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Film / Carrie (1976)

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You will know her name.

"After the blood comes the boys like sniffing dogs, grinning and slobbering and trying to find out where that smell comes from!"
Margaret White

Carrie (1976) is the first and best-known adaptation of Stephen King's horror novel of the same name. It was directed by Brian De Palma and stars Sissy Spacek in the title role, with a supporting cast that includes Piper Laurie, John Travolta, Amy Irving, William Katt, Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley, and P. J. Soles.

High School can be rough, especially when you are the school outcast. Carrie White (Spacek) has spent her entire life as a pariah, rejected by her peers and regularly abused by her fanatically religious mother, Margaret (Laurie). However, Carrie has a secret: she has telekinetic powers. And when heartthrob Tommy (Katt) invites her to the school prom, Carrie's whole world will change for the better... and worse.

Received a direct sequel in 1999 in the form of The Rage: Carrie 2.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Margaret White, of course.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The entire framing device is cut, as is the final part of Carrie's rampage, where she goes after the whole town. The filmmakers had intended to include the latter, but they didn't have the budget.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job:
    • Carrie goes from mousy brown to strawberry blonde.
    • Chris is dark haired in the book and blonde in the film.
    • Margaret already has grey hair in the book but has red hair in the film.
    • Sue is blonde in the book, but brunette in the film.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • The present-day plot in the book opens right as the girls are showering after gym class. The film adds an additional scene in gym, where Carrie loses the game for her team and is chewed out for it by everyone.
    • A scene is added where Margaret White is going door-to-door to preach her beliefs, and has a brief encounter with Mrs. Snell (who barely features in the book).
    • A poem Tommy submitted for English class is read out loud. Carrie calls it "beautiful", prompting even the teacher to make fun of her. Tommy then subtly defends her.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication:
    • Minor example. Carrie says she sewed her prom dress. In the book, she's been taking in sewing for neighbors for years to get money for things Margaret refused to pay for, so she's an experienced seamstress. This isn't really touched on in the film.
    • Several possible reasons for Carrie's powers are removed altogether from the film, along with the framing device. The book quite extensively considers the possibility that it is caused by a supernatural event (such as coming from space), but also includes descriptions of preliminary research showing that these powers are genetic. None of this is mentioned in the film.
    • The film cuts out most scenes that better flesh out Sue's character and motivations, making it rather vague why she wants Tommy to take Carrie to the prom. A lot of viewers thought Sue was in on the prank as a result.
    • In the prom scene, Miss Collins, Chris, and Sue seem to realize that Carrie is causing everything quite inexplicably — when to those who don't know she has psychic powers, it just looks like the fire hose went off and the doors wouldn't open. The book explains that when Carrie uses her powers at their full height (which she does in the massacre), everyone in the vicinity can sense it's her (even people who have never met her).
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: A minor one, but since Carrie is a lot prettier than in the book, it's somewhat odd that everyone is so mean to her. Sure, she's really shy, but that usually doesn't inspire the kind of deep and unreasoning hatred we see in the movie. A common fan theory is that the other girls realize she's actually prettier than them, and feel jealous. This became something of an Ascended Fanon in the 2013 remake, with Word of God saying that is exactly why Chris hates her. Relatedly, there's a bit during the prom (taken directly from the book) where Ms.Collins tells Carrie she looks beautiful, only for Carrie to basically say "I know I don't, but thanks anyway," even though she's pretty much the belle of the ball. For the above reasons, this made more sense in the original novel, although it can be hand waved as just an example of how abysmal her self-esteem is.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • The high school goes from Ewen High to Bates High.
    • Miss Desjardin becomes Miss Collins.
    • The Thibodeau twins (Donna and Mary Lila Grace) become the Wilson twins, named Cora and Rhonda.
    • Rachel Spies is now named Alice Litton.
  • Adaptation Personality Change:
    • Billy Nolan in the book is a sociopath who rapes Chris at one point (she takes it as If It's You, It's Okay) and the narration says that the main reason she is with him is because she can't wrap him around her little finger. Here, Billy is still a violent delinquent, but is shown as more of a dork that Chris easily manipulates. Nancy Allen didn't even realize how much of a villain he was until she saw the final film, having thought of Billy and Chris as bumbling comic relief throughout production.
    • In the book, when the vice-principal gets Carrie's name wrong, he actually admits his mistake and explains that it's not personal — he's been around so long that he often forgets names. Both he and the principal also stand up to Chris's father and do their best to help Carrie. The film cuts out most of this and combines the two characters, making the principal simply come off as an incompetent administrator.
    • Brian De Palma was so impressed with PJ Soles' performance as Norma Watson that he rewrote her as Chris's Beta Bitch with a role in the prom prank.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: The film doesn't establish that Sue and Chris are friends — in fact, Sue seems to find her aggravating, and Norma is portrayed as her best friend.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: Famously so. The book's ending mostly detailed the aftermath of the incident, finishing with a letter from a mother in Tennessee mentioning that her daughter may have powers too. The film's ending shows Sue laying flowers at Carrie's grave, a bloodied hand rising up to grab her, and revealing it as a nightmare, ending with a hysterical Sue being comforted by her mother.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • One of the most famous examples. In the original novel, Carrie was described as short, chunky, acne-ridden, and with short, mousy brown hairnote , while in the movie she is tall and very skinny without any acne, and has long, strawberry blonde hair.
    • Margaret as well. In the novel, she is described as short and fat, with short white hair and glasses, while in the movie, she is portrayed as tall and slim with medium-length russet-brown hair, and her glasses are not seen.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: In the book, Margaret turned into an insane religious fanatic after the violent death of her father long before she ever met Ralph White, who later died in a construction accident shortly after Carrie was conceived. The film implies that she turned to religious mania after her husband left her for another woman, at least if Carrie's comments are to be believed.
  • Adaptational Dumbass:
    • Tommy in the book was said to be a surprisingly good English student, and a poem of his is used as an example of his potential. According to the script, the poem read out in class was written by Sue, and Tommy is passing it off as his own work.
    • Helen was of average intelligence in the book, but seems to be quite ditzy and clumsy here.
    • Billy wasn't a good student in the book, but he was shown to be extremely calculating, e.g. wiping his own fingerprints off the bucket to let his dumb "friends" take the rap if it came to that. In the film, Billy appears totally subservient to Chris and generally dumb all round.
  • Adaptational Location Change: The novel is set in the fictional Maine town of Chamberlain. This movie was filmed in Los Angeles, Carrie and Margaret speak with Southern accents, and the cars have Ohio license plates.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • In the book, the P.E. teacher finds Carrie's awkwardness annoying, enjoyed slapping her in the showers, and even laughs with everyone else when the prank is pulled (though she suffers a Heel Realization and is the only person to try to help Carrie at that point). Here, she gets a lot more sympathetic moments and is horrified at the prank (with Carrie only thinking she's laughing at her). She also gets a scene where she tells Carrie she's beautiful.
    • It's implied in the film that most of the promgoers aren't actually laughing at the prank, with Carrie only thinking that they're all laughing (in the book, they are). Also, several of them are a lot more concerned for Tommy and try to help him, while in the book, he's left to die on the stage.
    • In the novel, Carrie’s entire revenge is premeditated, as she first leaves the gym after the prank and then chooses to go back for revenge, and then goes home to intentionally kill her mother and later Billy and Chris. In the film, she snaps as soon as the prank happens, and she only kills the above three in self-defense. Likewise her rampage of the town is dropped entirely. Of note is a minor scene where we see a fire truck going past her on the road; in the book, she actively burst open every fire hydrant to prevent anyone from putting out the fires, and they had to bring in reinforcements from the next town.
  • Adaptational Modesty:
    • In the book, Sue has her Heel Realization in the back of Tommy's car, but the scene never made it into the movie.
    • The sex scenes between Billy and Chris are removed or toned down, with just the beginning of Chris implying she's about to give oral sex to him.
  • Adaptational Nationality: The book takes place in Maine. In the film, Carrie, Margaret, and several of the teens have memorably thick Southern accents, which would imply this takes place in a more rural Southern town instead of New England. According to the license plates, it takes place in Ohio, though a Southern-sounding accent wouldn't be unheard of in some of the more Appalachian parts of the state.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In the book, Carrie White had some murderous fantasies (however justified) and other disturbing traits even before she went on her rampage. Here, she's a kind, gentle, and humble girl up until she finally loses it. Even afterwards, some of her nice personality remains, as once she calms down she seems extremely remorseful, and goes to her mother seeking to be comforted, and only kills her in self-defense, where as in the book it was a deliberate act of revenge.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: An extremely downplayed example. Betty Buckley says she played Miss Collins as a lesbian.
  • Adaptational Ugliness: Helen Shyres is a prom queen candidate in the book and is implied to be pretty. Here she's presented as the chubby Butt-Monkey of the group, who doesn't seem to have a date for the prom.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Chris is in every way the driving force behind the prank here, takes sadistic enjoyment in pulling the rope, and has no qualms about running Carrie over, unlike in the book where Billy was as much a driving force behind the prank as she was.
    • Norma was a geeky Student Council President sort in the book, but becomes Chris's right hand gal pal. She leads the laughing when Carrie gets pranked.
    • Ralph White is dead in the book, but walked out on Margaret and Carrie in this movie.
    • Any qualities in Margaret White that could be considered humanizing or sympathetic are not present in this film. A large part of this is due to Piper Laurie's cartoonishly villainous performance.
    • Billy's friends were a lot less evil in the book. They didn't know about the prank and one of them was horrified when he learned what happened. In the film, they're fully on board with the prank and help rig the voting.
  • Adapted Out: This is the only film version where Chris's father doesn't appear.
  • Adults Are Useless: The principal seems indifferent to Carrie's plight and doesn't even get her name right.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Hoo boy at the end she comes home and is obviously full of remorse for the prom massacre. Shortly after, she has to kill her mother in self-defense, and cradles her body as she goes into the prayer closet and starts praying (likely for forgiveness) as the house collapses and finally puts her out of her misery.
  • all lowercase letters: All of the opening and closing credits.
  • Ambiguous Innocence: Crossing over with the below. It's left very ambiguous how many people (if any, except Norma) are laughing at Carrie, and Miss Collins seems to be genuinely upset on her behalf, while the book makes it clear that most people laughed.
  • Ambiguous Situation: It's unclear how much of the laughter is real and how much is Carrie hallucinating. A lot of it is clearly imaginary, but the split-screen shots (which are not from Carrie's POV) clearly show many people laughing as she closes the doors. Even the people who made the movie don't agree on this, as the screenwriter's intent was that the laughter was mostly in her head, while the editor believed that a lot of people joined in once Norma got the ball rolling. It's also unclear whether the people are just laughing to be mean, or more out of shock/fear/disbelief, although it probably varies from person to person.
  • Ambiguously Bi: This rather suspect line from one of Billy's gang:
    Ernest: Take it easy, man.
    Freddy: I'll take it any way I can get it.
  • And Starring: Piper Laurie as Margaret got this treatment. The credits also had "Introducing" for John Travolta.
  • The Artifact:
    • The final sequence shows boulders crashing through the ceiling of the White house as a remnant of the planned climax where Carrie would have the house crushed in a shower of stones.
    • A possible case: right after the shower scene, there's a bit where Miss Collins is talking to principal about what happened and says she almost sympathized with the girls who were tormenting Carrie over being so freaked out because of her period. As this seems rather at odds with her characterization in the rest of the movie, it's likely a left-over bit from an earlier draft, as in the book she was a lot less nice and had a similar line. Here, she's nice to Carrie throughout the movie, and there's no other hints that she actually dislikes her.
  • Artistic License – Religion: The weird "Bible verses" about Eve and the "Raven Of Sin" are just a bunch of made-up nonsense not found in any translation of the Bible. Possibly justified by Margaret’s dubious (at best) sanity.
  • Ascended Extra: Mrs. Snell, quite literally. She only appeared briefly as she was leaving the house before the prom in the book. Here she gets a little more screen time and features as a supporting character. This is due to Brian De Palma discovering that Amy Irving's mother, Priscilla Pointer, was also an actress and writing it specifically for her (he had previously cast a real life mother and daughter in Sisters).
  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant: The blood bucket prank ends up being the straw that breaks the elephant's back for Carrie, who absolutely lays into the prom in a telekinetic rage.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Carrie being made the Prom Queen starts out as this, complete with her crying Tears of Joy as she is let up to the throne. Unfortunately, it soon gets ugly.
  • Beta Bitch: Norma wasn't this in the book, but the film upgrades her to this, giving Chris a female partner in crime.
  • Big Damn Kiss: In a horror movie about what jerks people can be, the story briefly pauses so we can have a nice little breather moment when Carrie gets her first (and only) kiss, from Tommy out on the dance floor.
  • Blue Is Heroic: Carrie wears blue at first. Sue wears a blue dress at first too. Miss Collins usually wears blue. Tommy also wears a blue shirt before getting dressed in his prom suit.
  • Book Ends: Carrie's first and final scenes involve blood mixing into water. The first time, it's her getting her period in the school shower, the second, it's her bathing at home covered in blood.
  • Butt-Monkey: Sue has it worse here than she did in the novel. Other than being forced into a bootcamp-style detention by Miss Collins, she is still thought to be making Carrie's life miserable by Miss Collins, when she only wants to atone for mocking Carrie in the shower by having Tommy take Carrie to the prom. When Sue was at the prom, she gets dragged out by Miss Collins who doesn't listen to her when she tries to warn her about Chris and Billy, and witnesses Carrie's massacre and becomes very traumatized as a result. And last but not least, her final scene is where she has a nightmare about Carrie grabbing her arm and she wakes up screaming uncontrollably.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Norma's reaction to Tommy getting hit by the bucket is to laugh even harder at it. The guy next to her looks completely indifferent, and it doesn't seem to register much with the others either (though they soon had bigger things to worry about).
  • Cassandra Truth: Sue sneaks into the prom to check that Tommy and Carrie are enjoying themselves, but her delight at seeing them crowned king and queen of the prom turns to horror when she notices the rope leading to the bucket of blood over the stage and to Chris and Billy under it. Miss Collins sees her, and although we don't hear the dialogue, Sue is clearly trying to warn her about the prank, but Miss Collins has already decided she can't be trusted and throws her out of the gym instead.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Experienced by Sue at the end.
  • Character Development: One of the bullies (named Cora Wilson according to the script) appears to have undergone this, as when Carrie wins prom queen, she gives her a congratulatory kiss on the cheek, looks very upset at the prank, and is one of the first to try to help Tommy off the stage. This is largely due to her actress's performance, as she has almost no spoken dialogue.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Anyone wearing a red cap is in on the prank (though Norma's date ditches his for the prom).
  • Composite Character:
    • Mr. Morton is the vice principal in the book and Mr. Grayle is the principal. For convenience, Mr. Morton is the principal here too.
    • Norma gets combined with Tina, who was Chris's friend in the book. Ironically, in the book, Tina doesn't like Norma at all.
    • Frieda gets Helen's scene where she helps Sue decorate the gym and asks her about why Tommy is taking Carrie.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: A villainous example. Carrie's mother, in her final shot, impaled and crucified with steak knives in the style of the Saint 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.
  • Cryptically Unhelpful Answer: When Miss Collins asks Carrie how she likes the prom, Carrie says "It's like being on Mars," which probably means something like "It's more wonderful than I ever imagined", but she doesn't elaborate.
  • Curse Cut Short: Chris telling Miss Collins to stick her exercises up her —. The funny part is due to bad editing, the curse is supposed to be cut short by Miss Collins slapping her, but the actresses are standing too far apart for this, so there's a weird pause where no one's doing anything and it seems like Chris has self-censored the word "ass."
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Norma survives the prom in the book and even writes a book about it. Here, she's killed with a fire hose.
    • The principal is electrocuted in the film, but survives in the book.
    • The gym teacher survives too and resigns after the incident, but here is killed when the basketball backboard falls on her.
  • Died Happily Ever After: One of the most disturbing uses of this trope. Margaret's death is played in a way that makes it sound like she's getting off on it, and is happy that she's going to finally meet Jesus.
  • Disappeared Dad: The book version of Carrie's father died in an accident before she was born. In the film, though, it is made clear that Ralph White left Margaret for another woman, acting as a Sequel Hook for The Rage: Carrie 2.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Carrie massacres the entire prom in response to the prank, due to her belief that everyone's laughing at her.
  • Dissonant Serenity: As the prom collapses into flames and destruction, Carrie watches the proceedings with a placid expression and a faint smile.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Chris really seems to be enjoying pulling that rope...
    • Margaret's moans after being skewered with several knives come off as very suggestive too.
  • Downer Ending: A good amount of Carrie's class perishes at the prom, including Tommy, Miss Collins, Norma, the Principal, and many others as well as Chris and Billy being killed outside by Carrie in self-defense. Carrie, traumatized, seeks comfort from her mother only for her to literally stab her in the back and cause Carrie to kill her in self-defense. This causes her powers to go haywire and bring the house crashing down on her, killing her. Sometime later, we catch up with Sue, who wakes up screaming from a nightmare, clearly suffering from PTSD, solidifying that she'll never be the same again.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The final scene, where Sue is grabbed by Carrie's arm coming out of the ground while laying flowers at the ashes of her house. Thankfully, it turns out to be All Just a Dream. This shock ending wound up having a major influence on many pioneering Slasher Movies, particularly Friday the 13th (1980).
  • Establishing Character Moment: Norma hitting Carrie with her cap for missing the ball in volleyball.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Freddy, who helps Norma switch the ballots, thus setting up Carrie's humiliation, looks away in disgust when people laugh at Tommy getting hit with the bucket.
    • When the basketball board falls on Miss Collins and kills her, Chris can be seen looking horrified.
  • Everyone Has Standards: While Carrie's classmates and teachers weren't very sympathetic to her plight, they were mortified by the pig blood prank. Which just makes Carrie's rampage even more tragic and scary.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Billy's Chevelle explodes soon after rolling over. Justified, though, in that it's made clear that Carrie caused the car to blow up with her mind.
  • The Everyman: Sue comes off more as this in the film, as her initial friendship with Chris is downplayed.
  • Fakeout Makeout: Norma and her date do this to hide the fact that they're dropping the prom ballots to the floor and replacing them with fake ones.
  • Fanservice: Played straight and then subverted in the opening credits sequence. It starts out with a lingering, slow-motion pan shot of teenage girls (most of them nude or underwear-clad) in the locker room, culminating in a minute-long scene of Carrie taking a shower... and then Carrie has her period, and things turn real ugly real fast.
  • Feedback Rule: During the climactic scene, principal Morton and instructor Fromm tussle over the microphone about what to say during the crisis at the prom. The resulting microphone squeal brings them to Carrie's attention; she disposes of these goofballs by electrocuting them with the mic wiring.
  • Final Girl: Sue Snell fits this pretty fairly well, save for the fact that she never directly confronts the killer... except in her nightmares. And she finally bites it in the sequel. This was not true in the original book, where she confronts Carrie at the end and triggers her Heel Realization just before Carrie dies.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: A one-sided example. While Chris hates Carrie, she seems to really enjoy tormenting her, is obsessed with her to the point that she's thinking about Carrie during sex with her boyfriend, and the lead-up to the blood dump shows numerous close-ups of her licking her lips and her sweaty hands shaking in excitement as she's about to pull the rope. Nancy Allen confirmed this was intentional and said she played it like Chris was having an orgasm.
  • Godiva Hair: When Carrie is drying herself after her bath.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: The film widely uses red to represent evil and blue for good. In addition to the blood, Carrie turns the lights red when she starts killing everyone, the bullies (particularly Norma) wear red caps, and Chris and Billy's car (which they use to try to run over Carrie), is bright red. Meanwhile, Carrie mainly wears blue at first, and starts out as a shy, Nice Girl, and changes back into a blue shirt after the massacre, when she washes the blood off and is feeling very remorseful. Sue wears a blue dress at first. Miss Collins (the only adult who is nice to her) also usually wears blue. Finally, Tommy Ross (who is likely the nicest character) has a pale blue car, and when Carrie and Tommy are about to be crowned (right before the blood) they are both bathed in a blue light.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Miss Collins gives the mean girls a very harsh punishment (a week of detention in gym class, with them getting banned from the prom if they don't show up,) and borders on Drill Sergeant Nasty at times. Considering how horribly they treated Carrie, she's completely justified.
  • Gym Class Hell: The girls who participate in the locker room hazing are given a week's detention with their gym teacher, who puts them through a boot-camplike regiment of calisthenics and running laps on the playing field.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold
    • Played straight with Carrie (until she snaps). She is a very sweet girl who seemingly wouldn't hurt anyone, until she's pushed too far.
    • Inverted with Chris, who has blonde hair and is as mean as the proverbial polecat.
  • Hate Sink:
    • Chris is even worse here, as the prank is all her idea, she takes sadistic enjoyment in pulling the rope, and she's even willing to murder Carrie, which she wasn't in the book.
    • Norma Watson is turned into Chris's Beta Bitch. She's introduced viciously mocking Carrie's first period, and shows no remorse afterwards, only accepting detention because she doesn't want to miss the prom. When Chris tells her about the prank, Norma gleefully agrees to be in on it, rigging the prom ballots so that Carrie wins. When the blood is dumped, she laughs hysterically at Carrie's humiliation even after Tommy is knocked out and likely killed by the bucket.
    • This version of Margaret White lacks the Freudian Excuse from the book and is just a psychotic, abusive bitch. Piper Laurie even said that she went out of her way to make her as over the top evil and crazy as possible.
  • Hope Spot: Sue sees the bucket above the stage and tries to stop the prank, but is thrown out by Ms. Collins just before Chris pulls the rope.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The shower after gym class warrants basically a paragraph before the blood starts. In this film it becomes a Fanservicey slow-motion pan as we see the girls in various states of undress, culminating in a long stretch spent lingering on Carrie showering.
  • I Am Not Pretty: Carrie has a major problem with this. Despite Miss Collins telling her that she's a pretty girl, and later telling her at the prom, that she's beautiful, she's still convinced Collins is just saying it to be nice, even though she really is beautiful in her pink dress.
  • Idiot Ball: Just before the blood is poured, Sue (who's managed to sneak in) notices the bucket of blood and the rope trailing down to under the stairs. She pulls open the curtain on the staircase and sees Chris and Billy hiding under there. Miss Collins sees her and grabs her just as she is pointing at them and yelling, but just throws her out without even looking at what she was pointing at, even though the vast majority of people on the planet will reflexively look at something if someone points and says something like "Hey, look it that!"
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: At one point Ms.Collins see's Carrie looking upset, and asks her what's wrong. She says that Tommy asks her out but is afraid it's a Prank Date. Ms.Collins tells her not to worry about it, and even brings her up to a mirror and tells her she's pretty. In the very next scene, she confronts Sue and Tommy and accuses them of playing yet another cruel trick. While she probably was being sincere in telling Carrie she was pretty (since she certainly is), it's still a tacit admission that she was mostly just lying to make Carrie feel better.
  • Identical Twin ID Tag: The Wilson twins can easily be distinguished by Ruth having a short pageboy haircut, while Cora's is down to her waist.
  • In the Back: Margaret does this to Carrie after the prom disaster.
  • Ironic Echo: Carrie crucifies Margaret and stabs her stomach with sharp kitchen tools, and she is positioned to look exactly like the figure of Saint Sebastian in the confessional.
  • Jump Scare: One of the most famous examples ever: Carrie's hand grabbing Sue's arm in a nightmare sequence at the end.
  • Kick the Dog: The English teacher making fun of Carrie for saying Tommy's poem is "beautiful". It shows that even the teachers are assholes to Carrie.
  • Kick the Morality Pet: Carrie killing Miss Collins during the prom massacre.
  • Large Ham: Nancy Allen (Chris) and Piper Laurie (Margaret) thought they were in a comedy, and it showed. Both are on very, very hammy form.
  • Lighter and Softer: Zig-zagged. In the book there are a few survivors of the prom massacre, but in the film Carrie kills all the promgoers, including Ms. Collins. However, in the book she destroys the entire town and many more are killed as a result of the incident. She just burns down the school gym here.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: A very odd and completely unintentional example: after Carrie kills Margaret her house suddenly starts collapsing. This is because Carrie was originally going to make meteors rain down and destroy the house. However, the meteor-dropping device malfunctioned and they couldn't afford to re-shoot, so instead the house seems to just collapse for no reason after she dies.
  • Male Gaze: Rather blatantly when Carrie is showering after gym class. Lindsay Ellis used clips from that scene in her video on Male Gaze as an example.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Near the start of Carrie's rampage, Ms. Collins and one of the students are seen checking on Tommy's body. The student's horrified reaction suggests that Tommy's already dead at this point.
  • Misplaced Retribution:
    • Chris has only herself to blame for getting kicked out of the prom, yet she lashes out at Carrie.
    • Carrie kills everyone at the prom, even Miss Collins, because she thinks they’re laughing at her humiliation, which the filmmakers confirmed was just a hallucination, and only a few of the bullies were laughing.
  • Mood Whiplash: The whole prom scene. It goes from being really happy, with Carrie even crying Tears of Joy as she is made the Prom Queen, to heartbreaking as she gets covered in blood and everyone starts laughing (or so she thinks), to terrifying, as she starts killing everyone.
  • Mutual Kill: Margaret stabs Carrie, Carrie uses Margaret's knives to crucify her, and then Carrie's My God, What Have I Done? reaction leads her to burn down her house with both of them inside.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After Miss Collins gives her a good thrashing, Sue looks down at the sobbing Carrie cowering in the shower stall and realizes what she and the other girls have done.
  • New England Puritan: Margaret White is this trope to the extreme, resulting in her and her daughter being ostracized by the rest of the town.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The gym teacher, Miss Collins, is one of the few characters to defend Carrie by punishing her tormentors. Unfortunately, this leads to them plotting far more horrific revenge, leading to the iconic scene at the end.
  • 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 her.
  • No Peripheral Vision: No one at the prom spots the bucket of pig's blood in the rafters, even though it's only about 12 feet up, and in plain sight. The remakes fix this by having the rafters be much higher up.
  • Oh, Crap!: Sue when she sees the bucket above the stage.
  • The Oner: It wouldn't be a Brian De Palma film without a very long tracking shot that goes on for several minutes. This one starts at Carrie and Tommy's table as they hand over their ballots, then follows Norma as she collects the other ballots, engages in a Fake-Out Make-Out with her boyfriend so she can dispose of the real ballots and collect the fake ones that award the crowns to Tommy and Carrie, and hands the fake ballots over to the vote counters before giving a thumbs up to Chris and Billy. The camera continues to move behind the stage to reveal Sue sneaking into the gym to check on Tommy and Carrie, then follows the rope up to the bucket of blood over the stage, and finally zooms back in on Carrie and Tommy's table as they are declared the king and queen of the prom. The sequence took a whole day to set up and light and thirty takes to film.
  • Pacified Adaptation: Due to the film's low budget, the filmmakers couldn't include the lengthy sequence from the book where Carrie destroys her entire hometown, and so her rampage here was kept limited to the prom, killing Billy and Chris in a car explosion, and burning down her house.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Carrie's prom dress is a light shade of pink, marking the first time she's ever really paid attention to her appearance. This was new to the film, as the book dress was red.
  • Plot Hole: At one point Sue just suddenly gets up and sneaks into the prom for reasons that aren't explained. Some viewers mistakenly thought she was in on the prank, as this plot point doesn't make much sense otherwise. Did she just go to make sure Carrie and Tommy are ok? If so, why did she just happen to show up right before the blood is poured? The 2013 remake fixes this by having her get a threatening text from Chris which motivates her to sneak in.
  • Poor Communication Kills: In this case, nearly everyone in the gym. If only Miss Collins had listened to Sue when she was trying to explain about the bucket of blood.
  • Precision F-Strike: Miss Collins refers to the prank orchestrated by Chris as "a very shitty thing" twice in succession. This elicits a few giggles from the gym students.
  • Prom Wrecker: Chris and her friends plan to do this to Carrie, by dumping pigs blood on her when she is crowned Prom Queen. What they don't realize is that she has psychic powers.
  • "Psycho" Strings: Heard whenever Carrie uses her powers.
  • Psychotic Smirk: We get a close-up of Chris giving one when she dumps the blood on Carrie.
  • Raised Hand of Survival: In the very last scene, in Sue's Nightmare Sequence, Carrie's bloody hand reaches up and grabs Sue's arm as she lays flowers on her grave causing her to scream in terror of her nightmare.
  • Red Is Violent: Carrie uses her Psychic Powers to turn the lights all the lights in the room red just before she starts killing everyone.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The famous prom scene.
  • Roundabout Shot: A variation happens as the camera circles around Carrie and Tommy as they dance romantically.
  • Rule of Symbolism: After spending the whole film filled to the brim with religious speeches and symbols, the White's house is last seen sinking into the Earth, on fire.
  • Serious Work, Comedic Scene: This is mostly a very moody, grim, and ominous movie, except for the scene where Tommy and his friends are shopping for prom outfits. Tommy points out that to his friend that none of the tuxedos they're considering look good on him. The movie fast-forwards through their argument, and reveals that Tommy's friend settled on a tuxedo-print T-shirt.
  • '70s Hair: Most of the cast, with the biggest example (in more ways than one) being William Katt's massive blond 'fro.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: This one is given some justification compared to the book, where Miss Collins gives Carrie some suggestions as to what she could do to clean up for the prom.
  • Shell-Shock Silence: In the moments right after the prank, most of the sound cuts out, with the sound of the bucket the only thing we hear.
  • Shout-Out: The film, being directed by noted Alfred Hitchcock fan Brian De Palma, 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. You can also make a case for the characterization of Margaret White as a hammed-up Expy of Bernice Edgar, the prostitute-turned-religious fanatic mother of the title character in Marnie.
  • Signature Style: Brian De Palma gets a lot of mileage out of two of his favorite filmmaking devices — the Orbital Shot (used when Carrie and Tommy dance) and a Split Screen (when Carrie starts her rampage).
  • Slasher Smile: Margaret, while she's coming after Carrie with a huge kitchen knife and making the sign of the Holy Cross with it. Right into the camera.
  • The Sociopath: Chris qualifies even more here than in the book, as she is even more cruel and sadistic, and attempts to murder Carrie by running her over, which she was opposed to in the book.
  • So Happy Together: Although this is technically their first date, the prom scene with Tommy and Carrie before it all goes to hell is arguably one of the most iconic examples in cinema history.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Pino Donaggio is a master of this, scoring some very disturbing scenes in either a very inappropriately sexy or sweet fashion.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Ralph White has been dead for some years in the book. In the film he ran off and had an affair with another woman. This allowed for the sequel to make Rachel Carrie's half-sister.
  • Spoiler Cover: Almost every single VHS or DVD cover (including the one on this page), shows Carrie covered in blood.
  • Tragic Mistake: Sue is about to stop the prank when Miss Collins sees her and ejects her from the prom, thinking she's up to no good.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer showed off 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.
  • Tranquil Fury: Carrie during her prom rampage.
  • Uncertain Doom: Almost everyone trapped inside the gym at the end, save the two teachers who are killed from electrocution, and Miss Collins. The sequel reveals that a few students somehow escaped, but it’s not revealed in either film who the survivors are.
  • Unexpected Kindness: Sue and Tommy to Carrie.
  • Unflinching Walk: Carrie walks out of the bloody gym as the fire starts. A notable example because, in the book, it's actually subverted, as Carrie runs out crying and is then tripped by one of the laughing students.
  • Unstable Powered Woman: Carrie is a very sweet, borderline angelic character who shows kindness to everyone... until she discovers telekinesis and uses it to push back at anyone who hurts her, burning down her school, house, and entire town.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Miss Collins notices Sue has gatecrashed the prom and, still suspecting her of setting Carrie up, throws her out before she can tell Miss Collins what she's just seen above and below the stage.
  • Visual Innuendo: The close-up of the spraying shower head in the locker room scene emphasizes its phallic resemblance.
  • Visual Pun: After the bloodbath at the prom, Carrie is in a bath of blood.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • There is a girlnote  who is present during the roll call, but is nowhere to be seen during the detention scene.
    • The fates of the students that tried to carry Tommy out of the gym (George, Frieda, Cora, Rhonda, The Beak and Ernest) are left unknown. The sequel reveals that some few people managed to escape, but it's not confirmed if one of the aforementioned students were the survivors.
  • Workout Fanservice: The detention scene, which seems to exist mainly to feature a gaggle of high school girls wearing tiny gym shorts doing stretches and squats, all while Betty Buckley (wearing similarly tiny shorts) serves as a Drill Sergeant Nasty.
  • World of Jerkass: Everyone except Carrie, Miss Collins, Tommy, Sue (who was once a bully but reformed), and maybe a couple of other people are total assholes. As such, it's hard to feel any sympathy for them when when Carrie loses it and wastes them all.

They're all gonna laugh at you!


Video Example(s):


Carrie's Hand Rises Up

In the ending of the film, Sue dreams of putting a bouquet of flowers on Carrie White's grave, suddenly, Carrie's hand rises up and grabs Sue's arm.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / RaisedHandOfSurvival

Media sources: