A novel of a girl possessed of a terrifying power.
Published in 1974, Carrie was the first published novel by author Stephen King; it was adapted into a classic horror film in 1976 by Brian De Palma. The story follows the life of high school outcast Carrie White, a young teenage girl who has no friends at school and is endlessly tormented by her classmates and by her own mother, a raving Christian fanatic named Margaret. After being humiliated in the school shower while having her first period, Carrie learns that she possesses potent telekinetic powers, allowing her to move objects and knock people down with her mind. One bully in particular, Chris Hargensen, is suspended and barred from the upcoming prom for the shower incident involving Carrie. Feeling that Carrie is to blame for the situation, Chris plots revenge against her.In the meantime, Sue Snell, one of Carrie and Chris' classmates, feels that what she and her friends did to Carrie was wrong and asks her athlete boyfriend, Tommy Ross, to take Carrie to the prom as a form of atonement. Chris finds out about this and sees an opening for one of the greatest pranks in school history: she and her friends will rig the ballots for prom queen so that Carrie wins, then dump a bucket of pig's blood on her head in front of the entire senior class, humiliating her on the best night of her life.This goes about as well as one would expect it to.Carrie launched Stephen King's career and was a bestseller at the time, but it was the film version that arguably had the greater impact. De Palma's adaptation is regarded as a landmark film, seen as one of the best horror films of The Seventies and one of the best feature film adaptations of any of King's stories, to the point where King himself feels that it's better than the book. The film was a major success for United Artists, grossing over $33 million at the U.S. box office on a budget of just $1.8 million. The ending is notable for being perhaps the first use of a "shock" ending in a horror film, which has since become a staple of the genre due to its influence. It was welcomed by immense critical acclaim — unusual for a horror film, even today — and was nominated for two Academy Awardsnote And not in the technical categories, as is often the case with "genre" films. One nomination was for Sissy Spacek for Best Actress, and the other was a Best Supporting Actress nod for Piper Laurie. and a Hugo Award.There have since been several follow-ups/adaptations, none of which involved DePalma or King:
A musical adaptation was put together in The Eighties, written by Lawrence D. Cohen (the writer of the 1976 movie). After a limited run at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in England that got a mixed reception, it debuted on Broadway on May 12, 1988. There, it was met with scathing reviews, and the $7+ million production quickly became one of the biggest flops in Broadway history, closing after only sixteen previews and five shows. It was infamous enough that a book written about Broadway's worst was titled Not Since Carrie. A number of people, however, saw a lot of potential beneath the poor production and feel that it could've been done much better it had been given some polish. A heavily overhauled, off-Broadway revival has been made.
Actionized Remake: The 2002 and 2013 versions both crank up the destruction to near-disaster movie levels, the former having Carrie wipe out the entire town instead of just burning down the school (we'll have to wait and see if this happens in the 2013 version). This is actually more in line with the original book; the lack of special effects shots in the 1976 film was because they didn't have the money to film them.
Inverted with Helen Shyres in DePalma's film. In the book she is nominated for Prom Queen and has a date, which implies she is a pretty girl. In the film she is played by a chubby actress and is something of a Butt Monkey for the popular girls, not to mention appearing to not have a date at the prom. In the '02 version, though, she is played by the very pretty Chelan Simmons.
Chloe Moretz in the upcoming adaptation may count.
Adaptational Villainy: Norma in the original film, due to DePalma enjoying P.J. Soles's performance and thus rewriting her role to give her more screen time, and Tina in the 2002 film. Neither were actually evil in the book. Though Tina was at least mentioned to be Chris's friend in the book, she just wasn't involved in the plot.
Adorkable: Norma may be The Dragon to Chris' council of high school villainy, but she is so dorky and cute you kind of want to let it slide. Especially after seeing her get her hair done in the salon, and still wearing her trademark hat on top of the dryer.
Adults Are Useless: The adults in Carrie's life are either apathetic to her plight (the principal) or actively making her life worse (her mom, the English teacher). Even Miss Desjardin, the one person who tries to help her only causes her bullies to hate her more.
Alpha Bitch: Chris and Norma in the original, and Chris (again) and Tina in the remake.
Air Vent Passageway: In the '02 version, this is the only way anybody is able to get out of the gym once Carrie locks the doors.
The Alleged Car: The original book has Billy driving a rusty, beat-up, jacked-in-the-back '61 Chevy Biscayne with a broken headlight. The film, fortunately, upgrades him to something much cooler.
All Girls Want Bad Boys: Chris with Billy, who is frequently described as a delinquent, and is seen cracking open a beer while cruising down the strip (stopping only after he notices that there's a cop in the next lane). He is the one who kills the pigs to get the blood for the prank.
Billing Displacement: John Travolta, who was then the star of Welcome Back, Kotter, got second billing on the posters behind Sissy Spacek, even though Billy was, at best, the seventh most important character. Home video releases continue this tradition now that Travolta is a Hollywood icon.
Blondes are Evil: This trope is likely the reason for Chris's Adaptation Dye Job in the '76 and '02 versions. She is black-haired in the book, but in both of those films she was blonde. The '02 version also has a gang of blonde extras who are frequently seen turning their noses up at Carrie. Averted with Helen in the remake.
Pointedly averted in the '13 version, where Portia Doubleday (whose IMDb photo shows her as a blonde) dyed her hair brown to play Chris.
Bloody Handprint: Carrie leaves one of these on Mrs. Desjardin's shorts during the opening scenes, being under the impression that she is bleeding to death during her first period. (Mama never told her about That Time of the Month, feeling that menstruation is caused by sin.)
In the book, there is a flashback from Margaret, involving her own grandmother (Carrie's great-grandmother). The woman would display her telekinesis and cackle madly. She'd also gone completely senile at an early age before dying of a heart attack. It's shown that she was a pretty frightening figure for Margaret to grow up with, which is probably why she ended up being a crazy religious fanatic. It's subtle but gives her a very slight Well-Intentioned Extremist view.
Buried Alive: Carrie in Sue's nightmare at the end of the original film.
Censor Steam: The television edit put in a ton of CGI steam to hide all the nudity in the opening five minutes.
Christianity is Catholic: In the original film, most of the religious iconography that shows up in Margaret's house is explicitly Catholic.
Confessional: Margaret White has one in her house, where she locks Carrie periodically. It is decorated with horrifically vengeful images of God and Jesus.
Convicted By Public Opinion: In the book, Sue and Tommy are blamed by the media for having planned the prank and driven Carrie over the edge, even though they had only played an incidental and fairly unwitting role in such.
In the remake, Billy drives a Cool Truck. It suffers a similar fate — Carrie slams it against a tree. Roof first.
Crucified Villain Shot: In the movie: Carrie's mother, in her final shot, impaled with steak knives in the style of the St. Sebastian figurine in the confessional.
And like Saint Sebastian, she experiences religious ecstasy during her death. Saint Sebastian, who according to legend was a very handsome young man, is something of an unofficial sex symbol in the Catholic Church (especially among closeted gay men). The movie uses this to show how Carrie's mother has literally channeled her sex drive into religious devotion — or in this case, Saint Sebastian.
Averted in the '13 version, with 15-year old Chloe Moretz taking the role.
Deadly Prank: It ends up being this for almost the entire high school. In the remake, Tommy is killed when the bucket falls on his head before Carrie's revenge even starts; in the book (and possibly the movie), he's only knocked unconscious, but dies with the rest of the students in the fire.
It should also be noted that in the book, Carrie not only killed her school but went on a rampage through her town, killing hundreds of people.
Death by Adaptation: Norma and the gym teacher in the 1976 film. In both the book and the remake, they lived.
Tina in the remake. It seemed both films made sure that the girl who helped Chris with the prank would get retribution.
Death Glare: Carrie gives a hellish one to everyone during the prom scene.
Disproportionate Retribution: Yes, some of Carrie's classmates had been treating her unfairly, but her murderous rampage throughout the town is never justified. Instead, it is considered disproportionate.
Domestic Abuse: How Margaret treats Carrie, and how Billy treats Chris.
Downer Ending: Carrie kills her mother at the end, then dies from a combination of overuse of her power and her own injuries. Also, the few survivors appear to be traumatized, especially Sue.
Dying Town: In the book, the town of Chamberlain becomes one of these in the aftermath of Carrie's rampage, well on its way to becoming a Ghost Town, as starkly reported in "The Legacy of TK: Scorched Earth and Scorched Hearts," one of the articles that make up the book's epilogue:
The over-all impression is one of a town that is waiting to die. It is not enough, these days, to say that Chamberlain will never be the same. It may be closer to the truth to say that Chamberlain will simply never again be.
In the 2002 version, when Billy sees Carrie out on the road and decides to run her over, Chris screams at him to stop. She wanted Carrie humiliated, not being ended up as roadkill. This isn't the case in the original, where it was Chris who tried to run Carrie down while Billy just looked on confused, likely drunk.
During the 2002 version's prom scene, after Carrie is drenched in blood, she — in her mind — hears and sees the entire student body and teachers laughing mockingly at her; in reality, the students stood mostly in stunned silence, trying to register what had happened, and most of them likely were disgusted and/or outraged (and probably wanted the instigators punished). The scene cuts back and forth between the actual reaction and what Carrie believes its the reaction.
Fan Disservice: The shower scene in the beginning starts off very sexy, with lingering shots of the entire female cast undressing and showering, but it then culminates in Carrie shrieking while having her period.
Flat Earth Atheist: In the book, mention is made of how the "Carrie White affair" and proof of the existence of psychic powers has affected the scientific community's long-held preconceptions. While most scientists have accepted this new reality, it's mentioned that those at Duke University, among others, continue to reject it as a hoax even after the government's official report on what happened supported their existence.
Evilspeak is pretty much an '80s male version of Carrie, though set in a military school, powers actually given from a Satanic source (a computer this time) and, funnily enough, demonic pigs standing in for psychic powers during the rampage.
Freak Out: Carrie's is one of the most famous ever put to celluloid.
The Freelance Shame Squad: A lot of those stupid teenagers at the prom might have lived had they not found Carrie's utter humiliation so hilarious.
Of course, it's implied in the original movie that they aren't actually laughing at her and that it's all in Carrie's head.
And in the novel, an interview with one of the survivors of the whole thing reveals that it was one of those situations where it was either laugh, cry or go crazy.
Freudian Excuse: Having Margaret White as a mother can excuse practically everything.
Genki Girl: Norma in the remake, played to perfection by Meghan Black.
The Hero Dies: While it's hard to call Carrie herself a heroine, it's counts as such in the sense that she's the main character herself.
I guess you can call her a heroine because, honestly, she was a kind girl who was pushed too far and snapped. Is not like she was evil (if anything, SHE was the victim).
Heroic RROD: Carrie herself has one of these in the end after killing her mother, from a combination of shock, blood loss, and sheer overuse of her power which caused her heart to give out, although it's not really heroic. Also, it's heavily implied that all telekinetics will eventually succumb to this because telekinesis puts great strain on the heart and lungs.
The video for "Before He Cheats" by Carrie Underwood.note Heh... Carrie Underwood. In the video, as Underwood walks down a small-town city street, various objects fly in the air, building windows break, lampposts fall and so forth, during a rampage caused by the horror she felt when she saw her boyfriend kissing another woman. (Her boyfriend's truck is also badly damaged, presumably as the result of the Carrie-type rampage.)
Hope Spot: The whole story is like one giant Hope Spot due to the Foregone Conclusion osmosis of the narrative. You know Carrie has powers, you know Chris is setting up a cruel prank, you know it's going to set her off and end horribly for everyone. But.. she looks so happy for the first time ever.
In the Back: In the original film, Margaret does this to Carrie after the prom disaster.
In the Blood: One of the book's Scrapbook Story elements consists of clippings from books and scientific papers discussing the genetic and biological origins of telekinesis.
I Was Quite a Looker: Carrie's next door neighbor remarks what a pretty child she was and her reaction to seeing Carrie's high school photo was "what did that woman [Margaret] do to her?".
It's A Small Net After All: Subverted in the remake. When Carrie does a search for "miracles" so that she could learn about her psychic powers, she has to dig through a bunch of results that have nothing to do with what she's looking for (including a site advertising "miracle underwear"). Still, she's able to find the information she needs without having to go to the second page.
Karmic Death: For Carrie's bullies themselves at the end, especially Billy and Chris.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: The original musical adaptation had an extremely short run and for the longest time was never heard from again. Miraculously, a small handful of bootleg recordings of the production were made and managed to survive long enough to be put onto the internet. It wasn't until the recent revival in 2012 that an official soundtrack recording was made available.
Kill 'em All: In the original film, Sue is the only major character who survives to the end. The book and the '02 version has a larger pool of survivors, which includes Ms. Desjardin, Tina, and Norma, who died in the original film.
Kill It with Fire: In all versions of the story, Carrie kills her fellow classmates by locking them in the gym and burning it down. The novel and the remake also have her flooding the gym floor and dropping live wires into it, electrocuting everybody. In the original film, this is also how Carrie dies.
Knife Nut: In Margaret's more psychotic moments, including the end, she goes after Carrie with a butcher's knife.
Mind Rape: In the book, a dying Carrie tries to do this to Sue, angry about the prank that she thought Sue had pulled on her... only to find that Sue meant her no harm, and that she hadn't planned to humiliate her at the prom. Sue even lets Carrie into her mind intentionally to prove this to her. Also, several people who survived Carrie's rampage had her presence and identity essentially stamped into their minds, even though most of them had never met her and many never saw her that night.
In the book, Sue realizes that Carrie is also mildly telepathic, and actually invites Carrie to examine her thoughts to demonstrate her innocence. She didn't realize how unpleasant the experience would be, though.
A Minor Kidroduction: The original film would have started out like this had the special effects necessary for the scene worked properly. They didn't, and so the scene was scrapped. The remake, thanks to the advance of CGI, was able to include this scene, albeit not at the very beginning.
Mood Whiplash: In the original production of The Musical, "Don't Waste the Moon," a campy high school number that would be at home in Grease is sandwiched between Margaret's searing tirade, "And Eve Was Weak," and the somber "Evening Prayers."
In the novel: Margaret stabs Carrie, then Carrie kills Margaret by stopping her heart. Carrie eventually dies from shock, blood loss, and overuse of her power in finishing off her final tormentor, Chris Hargensen.
In the original movie: Margaret stabs Carrie, Carrie uses Margaret's knives to crucify her, and then Carrie is finished off by a burning, collapsing house, along with shock, blood loss, and general physical overload.
In the remake, Margaret drowns Carrie in the bathtub and Carrie gives Margaret a heart attack. Carrie doesn't stay dead for long, though.
My God, What Have I Done?: The reason Sue asked Tommy to take Carrie to the prom was because she felt sorry for what she did to Carrie in the shower. Also, in the '76 version, Carrie has a moment like this after killing her mother. (She shows no such remorse in the book or in the '02 version.)
Next Sunday A.D.: The events of the book (which was published in 1974) are said to have occurred in 1979, and most of the in-universe articles that the book uses for exposition were written in the '80s. The films, however, are all set squarely in the year that they were released in.
Sue. Granted, if she hadn't participated in humiliating Carrie in the shower, Carrie would have still been mistreated, but Sue's actions made her feel guilty enough to send Tommy to ask her to the prom, which is what set into motion everything that followed.
One could also apply this to Miss Collins, who could possibly have prevented everything if she had taken ten seconds to listen to Sue before throwing her out of the prom.
Nightmare Sequence: At the end of the film, Sue dreams of placing flowers on Carrie's grave. A bloody hand suddenly reaches out and grabs Sue.
Not If They Enjoyed It Rationalization: Margaret crudely tells Carrie how she was produced via rape because Margaret considered all sex — even within marriage — to be offensive and sinful. She starts screaming about how she admits she enjoyed it.
"He took me with that roadhouse whiskey on his breath and I liked it. I liked it!"
Offing the Offspring: Margaret White is convinced her daughter's telekinesis is a sign of demonic possession. Things come to a head after the fateful prom.
The 1982 Scott Baio film Zapped!, about a high school nerd who gains telekinetic powers after an accident in the science lab. He mainly uses his powers to beat up bullies and strip girls naked. It even climaxes with a scene where he goes berserk at a school dance - but there's no death. Just girls stripped naked.
In the Airplane!-esque slasher movie spoof Pandemonium (also from '82), the Final Girl is "Candy", who has telekinetic powers that allow her to kill the villain. Her first scene, in which she defies her overprotective mom, also pokes fun at the famous "dirty pillows" euphemism for breasts.
Pay Evil unto Evil: Carrie and her prom rampage, especially with her murder of Chris and her boyfriend, Billy.
Person as Verb: At the end of the novel, it's said that "to rip off a Carrie" passed into teen slang, meaning "to commit large-scale mayhem". In Real Life, "pulling a Carrie" or "going Carrie on [something]" became synonymous with someone going crazyafter being humiliated. This one's become so well-traveled that it even appears in the Kare Kano manga as a visual-only metaphor for someone snapping under the strain of having perfectionist, controlling parents.
Prank Date: Subverted. Carrie thought this was the case when Tommy asked her to the prom. However, he had benign intentions, as did his girlfriend Sue, who arranged for him to take Carrie to the prom instead of her due to her feeling sorry for joining in on Carrie's humiliation in the shower. Chris found out, though, and she wanted to make sure it went very badly. And it did.
Room 101: Margaret has a small, cramped closet in her house filled with religious paraphernalia. She locks Carrie in there to pray for hours on end whenever she so much as takes a tiny step out of line. In the '02 version, though, Carrie manages to make it into a refuge of sorts from Margaret's insanity, hiding a stash of fashion and gossip magazines in there. The '76 version also has Carrie hiding there with Margaret's dead body as her house burns down.
... and as the lights dim to black, boos ring out from the upper balcony while below, others begin an ovation. ... Carrie has become an instant legend.
As the audience files out, some appear thrilled, others appalled; the word most frequently bandied about is "unbelievable". ... The ad copy, which read "There's Never Been a Musical Like Her," has proved oddly prophetic.
Scarrie! the musical parody.
Setting Update: The remakes both update the story to the then-present day, with the '13 version also bringing in social media as one of Chris' weapons.
Sex Is Evil: Margaret thinks all sex, even within marriage, is immoral and sinful.
Sex Is Evil and I Am Horny: Though Margaret's husband, Ralph shared her beliefs, once he couldn't resist the temptation, and managed to pressure her into having sex (or outright raped her, it's a bit ambiguous); that's how Carrie was conceived. Margaret never got over the fact that she actually enjoyed the act.
She Cleans Up Nicely: When Carrie gets dressed up for the prom, both Tommy and the narrator say she's beautiful. Miss Desjardin gets this as well when she turns up at the prom. Carrie thinks she looks as though she's attending the prom instead of just chaperoning.
The original, being directed by noted Alfred Hitchcock fan Brian DePalma, has tons of shout-outs to Hitchcock's movies. The two biggest ones are probably the use of the "shower" music from Psycho, and the fact that the school is renamed Bates High School.
The remake has a shout-out to She's All That where Tommy remarks how similar this is to the plot of that. Bonus points for Carrie outright mentioning Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, of which She's All That is a modernisation.
Norma in the '02 version describes Carrie as "a Plathe", referencing The Bell Jar.
Shower of Angst: Goes without saying, both openings have this, as well as the endings.
Survival Mantra: In the re-done version of the musical, the Lord's Prayer has this function for Carrie. The first sign that she's losing it after the incident with the pig's blood is that this doesn't work any more.
Teens Are Monsters: All the girls in the locker room, but particularly Chris, who is the mastermind behind the pig-blood prank. (Sue however quickly regrets her part in the taunting of Carrie). Billy is a monster as well. And of course, there's Carrie...
The End... Or Is It?: The novel ends with a letter written by a Tennessee woman called Amelia Jenks describing the telekinetic powers of her two-year-old daughter Annie, who can make marbles move by themselves. The novel's final words "I bet she'll be a worldbeeter [sic] someday."
There Are No Therapists / Social Services Does Not Exist: Justified. Margaret probably thinks that therapists would lead Carrie down the path to Hell, and she'll be damned if she'll let the "godless" government social workers take away her daughter. In the book, at least, it's established that she regards the government as a den of sin.
Token Romance: The 1976 film adds a kiss scene between Tommy and Carrie, implying he has fallen for her. In the original book, this never happened since Tommy was in love with Sue. You then realise that Tommy pretty much cheated on Sue. The book states he only thought of Carrie as a friend.
Too Dumb to Live: Carrie's mother; unlike her Jerkass classmates, she has a pretty good idea of what her daughter's capable of doing if pushed sufficiently...and keeps right on pushing.
A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: To be fair though, the people around Carrie herself were just plain old jerks who were being jerks when they want to. But then again, everyone in the prom wouldn't have been killed and the most of the town being destroyed, have they stopped to think, "Hey, wait. Bullying someone might eventually gets us into trouble!".
Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer for the '76 version showed off pretty much the entire climax, including the deaths of nearly every major character, which makes one wonder why anyone bothered to go see the film. It's particularly hilarious when they dramatically mention "John Travolta in his first motion picture role" and promptly have his car explode.
Where I Was Born And Razed: The original story and the remakes have Carrie destroying her entire town, killing over four hundred people. In the book, it's explicitly stated that, within a few months, what was left of Chamberlain, Maine was a Dying Town, on the way to becoming a Ghost Town. The makers of the original film wanted to include this, but they didn't have the budget, and instead settled for destroying just her high school and her house.
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Carrie could have been the Trope Namer for this. She may go psychotic at the end but she is almost instantly remorseful. And after what she endured, it's amazing she didn't snap sooner.