October is the best month of the year. That is a fact. Leaves change, temperatures drop and things start to get kind of spooky. Similarly, Halloween is my favorite holiday — it’s better than Christmas or Hanukkah, even better than Christmakkuah (sorry, Seth). In preparation for the holiest (and most haunted) of days, I rewatched some of my old holiday favorites.
I started my binge with “Carrie” (the 1976 Sissy Spacek version, of course). The film is a perfect specimen of absurdity — blood-soaked, burn-down-the-high-school-gym absurdity.
The miracle of “Carrie,” or rather what should have been the film’s downfall, is that nothing happens until the very end. Really nothing. Carrie flips an ashtray and makes some light bulbs burst with her mind control powers. (What are Carrie’s actual powers? No one seems to know; she’s sort of a malicious Matilda.) It’s not until the bucket of pigs’ blood come tumbling down that shit starts to get real. And it gets so real so fast.
It almost feels like “Carrie” is going to break free of horror movies’ rigid rules of sex and death. And it does and it doesn’t. Because Carrie is both the final girl — the token virgin who gets to live to the final credits — and the primary “villain.” She’s the protagonist and the source of horror.
That’s not to say she isn’t weirdly sexualized. The film opens with her in the shower (in classic horror movie fashion). The camera pans over her body at a length of zoom that does not allow her to be anything more than a body. Then, she starts bleeding. Carrie doesn’t know it, but the source of her blood is menstrual. And even that is filmed in a sexual fashion.
So, the movie gets points for showing natural feminine body processes, but loses them for having to sexualize it. And the kids who do die (the not-so-final girls, if you will) are separated from Carrie by their sexuality. They give John Travolta (yeah, John Travolta is in this) blowjobs in the front seat of his car. They die.
There was an attempt at a remake in 2013 starring Chloe Grace Moretz, who sadly was not a very good Carrie. Even though she is a really nice person, which I know because music writer, Dom Polsinelli made me wait in line with him for half an hour to meet her when she came to Ann Arbor to campaign for Hillary. Thanks, Dom.
The remake failed not only because remakes almost always fail, but because it is impossible to try to make anyone other than Sissy Spacek into Carrie. She’s just too perfect. With her bug-eyed stare and subtle Texas twang, she’s the perfect religious-girl-who-loses-it. And when she does lose it, she does so with one of the best depictions of paralyzing rage I’ve ever seen.
So a second — or third or thirtieth — time around, “Carrie” holds up. It’s an underrated gem of my favorite decade of horror. It’s absurd enough to not be terrifying and bloody enough to be entertaining. Knives fly, gyms burn down and Carrie remains one of the baddest bitches/witches/girls who were bullied in high school of all time.