Carrie (1976): The Real Reasons This Film Is So Scary
And how the Stephen King classic stays relevant?
Hey, mean girls! If you pull a horrific prank the shy girl at prom, don't be surprised is she burns the whole school to the ground. That's what a shy girl did in the horror classic Carrie. Based on Stephen King's novel, Carrie is about a girl who gets bullied in school and terrified by her Bible-thumping mother. Over time, she develops telekinesis and uses that to seek revenge on the people who tortured her.
The film has become a staple of a Halloween watch list. Sure, some things may seem dated now, such as the fashion and special effects. On the other hand, there's a lot that to the story and characters that's still resonates with viewers today. Why is that?
Carrie White (played by Sissy Spacek) is in the gym showers when she gets her first period. Because her mother never told her about the changing body, Carrie freaks out. Her classmates taunt her instead of helping her. Carrie gets invited to prom by a popular boy named Tommy Ross. They go and have a great time, until she's pronounced prom queen. See, what Carrie doesn't know is that this is all an elaborate prank to dump a bucket of pig's blood on her.
So what's a girl to do? Use her newfound powers to exact brutal and fiery vengeance on those who mistreated her. It's extreme, but can you blame her? Sadly, bullying is still an immense problem in schools. So, any teen who watches this film can identify with Carrie. They may even root for the girl who burns the school down in a fit of rage.
Most of the school faculty seem to either belittle Carrie or misunderstand her. The principal can't even get her name right. Her English teacher mocks her just because she gave an opinion he didn't agree with. At least she has a nice gym teacher who comforts her. Miss Collins looks after Carrie when the mean girls bully her. She even gets suspicious when the cool boy, Tommy, asks Carrie to prom.
Luckily, most teachers are just like Miss Collins. Unfortunately, some are not so great. Sometimes when a kid is bullied, that bad teacher will either ignore the problem or feed into it. Because this has been seen in school so many times, kids will recognize the helplessness of Carrie. Too bad Miss Collins couldn't do enough to help her.
Teens should have a safe home to come to after school. Sadly, Carrie's mother is not loving or caring enough to make her feel safe. Margaret White (played by Piper Laurie) is a radical Christian woman who takes her belief to the extreme. If she feels that Carrie is sinning she locks her child in a cupboard to pray. When Carrie tells her mom she's going to prom with a boy, her mother forbids it. When Carrie gets her period, her mother practically calls her a harlot. The poor girl loves her mother, but she couldn't take the abuse any longer. The end of the movie has Carrie's powers killing Margaret with knives and the house collapses on them both.
Kids who grew up with a cruel or fanatical parent can relate to this homegrown terror. Perhaps, some have pushed to the edge like Carrie. Of course, they don't have telekinetic abilities.
So the takeaway here could be that Carrie is not a horror film monster. One could say she's not even a villain, but a victim. Everyone loves a good scare, but Carrie's portrayal of school bullying and child abuse is what maintains the film's relevancy. The real scare is that anyone can be a Carrie, to some extent. Perhaps, Stephen King is using this terrifying story to teach a valuable lesson. Treat others the way you would want to be treat. Otherwise, your mistreatment will come back to haunt you.