DirectorBrian De Palma
Release Date(s)1976 (October 11, 2016)
Studio(s)United Artists/MGM/20th Century Fox (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
Carrie was the first adaptation of a Stephen King story in any form, and arguably, the best of the lot with very few contenders for the title. With career-defining performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, this drama/horror hybrid about an awkward teenage girl was a hit with both critics and audiences, doing very well financially when it was released. And although it wasn’t the first to do so, its conclusion involving a shock ending became something that was adopted by other filmmakers to the point of it becoming passé. It may be dated due to the timeframe that it takes place in, but it’s still considered by many to be one of the top horror films ever made.
Getting into the specifics of the story of Carrie feels a bit unnecessary at this point. It’s one of those stories that even non-horror fans know as it has worked its way into people’s minds the way that any good piece of fiction so often does. It goes beyond being a story and becomes a part of the cultural tableau. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t cover it at least a little, so here’s a quick attempt. Carrie tells the story of a shy high school girl who is constantly bullied by her fellow students, as well as her overbearing, unbalanced, religion-obsessed mother. In response, she develops telekinetic powers that she keeps hidden from the world, but once the pranks played upon her by her classmates reaches their zenith, she suddenly finds within herself the need for revenge against the people that couldn’t simply just leave her alone.
Carrie, at least for me, has never been an easy film to watch. It’s not one of those horror movies that can you can pop in and rewatch ad infinitum for its camp factor or its comedic value; it has little to none of both, and acts more as a drama than a horror film, which is partly why it’s so effective. The final minutes of the film, which includes the blood-soaked night at the prom, aren’t quite as interesting as those that proceed them. We come to understand the pain and anguish that she goes through on a daily basis, both at school and at home. Once we reach the moment when she can’t take anymore of it and lashes out, we’re on her side. Yet, on the other hand, we’re not on her side. She does horrible things to people that most would feel are deserving of it for the entirety of the film. It’s that quandary of the situation that makes the character and the story interesting, and why the setup is so much more important than the payoff.
Carrie is also one of Brian De Palma’s most accomplished films. He admits freely that he had more time prep the movie than almost any of the others that he made, which is why the film is so much more highly stylized than his usual work. It was also the first big hit for De Palma, whose directorial run produced a staggering body of work, much of it polarizing to some degree, but all of it worthy of either celebrating or reevaluating... or both. He would go on to do another film about telekinesis, The Fury, and Carrie would also serve the sequel and remake machine much later on, but nobody can deny the power or the legacy of the first film. It’s a masterpiece, through and through.
A long time coming from the folks at Scream Factory, the Collector’s Edition of Carrie on Blu-ray features a new 4K scan of the original film negative. I’ll preface this by saying that if you’re unfamiliar with the film and haven’t seen it any other form besides Blu-ray, you’re likely to pick on it a little bit more for its visual quality. It’s a film that’s always carried a mostly diffused look it and has never been 100% crisp. But if you’ve seen it on TV and DVD many times, you’ll probably have a much more positive response to this new transfer. It exhibits an extremely organic presentation with thorough grain levels that are even from scene to scene. There’s an overall softness to the material, but again, it’s baked into the cinematography. There’s a wonderful amount of clarity, depth, and excellent fine detailing on display. Colors are very strong and pop quite well, while skin tones are very accurate. Blacks are very deep with some wonderful shadow detailing, and both brightness and contrast levels are perfect. There are also no digital enhancements on display, nor are there many film artifacts leftover, aside from minor speckling. Safe to say, the picture quality is a marked improvement over the previous MGM Blu-ray in every category. For the audio selection, you have two options to choose from: English 5.1 and English mono DTS-HD, the latter boosted to stereo. The 5.1 mix does a very good job of reproducing the film’s soundtrack in a wider field, but never does it rise above it. On both tracks, dialogue is clean and clear, but a tiny bit too quiet in certain places. Sound effects and score benefit most from the extra channel space, and there are some nice atmospheric and low end moments to be had as well. Personally, I prefer the 2.0 track as it’s mixed a little more to my liking, but having seen this movie many times in mono, it may just be a preference thing on my part. The 5.1 is no slouch though, and it certainly opens up the soundtrack a bit, especially during the prom sequence at the end. Both are great tracks, no matter which one you choose. There are also subtitles available in English SDH for those who might need them.
For the extras selection, Scream Factory has done it once again, going out of their way to “Carrie” over everything from the previous MGM Special Edition DVD release of the film (the previous Blu-ray release only offered a trailer). Plus, a ton of new stuff has been added as well. On the first disc, you get the original theatrical trailer, as well as trailers for the other movies in the franchise including The Rage: Carrie 2, the 2002 Carrie TV remake, and the recent 2013 Carrie remake. The second disc includes almost the entire bulk of the supplemental material. Under Interviews, there’s Writing Carrie, an interview with screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen; Shooting Carrie, an interview with director of photography Mario Tosi; Cutting Carrie, an interview with editor Paul Hirsch; Casting Carrie, an interview with casting director Harriet B. Helberg; Acting Carrie, featuring interviews with actors Sissy Spacek, Amy Irving, Betty Buckley, Nancy Allen, William Katt, Piper Laurie, Priscilla Pointer, and P.J. Soles, as well as art director Jack Fisk and director Brian De Palma; More Acting Carrie, featuring more interviews with actors Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley, William Katt, Piper Laurie, Edie McClurg, and P.J. Soles; Visualizing Carrie, featuring interviews with Brian De Palma, Jack Fisk, Lawrence D. Cohen, and Paul Hirsch; and Bucket of Blood, an interview with composer Pino Donaggio. There’s also a new Horror’s Hallowed Grounds segment with Sean Clark and the vintage featurette Carrie, The Musical. Under More Carrie, you’ll find 5 TV spots; 2 radio spots; a still gallery of rare behind-the-scenes photos; another still gallery of posters and lobby cards; and a “Stephen King and the Evolution of Carrie” text gallery.
Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition release of the film looks to be the final word on Carrie on home video. With a terrific A/V presentation and a stacked and informative amount of extras, not much more could be squeezed in (other than the long-lost prologue). It’s a great release of a great film and highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons