s finally throws Sue outside of the gym, and once the door slams, Chris yanks the rope. The bucket then dumps pig’s blood all over Carrie, and the music stops.
As Carrie stands there in utter shock, everything is still in slow motion with no talking. The only sound is the slow swaying of the bucket hitting the rafter. After about ten seconds, Carrie starts to hear her mother’s voice inside her head repeating, “They’re all going to laugh at you, they’re all going to laugh at you.” She starts to imagine evil laughter echoing from the audience in sync with her mother’s taunting remark. With Carrie’s hands on her bloody face, she tilts her head backwards in agony.
The camera quickly cuts to Chris and her boyfriend backstage giggling and trying to escape, in regular motion. Soon after, the camera returns to Carrie covered in blood with the taunting voices shrieking in her head. Carrie slowly holds her head forward to the crowd, except this time her eyes are wide open and almost rabid looking. Suddenly, the camera shows a split point of view. One point of view is of Carrie’s face, and the other showing all the doors shutting while the shrieking sound effect once again plays. It is now evident to the audience that she is controlling the doors with her mind.
Returning to a single view, Carrie uses her telekinesis to then break all the lights. The scene is shot with a red lens, perhaps symbolizing the reoccurrence of blood. The laughter ceases. A deep tone plays as Carrie stands still on stage, yet moving her head to control the objects around her. She soon turns on the emergency fire hose with her mind, spraying the screaming crowd and electronic equipment, causing minor explosions and fire. She continues to destroy the gym, injuring and knocking people out. All the years of pent up rage rupture. Lights are flickering, sound feedback and static play, and no one in the crowd can escape. The prom turned into utter chaos. Chris and her boyfriend peek in through the window in utter terror. Chris is seen with her jaw dropped, slowly turning her head towards Carrie in disbelief.
Carrie starts to slowly descend down off the stage, as a raging inferno engulfs the stage. She walks as though in a trance to make her exit, as the screaming and crackling of fire continues. Then the camera shows a shot of the entrance to the gym from the outside. All the audience sees are flames in the windows of the gym, and the double doors opening. Carries figure eerily appears like a ghost, as she leaves the building, shutting the loud doors with her mind. The audience now knows that all the people inside whom weren’t already dead, were left to burn alive. The deep tone is still playing, and chilling sounds of wind blowing. In the next scene Chris and her boyfriend try to run Carrie over with their car, yet Carrie uses her telekinesis to flip the car over and set it on fire. The only person to survive is Sue.
Carrie walks home, where her mother awaits. The house is illuminated with hundreds of candles. A church organ plays as Carrie steadily lurks through her home. Her mother is seen hiding behind the doorway to the bathroom in a dark attic and Carrie doesn’t notice. She draws herself a bath to wash the pigs blood off, and begins to weep. Once she is dried off and dressed, her mother emerges from behind the door. As Carrie throws herself into her arms, her mother starts to say, “Sin never dies.” And “Now, the devil has come home, let’s pray.” Desperate and broken, Carrie and her start to chant a prayer, as her mother reaches for a knife and stabs her in the back. The sinister music sounds, as Carrie falls down the set of stairs to the attic. Soon, Carrie uses her telekinesis to defend herself and kill her own mother with knives. After her mother exhales her last breath, Carrie drags her mother into a prayer closet. In distress, Carrie’s telekinesis goes out of control for the last time, and the roof begins to slowly cave in. Awaiting her death, a night shot of the outside of the house shows the light of the candles burning. Somber music plays, and the house begins to sink into the ground until there is nothing left but ash. This scene is so hellishly, and it finally ends with a burning figure of Jesus’ which hung in the house.
The next scene shows a sunny day, where Sue is traumatized and asleep. Sue’s mother is seen talking on the phone about the situation, and what that they were planning on leaving the town after all of her friends had been killed. The scene fades to another, where Sue is seen in a glowing white gown. She is walking with a bouquet of flowers to where Carrie’s house used to stand. The reoccurring peaceful theme song plays for the last time as she approaches the rubble. Atop of the ruble there is a sign that reads, “Carrie White, burn in hell!” With a tear glistening in Sue’s eye, she slowly lays the flowers onto the rubble, where suddenly a bloody hand rises out of the ground and grabs her as Loud frightening music interrupt. The scene goes from peaceful to terrifying in only a split second, once again, surprising the audience with immediate terror. After all, it was just a nightmare. Sue awakes screaming, as her mother cradles her. The music stops, the scene cuts to credits.
This film has moved many people, because of its creative plot, and surprising nature. This wasn’t a film about an over-the-top villain. It starts out giving the viewer little tastes of terror only to build up for the climactic scene. I feel “Carrie” conveys more fear because it has characters you can relate to, with a fairly realistic setting, with the exception of Carrie having the power to move objects with her mind. The idea of prom mixed with horror was an interesting hook. The movie made twists and turns without much warning most of the time, which is very important in a thriller. This is the best approach to build suspense, and leaving a long lasting impression on the viewer. With the soundtrack shifting from one emotion to the other, and the vivid images the film displays, “Carrie” was successful in that sense.