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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Carrie: From a New Perspective

It’s time again for monster movies in October. To be honest, I watch monster and horror movies all year, but in October I try to write a little bit about them.

Brian De Palma’s film version(1976) of Stephen King’s first published novel – Carrie (1974) is dated in many ways, clothing and music fashions have changed, and some of the acting seems a little corny now, but it remains a powerful and frightening movie.  De Palma allowed the film to move ever so slowly towards it inevitable climax, a conclusion that the audience knows but is powerless to prevent.  We are trapped and can only watch in horror as that one pitiful girl’s dream come true turns into a nasty nightmare of blood and revenge.  Carrie is regularly mentioned in lists of the greatest horror movies – or even movies in general.

I’ve read the novel, and I’ve seen De Palma’s film before.  (I’ve even seen the wretched sequel The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999) but we won’t speak of that.)  But this time Carrie hit me in altogether new ways.  It shocked and saddened me – and frightened me – as if I had been watching it for the first time.

Perhaps it’s because this year marks 20 years since I graduated from high school.  (I missed the reunion.  I was at a men’s camp in Omaha, taking pictures of various things and talking with good friends).  Can it really have been so long already?  I was never quite the social outcast that Carrie White was.  But I was scrawny (the epitome of the 90 lbs. weakling) and I was the new kid often enough to know some of her painful story.  I remember the stronger boys laughing at me in the locker room.  I remember being laughed at in the hallways. I survived.  I moved on, grew up – but I do remember what that felt like, even if it’s been 20 years. 

Bullying is a hot-topic these days. Maybe we’re finally starting to realize and to take seriously the fact that kids can be cruel – very cruel - and that high school really is hell. 

But I think what really affected me as I watched Carrie again, is that I now have a daughter of my own, a daughter who is in her freshman year of high school.  I want to protect her and shield her from those inevitable abuses and cruelties.  And I know that I can’t, not always.

The audience watching Carrie is unable to communicate to young Carrie White on the screen.  We know what’s coming.  We know this story – both from our own lives and experiences and also from having seen the movie or read the book.  We know the cruelties that she will face – and we can do absolutely nothing to stop them.  We cannot change the outcome of the movie. We cannot stop that bucket of blood.  We cannot stop her lashing out in anger and shame. We cannot prevent the inevitable deaths.

If I could communicate to Carrie I would tell her that high school ends and that life can get better.  But I can’t.  Her rage will burn and people will die. That’s why Carrie is so horrifying and sad.  But I can communicate to my daughter, and I do.  I tell her that I love her and that, yes, high school really is hell, but life can get better. 

(I don't know about you, but I don't see the need for a remake. ...)

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