By Richard Winters
My Rating: 4 out of 10
4-Word Review: Prom was a disaster.
A shy, awkward teen (Sissy Spacek) who is a virtual outcast at her school and has a religious zealot for a mother (Piper Laurie), learns that she has telekinetic powers and uses them in terrifying and deadly ways after falling victim to a cruel prank at her high school prom.
Nothing really seems to mesh here and the pacing is poor. For a great deal of time you feel like you are not watching a horror movie, but instead an annoying, clichéd 70’s drama. The majority of the scares occur at the end while the rest of the film has no tension at all. It’s visually flamboyant, but empty and unable to hide its low budget roots. Like with director Brian De Palma’s other thrillers his style and heavy-handed Hitchcock-like touches become overpowering and you lose touch with the story. Too much is orchestrated and the movie is never allowed to gel and have its own natural flow. The opening, which takes place in a girl’s shower, looks like a soft core porn flick especially with the choice of music.
The teen-age girls are certainly cruel and their snotty attitudes seem valid, but the actresses are all wrong. Yes, Nancy Allen and Amy Irving are hot to look at, but they were too old for their parts. All of them were in their 20’s and look far more like college girls instead of students in high school. The P. J. Soles character is irritating. In an effort to give the role some distinction they have her constantly wearing a pink baseball cap. She even wears it to the prom with her prom dress and looks ridiculous and yet still has the audacity to laugh at Carrie when she shows up when in reality they would most likely be laughing at her instead.
Miss Collins, the physical Ed. Teacher, which is played by actress Betty Buckley is another problem. She goes beyond the call of duty to give Carrie the individualized and sensitive attention that she needs. It sounds nice, but I couldn’t buy into it because in most cases shy students that don’t otherwise cause problems usually get overlooked even by the best of teachers simply because the school systems are too large with too many students to handle.
William Katt was not very convincing in his part as a dumb jock. John Travolta is good, but only because he is playing an extension of his Vinnie Barberino character from ‘Welcome Back Kotter’. In fact I found his portrayal here to be even funnier than his TV counterpart.
Spacek is the best thing about the movie as she brings the Carrie character to life with a vengeance. The part where she tears up the gymnasium with her powers is genuinely creepy and the way she opens her eyes and moves them around is freaky. The use of the split screen during this segment help to make it a uniquely scary moment in cinema history and saves what is otherwise a forgettable production. The famous ‘surprise’ ending isn’t bad either and even managed to startle me a little and I don’t startle easy.
Unfortunately it’s lacking the necessary ingredients overall to make it a classic. It’s based on the Stephen King novel and yet leaves certain crucial elements from the book out, which only creates more questions and confusion. De Palma takes the most simplistic parts of the story and then glossies over the rest leaving the viewer feeling unsatisfied when it is over.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Released: November 3, 1976
Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes
Director: Brian De Palma
Studio: United Artists
Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video