Carrie / Brian De Palma / 1976 / fourstar

Active Ingedients: Sissy Spacek; Gradual shifts in tone; Narrative suspense
Side Effects: Slow buildup; Melodramatic moments

Brian De Palma’s Carrie is a striking blend of Hitchcockian suspense and modern horror, freer to imagine more pervasive, abject darkness. De Palma’s deft, even gentle touch throughout the film’s early scenes successfully disguises the famous bloody climax. It’s a tricky bit of deception, but De Palma shows skill and precision with each tone he hits. His patience during Carrie’s gradual transformation and maturation eventually gives way to a more immediate, pulsing pace as the story concludes. Tracing Carrie’s emotional arc filmically roots the audience in the lonely girl’s world and accentuates her feelings of timidity and shame as well as rage and humiliation.

A naked and compassionate performance from Sissy Spacek is the film’s other secret weapon, responsible for pulling the audience into the world of the film. Her fragility and fear are just as scary as her anger and telekinetic abilities. The script draws in broad strokes, but De Palma’s style matches its heightened drama. In fact, most everyone contributes to the same unified timbre of the film, right down to the abrasive, operatic score. That touch and many more remind the viewer of Hitchcock, but in Carrie De Palma transcends homage and blends the influence of the Master of Suspense into a piece all his own.

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