Book to Film - Carrie


"If They Only Knew She Had the Power"

Book Release:  1974   /    Movie Release:  1976

(Unlike other reviews on the site, the 'From Book to Movies' feature has to reveal spoilers to make sense.)

Read the Book Review Here

   Introduction / Brief Movie Thoughts

Carrie is a weird, mixed bag for me with the book. It was Stephen King's first published book and a high success which helped jumpstart him to writing fame, but I actually didn't care for the book. The back and forth between the plots left little to the imagination and no surprise of story, the mixing of articles with story distracted me, and the inner dialogue told in lowercase parentheses irritated my tastes. On the other hand, the original film by Brian DePalma is stylish, gripping, emotionally-led, and unforgettable.

Carrie is a interesting and somewhat psychological thriller that came from one of the most popular horror authors ever, as well as from the mastermind who directed the classic with Al Pacino, "Scarface", and the homage-to-Hitchcock thriller "Sisters".

Many themes are discussed in this film -- from teenage cruelty, social cliches, extreme religion, abuse. DePalma makes sure we sympathize with the girl on all levels, but the movie is not shown in only a one-person point of view. We also see through the eyes of naughty teenagers, coaches, teachers and parents, as well as anyone else relevant to the plot. In summary we know exactly what is going on --even if Carrie herself doesn't--and this clever direction makes us enjoy the plot more.

If we didn't know the pig blood plot before we saw it splash onto the main character, most likely we wouldn't have been paying attention to the movie while we sat there for five minutes trying to figure out just where the hell all that blood came from. And of course the other characters don't know about Carrie White's unique gifts -- to our delight but their disadvantage.

Sissy Spacek was completely convincing in her role and manages to make sure we can see Carrie as a real person. Piper Laurie is very eerie and downright crazy as the half-witted mother.

William Katt (House) is an excellent actor in every role I've seen him in and it's a shame he hasn't graced the screen more. John Travolta? As usual he played his part well. The cast had great chemistry throughout.

We have plenty of character development and this is always a good thing, but Carrie herself was a bit too wimpy and whiny for my tastes. Sure, in the end she comes out of her shell in a startling way, but more in an act of anger than anything else. And of course I was rooting for her actions the entire time. But for the majority of the movie she was a bit too pitiful and there was just nothing there for substance. Her mother Margaret White was a nut -- that much is certain -- and her scenes with Carrie added some great conflict, but overall a wee bit flat.

Thankfully the final act was pure genious and left a nice unsettled feeling in the stomach.

   Biggest Differences

In the movie we don't already know the horrors to come, so there is more of a surprise and interesting element as the story unfolds. The book spoils it all from the start as it's told through a narrative mixed with newspaper articles, interviews, afterwords, and when the story actually took place.

Sissy Spacek performed stellarly as the homely and bullied young woman, but she did so with slim features and clear skin. In the book Carrie is pimpled with teenage acne, slightly chubby, and has greasy hair.

The movie upped the ante with Chris and the gym coach - while in the movie she is slapped and suspended, in the book she is merely suspended for refusing to go to detention as punishment.

The largest difference is the ending. In the movie Carrie goes home for comfort and to embrace her mother, only to find out her mother has other plans -- while in the book she goes home with a violent mission already cemented firmly in her mind.

   Glad the Movie Kept

I'm glad the movie kept the religious overtones, bullying, and almost all the original story. I'm so happy it changed the toneless ending, though - much better in the film version.

   Who is the Big Winner?

The movie is the big winner. DePalma did classy shots, the acting was spot on, the score haunting while it strung the nerves as well as it did the instrument, and the heart of the story came through with more strength than the dry and distant book.

   Movie Trailer

   Movie Poster