Thursday, April 16, 2009

April Showers, Carrie (Twice Over)

When I began the April Showers series I was frustrated that I'd already written about the famous opening sequence of Carrie (1976). But then, Eureka! Something more to say.

Though it might be impossible to choose one thing that's "best" about Carrie, I think the juxtaposition of its two shower scenes is definitely in the running. I've never read the Stephen King book so I don't know which of the film's strengths to attribute to the famed horror novelist but Brian De Palma unquestionably did a lot of things right in the transfer.


The first triumph is his undiluted understanding of Carrie's sexual development as adolescent terror themes. The second is his facility with cinematic language. In the opening shower sequence there's slow motion bodies and soft music. Carrie herself (Sissy Spacek) is completely entranced by the water, lost in the pleasure of it. Until her hand, soaping between her legs, comes up red with blood. Carrie raises her trembling hands up and out, staring at them in a confusion and disbelief that shifts quickly into pure terror. Her screams for help invite mocking from her classmates. Carrie crumbles into the corner until her gym teacher rescues her.

The second shower sequence, even more famous, is its twisted malevolent twin. Carrie isn't any where near a literal shower this time. Declared prom queen, she walks to the gymnasium stage in slow motion, that now familiar sad and soothing theme playing again. Carrie's eyes are entranced and wet, lost in the pleasure of acceptance and applause. Until, standing on the stage, her sadistic classmate drops a bucket of pigs blood on her.


Two showers of blood, then, the second infinitely more garish with the stuff. For the second time Carrie raises her bloodied hands up and out, staring at them in a confusion and disbelief. This time, however, her open mouthed shock produces no screaming for help (none that we hear at any rate in the expressive sound design) and her emotions shift to fury rather than terror.

No crumbling in the corner. No waiting for rescue.


Psychotic break time. (God bless the split screen!) This time it won't be Carrie doing the screaming.
*

13 comments:

Seeking Amy said...

That last still gave me shivers. Such a brilliant performance.

Kelsy said...

I never could get my head around how much menstrual blood was coming out of her in that first shower scene. I think anyone would be a little scared after that. But yeah, love this movie and Stephen King's stuff.

E Dot said...

They're all gonna laugh at you.

Encore Entertainment said...

I don't think any scene will ever be as iconic in the horror genre (okay the scene from The Exorcist is a close second) will be as iconic as that second shower scene. Brian De Palma really deserves the kudos he gets, and I suppose I will endure everything else he does - including The Black Dahlia - in hope that another Carrie (or Scarface) is forthcoming...

mrripley said...

carrie classic spacek super piper perfect nancy nasty john juicy amy angel brian brilliant!!!

ryan said...

uh. that locker room scene is still one of THE most upsetting sequences i've ever seen in terms of human cruelty. BLUG IT UP! BLUG IT UP! BLUG IT UP! *shudders*

Wayne B. said...

Seeking Amy - DITTO.

The book is actually one of my favourites, read it before I saw the movie. It definitely added to the experience of seeing it onscreen. Does anyone else think that Tommy was falling for her onscreen?

Drew said...

Great post. There is so much to love in "Carrie". Definitely one of my favourite films of all time. Also hilariously quotable :)

Anonymous said...

Read the book. It makes the film look scant and under-developed.

JA said...

"It's pink, Mama."

Derreck said...

gah, i love this blog.

Discussions about awesome movies and actors.

Plus, they worship the Kidman here.

Anyways, i do love this movie because it's so twisted (like the book) in how it gets you on Carrie's side...even though she went a bit too far with the whole mass killing thing.

and i never really thought about how there were two "shower" scenes in the movie. cool comparison.

Chris Na Taraja said...

This is my favorite April showers so far! How can you top this?

lylee said...

Can't stand horror movies generally, but damn, Sissy Spacek was spine-tinglingly good in this.

The book *was* good. Only Stephen King novel I've ever been able to get through.