I would imagine, given both mine and John’s love for Brian De Palma, his films will become something of a mainstay on this blog. Taking this into account, I figured I would strike first, avoiding the risk of relegating my thoughts on Carrie to a second opinion post.
To my mind, horror is the genre that is the hardest to pull off in terms of creating a film that can reach a wide audience. How much one can tolerate violence is certainly one of the main issues, but I think the number one point of contention is that horror, as a genre, frequently has no characters for the audience to care about; they function only as ciphers and clichés– waiting to be hacked, slashed, hung, run over, electrocuted or impaled to move the film along to the final fracas (let it be said that I don’t have a problem with this if it is done well. Or not so well for that matter; you are reading a post from someone who loves the Friday the 13th series after all).
This is what sets Carrie apart from most all of the horror cannon. You sympathize with the main character of this film SO MUCH. This leads to the viewer to be able to relate, and anyone who has been through the social meat grinder that is high school should have no problem feeling compassion for Carrie White. The first point leads right into the second great thing about Carrie: every viewer can watch the film and recognize a character that perfectly defines your high school existence. This was a time when you were, for whatever reason, bullied, the bullier, the person who tried to help, or the person who did nothing. Each of these characterizations are well represented here and vividly brought to life by a cast that was little known at the time, a fact that would certainly change after the film’s release.
For the most part, horror is a genre that most women seem to stay away from, butCarrie is a film that would prove to be the exception to that rule. Instead of having an unstoppable serial killer, boogeyman, or monster trying to equally distribute their own brand of havoc on everyone, here you have a sympathetic human being whose last desire in the world is to hurt anybody. And while the viewer may want to see Carrie exact her revenge (guilty as charged), you don’t want it to end as badly as it does. It’s unusual when the members of an audience in a horror film find themselves routing for the character that has all the destructive power, yet wanting more than anything for her to not utilize it.