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Carrie is a 1976 American horror film directed by Brian De Palma and written by Lawrence D. Cohen, based on the novel Carrie by Stephen King. The film and the novel deal with a socially outcast teenage girl, Carrie White, who discovers she possesses telekinetic powers. Carrie's powers become apparent after her humiliation by her peers, teachers, and mother. The film stars Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Betty Buckley, Amy Irving, Nancy Allen, William Katt, John Travolta, and Priscilla Pointer.

The film was a major success for United Artists, grossing over $30 million at the U.S. box office, on a budget of $1.8 million. It received a mostly positive response from critics. The film spawned a sequel The Rage: Carrie 2 and a made for television remake, released in 2002, neither of which involved De Palma. During a survey taken in October 2008, it was revealed that Carrie was considered one of the most popular movies teens watch on Halloween.


Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) has her first period while showering after a physical education class. Her mother, Margaret (Piper Laurie), a religious fanatic, never told her about menstruation, so Carrie thinks she is bleeding to death. Her cries for help are met with abuse by the entire gym class, throwing tampons and sanitary napkins at her. The gym teacher, Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) is horrified at Carrie's naivety. A light bulb breaks, apparently caused by Carrie's anxiety. After questioning Carrie, Miss Collins realizes that Carrie is unaware of the concept of menstruation. Because of this, Miss Collins asks the school principal to excuse Carrie from gym class for a week because of the trauma. On her way home, a boy on his bike yells out "Creepy Carrie! Creepy Carrie!". Carrie then uses her recently-discovered powers to stop a boy from teasing her.

At home, Carrie's mother Margaret tells her that the "blood" is a punishment from God for having sinful thoughts. When Carrie tries to have a frank discussion with her mother, she hits Carrie with a bible and reads her an excerpt from the bible. She then drags Carrie into a closet filled with religious artifacts and locks her in there, making Carrie pray for forgiveness. Carrie screams and cries for her mother to let her out, and eventually begins to recite the Our Father after using the Lord's name in vain. In her room later that night, her despair causes a mirror to break. When Margaret comes upstairs to see where the noise came from, Carrie feigns ignorance. The following day, Carrie's English teacher Mr. Fromm reads a poem written by Tommy Ross (William Katt). Mr. Fromm then quips with Tommy and invites criticisms from the class. When Carrie responds to the poem by stating that it's beautiful, Mr. Fromm mocks her in front of everybody. Tommy empathizes with Carrie and swears at the teacher for picking on her. Tommy all too happily "obliges".

Miss Collins, still about the shower incident, as a result of having her original punishment (suspension and loss of prom privileges) dismissed, puts the other girls through a "boot camp" style detention. As for Carrie, she researches "miracles" in the school library. The leader of the clique, Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen) refuses to cooperate, rebels against Miss Collins, which causes Miss Collins to slap her and states that Chris is banned from the prom. Chris blames Carrie for her misfortune. Meanwhile, Carrie spends time in the library finding out more about her "gift," telekinesis (earlier, Miss Collins excused her from gym for a week). Chris's friend, Sue Snell (Amy Irving), feels guilty about her part in teasing Carrie and so asks her boyfriend Tommy to take Carrie to the prom.

Meanwhile, Chris and her boyfriend Billy (John Travolta) are going out on a maddening joyride where she makes her true intentions known: she wants help in getting even with Carrie. Billy is clueless. Chris is having oral sex in Billy's car as she gets plots on Carrie. The next day, Tommy is searching out Carrie at the library to ask if she will go to the prom with him. Carrie suddenly runs away from Tommy, thinking that his request is another trick. However, after an encouraging talk with Ms. Collins and further persuasion by Tommy, Carrie agrees to go to the prom. That night, Billy, Chris and some others sneak into a pig farm and slaughter a pig.

When Carrie announces that she's going to the prom, her mother throws coffee in her face and argues with her. When Margaret stands to close the windows during a storm, Carrie uses her powers to close them. This incident inspires Margaret to accuse Carrie of being a "witch". Carrie acknowledges that she has the power and that things are about to change. Her mother is convinced that Carrie is being used by the Devil and tells her she must never use those powers. At the Bates gymnasium, Chris and Billy squabble while Billy is pouring blood into a bucket sitting on an overhead rafter. When Chris beckons him to hurry, Billy tells her that if she keeps cool, she can pull the rope at the prom.

Back at the White's house, Margaret is praying for Carrie while the latter is sewing her pink prom gown. Ernie Peterson and Billy's friend Freddie ensues the following day at school, with Chris listening at a distance. Freddie wants a place on the prom committee and Ernie wants to know why Freddie waited until prom night to inquire about. Ernie agrees to allow Freddie to collect the prom king/queen ballots. Meanwhile, at a downtown beauty salon, Helen and Norma (P.J. Soles) talk about Tommy taking Carrie to the prom, while laughing and make fun of her. Tommy, George and another guy go into a tuxedo shop for their tuxes.

While Carrie gets ready, Mrs. White disapproves the color of her gown (she calls it "red" when it is actually pink) and tries to persuade Carrie to stay home. She warns Carrie that Tommy is not coming and that everyone is going to laugh at her. Carrie restrains her using her telekinetic powers and tells her to stay put until she leaves, while letting her know she'll be home early. Once the couple get to the gym, Carrie gets nervous, feeling that coming to the prom was a bad idea. Tommy, however, assures her that it will be a good time. The two then exit the car and head for the prom. Inside, the prom is already in full swing. Carrie and Tommy meet Freida and George at the front door, where Freida complements the stage decorations and Carrie's dress, and invites the pair to sit with George and herself.

At the Snell house, Sue asks about the time and when she is told, she suddenly leaves the dinner table to go "out". Back at the prom, Tommy goes to chat with a few folks and Ms. Collins comes over to Carrie and talks to her about her senior prom. She also advises Carrie to never forget the moment. After a while, Tommy and Carrie go to dance and it is here where Tommy falls for Carrie and kisses her. Sue eventually arrives at the prom, where she has to sneak into a rear door to prevent getting caught. Ernie gets on the stage and announces that it is time to crown the prom king and queen, and to Carrie's surprise, she and Tommy are on the ballot. Although very objective to voting for themselves at first, Tommy eventually convinces Carrie to abandon "false modesty." Meanwhile, under the stage where the prom king and queen will be crowned, Chris and Billy monitor the activities of everyone present, making sure that Chris' "favors" are put in action.

Norma and Freddy are busy collecting the ballots and when they finish both hurry to another side of the stage where Freddie drops them behind Norma to kick under the stage, and Norma pulls another set of ballots out of Freddie's tuxedo coat. She then hands those ballots to the prom committee, and heads to the stage to signal to Chris and Billy that everything is set. Ernie then announces the winners: Carrie White and Tommy Ross. The couple make their way to the stage to be crowned prom king and queen, and Carrie is seen to be astonished and very happy. Meanwhile, Chris continues to pull anxiously at the rope Billy rigged to the bucket above the stage. Sue sneaks to a side of the stage to watch Carrie and Tommy. Everyone in the gym applauds the pair, including Miss Collins.

At the same time, Sue notices the rope moving out of the corner of her eye. When she looks up, she sees the bucket above the stage. Sue then follows the rope down to its source and finds that two people are under the stage, one of them holding the rope. Horrified, she hurries toward the stage's stairwell and sees Billy and Chris underneath it. Miss Collins, having caught Sue, moves over to her to take her away, thinking that she is there to cause Carrie and Tommy trouble. Miss Collins pulls Sue to the back doors of the gym and throws her out. At that moment, Chris pulls the cord and drenches Carrie with the bucket of pigs blood, ruining the happiest moment Carrie has had in a long time.

Everyone present falls silent, except Norma and a couple of Billy's pals, who all start laughing. Tommy is angered by this change of events, but the bucket falls on his head and knocks him unconscious. Meanwhile, Carrie begins to hear the voices of her mother, Mr. Morton, Ms. Collins and Chris's clique in her head. She also sees everybody laughing at her (although only Norma and Billy's crew were actually laughing; also, Miss Collins looks as if she is about to cry from the horrific event). Chris and Billy escape from underneath the stage and head for a back door, but not before Billy hits his head against a cymbal.

Carrie, her sanity completely gone, glares down eerily on the other prom-goers and begins using her powers to shut the gym doors. Freddie and another man are crushed when they try to open them again. Carrie then begins to remove a fire hose and spray everyone in sight, including Norma, whom is knocked unconscious by the water blast. Mr. Morton and Mr. Fromm fight over the microphone and are electrocuted when Carrie moves the hose over towards the electrical equipment. Meanwhile, Miss Collins and several other students attempt to move Tommy's body away from the stage when, as if pulled over by invisible hands, Ms. Collins suddenly moves toward a wall, where she is crushed by an overhead rafter. Back onstage, Mr. Fromm takes the full surge of the electricity and is thrown backward towards the stage tarp where he is electrocuted, which causes the gym to catch on fire. Carrie then steps offstage and takes a final look at what she has done before leaving the gym and telepathically locks the doors.

Later, as a fire truck whizzes by, Carrie is walking home when Chris and Billy spot Carrie walking, prepared to run over the catatonic Carrie. However, Carrie senses the car speeding behind her and mentally throws the car off the road and sends it rolling before causing it to explode. Carrie arrives home to find the house riddled with candles. She walks upstairs, removes her now ruined gown and takes a bath. Afterwards, Carrie calls out for her mother and when she finds her, she breaks down in her arms and tells her that everyone laughed at her. Mrs. White then conveys to Carrie the story of her conception, the result of an "unearthly" rape by Margaret's husband, Ralph White . Thus believing that the devil has finally taken over Carrie, Mrs. White brings the girl to her knees and they both pray for the last time. Suddenly, Mrs. White reaches for a knife hidden under a floorboard and stabs Carrie in the back.

Carrie falls backwards down the stairs and is pursued into a kitchen corner by her mother. Trying to escape, Carrie frantically tries to open a door, but with no luck because the door was locked. As her mother raises the knife to stab Carrie, Carrie uses her powers to pin Mrs. White to the kitchen doorway in a crucifix-like manner (similar to the St. Sebastian statue in the kitchen closet). Carrie flings six kitchen utensils into her mother's chest and hands. Mrs. White cries out for a couple of minutes before dying. Carrie, seeing that she used her power to kill her mother, is overcome with gulit and grief, and screams out while removing one of the knives from Mrs. White's body. The house suddenly begins to shake and creak. Suddenly, a big hole is made through the ceiling of the house. Carrie realizes that this is a result of her power and quickly removes Mrs. White from the doorway to the closet (although some may argue that it is an act of God, serving as punishment for having killed her mother). Once inside, Carrie dies from falling debris. The house is set on fire, and eventually collapses and sinks into the earth. Days later, Mrs. Snell receives a call from "Betty," saying that she can no longer deal with the media. Meanwhile, Sue is in her room sleeping and has a dream of visiting the plot where Carrie's house once stood. As she stoops down to place flowers on the ground, a bloody hand reaches out and grabs Sue's wrist. She wakes up screaming in the arms of her mother, her mother trying to calm her, telling her it's alright.



Carrie was the first Stephen King novel to be published and the first to be adapted into a feature film. The film was produced by United Artists which had given the position of director to Brian De Palma, though he was not the studio's first choice. De Palma told Cinefantastique magazine in an interview in 1977:

Lawrence D. Cohen was hired as the writer, and produced the first draft, which had closely followed the novel's intentions. However, later versions departed from King's vision rapidly, and certain scripted scenes were omitted from the final version, mainly due to financial limitations.

The final scene, in which Sue Snell reaches toward Carrie's grave, was shot backwards to give it a dreamlike quality. It was also filmed at night, using artificial lighting to create the desired effect. This scene was inspired by the final scene in Deliverance (1972). Spacek had insisted on using her own hand in the given scene, so she was positioned under the rocks and gravel. De Palma stated 'Sissy, come on, I'll get a stunt person, what do you want, to be buried in the ground?!' However Spacek declared 'Brian, I have to do this.' De Palma explains that they "had to bury her. Bury her! We had to put her in a box and stick her underneath the ground. Well, I had her husband bury her, because I certainly didn't want to bury her. I used to walk around and set up the shot and every once in a while, we'd hear Sissy: 'Are we ready yet?' 'Yeah, Sissy, we're gonna be ready real soon." The White house was filmed in Hermosa Beachmarker, and to give the home a Gothic theme, director and producers went to religious shops looking for artifacts to place in the home.

Coincidentally, one of the locations where Carrie was filmed, Palisades Charter High School, was at one time owned by the parents of Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, years before the school was built. The lot was then taken, some years after the couple had purchased it, by the State by eminent domain to build "Pali High".

Initially, Melanie Griffith had auditioned for the role, taking it as an opportunity to begin a career as a mature, adult actress. After Griffith dropped out from the project, Sissy Spacek had been persuaded by husband Jack Fisk to audition for the title role. Fisk then convinced De Palma to let her audition. After several auditions, DePalma concluded that Spacek would be playing Christine Hargenson. Determined to land the leading role, Spacek backed out of a television commercial she was scheduled to film, rubbed Vaseline into her hair, didn't bother to wash her face, and arrived at the final audition clad in a sailor dress which her mother had made her in the seventh grade, with the hem cut off, and booked the part.

Amy Irving was cast alongside her mother Priscilla Pointer, who would play the mother of Irving's character.

Nancy Allen was the last to audition, and her audition came just as she was on the verge of leaving Hollywoodmarker.


Principal photography and filming began on May 17, 1976 and ended in July, with a 50-day shooting schedule. Principal location shooting occurred in Californiamarker: in Culver City Studios, and in Los Angelesmarker, the Bates High School scenes were filmed at Pier Avenue Junior High in Hermosa Beachmarker, with the exception of the shots of the Bates High School athletic field, which were filmed at Palisades Charter High School in Pacific Palisades. The shots of the school in flames, and the gym scenes, were both filmed inside Culver City Studios.

De Palma began with one director of photography, and cameraman Isidore Mankofsky, who was eventually replaced by Mario Tosi after conflict between Mankosky and De Palma ensued. Gregory M. Auer served as the special effects supervisor for Carrie, with Jack Fisk as art director. De Palma borrowed heavily from the films of Alfred Hitchcock, which as a result, gave Carrie a Hitchcockian tone. The most obvious example is the name of the high school, which is Bates High, a reference to Norman Bates from Psycho (1960). In addition, the four note violin theme from Psycho is used throughout the film whenever Carrie uses her telekenetic powers.

Much of the filming and production became problematic, most notably the prom scene, perhaps the most chaotic to film, and took over two weeks to shoot, with 35 takes. Auer added red, green and yellow food colouring to a bulk-sold concoction known in the cosmetics industry as 7-11 Blood. However, when it was put to use, the concoction kept drying and adhering to Spacek's skin because of the hot lights. The only solution was to hose Spacek down when the substance got gluey. Spacek, however, was willing to have the blood poured onto her, she stated "My initial reaction was it was a kind of warm sensual feeling being covered with this wet warm blanket, but after days of shooting the whole destruction scene, it got to be miserable and I was counting the days until we were through".

A wraparound segment at beginning and end of the film was scripted and filmed which featured the White's home being pummeled by stones that hailed from the sky. The opening scene was filmed as planned, though on celluloid, the tiny pebbles looked like rain water. A mechanical malfunction botched production the night when the model of the White's home was set to be destroyed, so they burned it down instead and dropped the scenes with the stones altogether. However, some interior scenes had already been filmed which were left in the movie where one can clearly see boulders crashing through the Whites' ceiling.


Box office performance

Carrie initially had a limited release on November 3, 1976, opening in 409 theaters. After receiving a broader theatrical release, it grossed $5 million, and was one of the five top grossing films for the following two weeks. Its domestic gross was $33,800,000, more than 18 times its budget, which in today's money, is equivalent to $135 million.

Awards and critical reception

The film received immensely positive reviews. Film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times stated the film was an "absolutely spellbinding horror movie", as well as an "observant human portrait". Pauline Kael of The New Yorker stated that Carrie was "the best scary-funny movie since Jaws — a teasing, terrifying, lyrical shocker". Take One Magazine critic Susan Schenker said she was "angry at the way Carrie manipulated me to the point where my heart was thudding, and embarrassed because the film really works." A 1998 edition of The Movie Guide stated Carrie was a "landmark horror film", while Stephen Farber prophetically stated in a 1978 issue of New West Magazine, "it's a horror classic, and years from now it will still be written and argued about, and it will still be scaring the daylights out of new generations of moviegoers." Quentin Tarantino placed Carrie at number 8 in a list of his favorite films ever.

Nevertheless, the film was not without its detractors. Variety called it "pure camp", while Andrew Sarris of The Village Voice commented, "There are so few incidents that two extended sequences are rendered in slow-motion as if to pad out the running time..." The most widespread criticism of the film is the artificiality of the special effects, and the pretentiousness of some of the film's dramatic scenes.

In addition to being a box office success, Carrie is notable for being one of the few horror films to be nominated for multiple Academy Awards. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie received nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress awards, respectively. The film also won the grand prize at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival, while Sissy Spacek was given the Best Actress award by the National Society of Film Critics. This movie ranked number 15 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies, and #46 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 Greatest Cinema Thrills, and was also ranked eighth for its famous ending sequence on Bravo's five-hour miniseries The 100 Scariest Movie Moments (2004). They Shoot Pictures, a filmsite that is in contact with film critics all over the world, lists Carrie as 348th on their current list of the one thousand greatest pictures ever made.


The score for Carrie was composed by Pino Donaggio. Donaggio has been repeatedly referred to as the equivalent of Alfred Hitchcock's frequent score collaborator Bernard Herrmann. De Palma states that he "was put on to him by a good friend of mine, the "Time" magazine film critic Jay Cocks, who had always liked his music and suggested him to me when Bernard Herrmann unfortunately died and I was looking for another composer. I listened to his records and talked it over with him and felt he was the right kind of combination." In addition, two pop songs ("Born To Have It All" and "I Never Dreamed Someone Like You Could Love Someone Like Me") were written for the early portion of the prom sequence and were performed by Katie Irving, sister of star Amy Irving. Donaggio would work again with De Palma on Dressed to Kill, Home Movies, Blow Out, Body Double, and Raising Cain.

The soundtrack was originally released on vinyl in 1976 under the United Artists label; a deluxe CD edition containing a few tracks of dialogue from the film was released by MGM/Rykodisc in 1997. A 2005 CD re-release of the original soundtrack (minus dialogue) is available from Varèse Sarabande. Portions of the film's score were omitted from all versions of the soundtrack album, most notably the piece of music that plays while the girls are in detention. Additionally, the other songs in the film (Education Blues by Vance or Towers, Heat Wave by Martha and the Vandellas, etc.) were uncredited in the film and were omitted from the album. A bootleg version of the complete score has circulated on the internet.

Sequels, remakes and related works

Carrie, along with the novel, have been reproduced and adapted several times.


A significantly derided, much-belated sequel was The Rage: Carrie 2, released in 1999. It featured another teenager with telekinetic powers who is eventually revealed to have shared a father with Carrie White. Stephen King reportedly hated the sequel so much that he once pleaded in Entertainment Weekly that Hollywood not make another Carrie sequel.


In 2002, a TV movie remake starring Angela Bettis in the titular role was released. The film updated the events of the story to modern-day settings and technology while simultaneously attempting to be more faithful to the book's original structure, storyline, and specific events. The one exception to the latter was that the ending of Carrie in the remake was drastically changed: instead of killing her mother and then herself, the film has Carrie killing her mother, being revived via CPR by Sue Snell and being driven to Florida to hide. This new ending marked a complete divergence from the novel and was a signal that the movie served as a pilot for a Carrie television series, which never materialized. In the new ending, the rescued Carrie vows to help others with similar gifts to her own. Although Angela Bettis' portrayal of Carrie was highly praised, the remade film was ultimately panned by most critics, who cited it as inferior to the original.

Stage productions

A 1988 Broadway musicalmarker, also titled Carrie and starring Betty Buckley, Linzi Hateley and Darlene Love, closed after only 16 previews and five performances. An English pop opera filtered through Greek tragedy, the show was so notorious that it provided the title to Ken Mandelbaum's survey of theatrical disasters, Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops. Clips of the musical may be found on YouTube.

Early in the 21st century, playwright Erik Jackson attempted to secure the rights to stage another production of Carrie the musical, but his request was rejected. Jackson eventually earned the consent of Stephen King to mount a new, officially-sanctioned, non-musical production of Carrie, which debuted Off-Broadway in 2006 with female impersonator Sherry Vine in the lead role. Similarly, many other unofficial spoofs have been staged over the years, usually with a gym teacher named "Miss Collins" (as opposed to the novel's "Miss Desjardin" and the musical's "Miss Gardner"), most notably the "parodage" Scarrie the Musical, which hit the Illinoismarker stage in 1998 and was revived in 2005; Dad's Garage Theatre's 2002 production of Carrie White the Musical; and the 2007 New Orleansmarker production of Carrie's Facts of Life, which was a hybrid of Carrie and the classic Americanmarker sitcom The Facts of Life.


The movie has been spoofed countless times in other films and television programs. Some of the most notable: are Zapped!, a 1982 film starring Scott Baio in which he uses his telekinetic powers to rip the clothes off of his peers at the prom; Superstar, in which a Carrie-obsessed Molly Shannon is doused with blue paint in front of the entire student body; Another Gay Movie which features an homage with a man in drag showered by a bucket of semen; Student Bodies, in which they spoof the arm-from-the-grave sequence; the episode "Love Disconnection -The Amazing Three" of Tiny Toon Adventures in which Shirley the Loon is splashed with red punch; and an episode of Ugly Betty titled Petra-Gate in which Betty stages an "anti-prom" that concludes with her being doused in pig's blood.Also in one opening of Lil' Bush, Lil' Condi is elected prom queen, and blood from Tiny Kucinich, having been killed by Lil' Cheney, is dumped on her. Another spoof can be found in the American Dad! episode It's Good To Be Queen where Stan reflects on his own prom nightmare where the popular kids dump live pigs on Stan, after having not read the word "blood" in the original text.In the Channel 4 comedy television series The IT Crowd, the character of Moss completely misunderstands Jen's euphemisms for a period until Roy says "First scene in Carrie!". He then becomes extremely uncomfortable. Also, in the 1995 TV film She Fought Alone during the "initiation" type-party at the beginning, the film's main character is dressed up as a prom queen and has a bucket of what is later determined to be raspberry jelly dumped on her. On "That 70's Show", as Hyde leaves for the prom, his mother calls out "They're all going to laugh at you!", echoing Carrie's mother in the film.

Influence on other films

The film was quickly followed by a wave of copycats and imitators. Though Carrie is more melodramatic than traditional horror films, its biggest influence was on the slasher genre that exploded in popularity shortly after the release of the film. The final scare (in this instance, a hand bursting from the grave) was rarely seen until this point, and soon most slasher films incorporated this tactic. Films like the Friday the 13th series have been accused of ripping off Carrie's ending, because each feature finales where a hand bursts out of a strange location and grabs something. Another film of that series, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, released in 1988, featured a telekinetic protagonist, similar to Carrie.

Other films lifted the character layout and storyline more blatantly and featured teens who were humiliated seeking revenge, often with the aid of some sort of supernatural power. Amongst the most notable are: Jennifer, in which the titular character (Lisa Pelikan) unleashes her wrath on her peers by exerting her telepathic control over snakes; Mirror Mirror, in which a girl taps into an evil force that resides in her mirror; The Initiation of Sarah, a 1978 movie of the week in which the titular character (Kay Lenz) gets revenge on a rival sorority member (Morgan Fairchild); Slaughter High, in which a young man is horribly burned as a result of his classmates' prank; Evilspeak, in which Clint Howard taps into the powers of Satan through his computer; and Jawbreaker, which featured an ugly duckling plot, a humiliating prom sequence, a pig's blood reference and three cast members from Carrie films (William Katt, P. J. Soles, Charlotte Ayanna) portraying the Purr family.


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