Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Carrie.”
The Movie: “Carrie” (1976)
Starring: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving
Director: Brian De Palma
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Carrie White, a shy, friendless teenage girl who is sheltered by her domineering, religious mother, unleashes her telekinetic powers after being humiliated by her classmates at her senior prom.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93 percent
Brown: We’re sticking with the classics to end Halloween Month here on the JOE-DOWN.
Our last review took us to Haddonfield, Illinois, with its lush palm trees and murderous little brothers to discuss “Halloween.” You know, the original and not the craptacular Rob Zombie remake we saw previously.
Then for this week, I went with another classic with Stephen King’s “Carrie.”
And just so we’re clear, the original, with Sissy Spacek. And Travolta. And the guy who directed “Scarface.” Not the remake. I already made the remake mistake earlier this month.
Now, going into this, I felt confident that I’d seen “Carrie” before but after this week, I think I’d seen about 80 percent of the movie. The beginning was a little blurry to me, and not because a ton of the beginning would have to be blurred out by cable TV standards.
I mean, what’s to say? This is as memorable a movie there is. It’s a great horror movie. Hell, it’s one of the best high school movies I’ve seen with the caveat that this high school is… quicker to violence than my personal experience.
Froemming, give us some initial thoughts as I try to help my prom date find a dress that matches her ball cap because girls wore caps with formal wear in the ‘70s?
Froemming: Wow, did we review two P.J. Soles movies back-to-back? Now I am tempted to review “Rock And Roll High School” next to hit the Soles trifecta!
I’ve seen this movie a few times. It is one of the best anti-bullying movies I can think of. It is also the most ’70s movie I think I have ever seen. Hell, our male lead who is not John (REDACTED) Travolta was also this guy:
Which lead to one of my favorite “Seinfeld” bits:
Yes, I will always find a “Seinfeld” reference like Brown always finds a “Simpsons” gag.
Brown, as I ponder this full-length movie of the “Jeremy” video, why don’t you kick this off?
Brown: We begin in a high school I presume in Maine, because Stephen King. At the high school, we’re at the answer to every adolescent boy’s answer to why he’d want invisibility as a super power: the girls’ locker room.
It takes 90 seconds for this movie to show full-frontal nudity in what has to be a landspeed record for a movie (non-porno division). Also wish I wouldn’t have watched this movie on my work laptop.
It’s after gym class and we see unassuming Carrie White in the shower, rubbing her face with communal soap, which seems like a TERRIBLE idea, especially in our current pandemic hell.
It’s at this exact moment that our dear Miss White blossoms into womanhood and has her first period to her shock and horror. She has no idea what’s going on, which is an indictment on this school system for not teaching sex ed.
Froemming: It’s the 70s, man. Teachers could smoke in the principal’s office, slap their students around, it was a wild scene.
Brown: That’s not a good enough excuse. Kids at Rydell High were learning sex ed in 1961 via song!
Froemming: Carrie is frightened and runs for help, but this is high school. It is basically “Lord of the Flies” here. Her fellow classmates mock her, throw tampons at her, laugh at her.
Kids can be so cruel.
Brown: Chanting “Plug it up” to a panicked bleeding teenager is certainly cruel.
Perhaps more cruel: a teacher (REDACTED) SLAPPING Carrie in the shower as she’s spazzing out.
This school must have some cold-blooded attorneys because we see teachers slap students several times in this movie and suffer zero consequence.
Froemming: Question: Is this the movie that spawned Travolta’s toxic treatment of women in film?
Brown: “Carrie” is the movie where the little Travolta domestic violence tadpole emerged out of the primordial ooze to begin his evolution into the serial assaulter his characters are today!
While the gym teacher, Miss Collins, is trying to calm down/assault Carrie, we see a lightbulb explode in the locker room in what becomes the beginning of Carrie’s telekinetic powers.
We see another example of this in the next scene when Carrie goes to the principal’s office so she can leave for the day. The principal keeps calling Carrie Cassie, which makes our titular character angry to the point that her telekinesis knocks over an ashtray in the office.
AND, we see the powers again when Carrie knocks a brat child off his bike for chanting “Creepy Carrie” at her. I laughed hard at this one because the kid, honest to god, looks like a mini Joe Don Baker in “Mitchell.”
Froemming: I imagine this was what was in Carrie’s head when she knocked the kid off his bike.
Hell, that is what I imagine is in her head every time she uses her powers in this movie.
Now we meet Carrie’s mother, Margaret White, selling religious pamphlets to the neighbors. Once she starts talking, we immediately understand why Carrie has no idea what a period is. Her mom is one of those kooky religious nuts that seem to end up on the Supreme Court. The woman gives her money to get the hell out of her house. My mother, when I was growing up, had a better way of dealing with people like this: Just slam the door in their face. Didn’t even cost us any money!
Brown: Your mom is a saint.
And, if you’re playing at home, you can cross off kid with powers, bullies and crazy Christian fundamentalists on your Stephen King Bingo card.
Mama White is… not well. She says that sinning (having impure thoughts) is what gave Carrie her period and she tosses her daughter into a closet with a terrifying statue of Jesus on the cross. I’m convinced Miss White is a flat earther, too.
I’ll mention that this Jesus statue has arrows in him, but they’re so big and bulky, I thought that Jesus got hit with a bunch of lawn darts. The sharp metal ones we all played with as kids and (hopefully) have been banned from retail stores.
Froemming: Well, a little later Carrie shatters her mirror with her mind, which causes her mother to come to her room. Did Miss White not find it odd Carrie could lock and unlock her door when she is like 10 feet away from the thing?
Brown: Do you think Miss White was in attendance when Borat went there and the pastor chanted in tongues at Kazakhstan’s fourth most popular journalist?
Froemming: I (REDACTED) love Sacha Baron Cohen.
Now we are back in class, with some lib teacher yakking about cars and reading poetry. This kind of nonsense is why we lost the war in Vietnam. And we meet Tommy, which immediately made me think of The Who.
Same (REDACTED) Roger Daltrey hair and everything.
Brown: I put in my notes that Tommy was a swap meet knockoff of Robert Plant.
Froemming: I was just waiting for someone to utter “Tommy, can you hear me…”
Anywho, the teacher reads this lousy poem Tommy wrote that didn’t end up on The Who album, and Carrie says she liked it, which gets the class laughing at this poor girl even more.
I gotta say, I feel these people deserved what they got at the end of this movie.
Brown: Hell, the teacher is the one that starts it since Carrie was complimentary instead of critical of the poem.
And yeah, I’m right there with you: there’s no sympathy for anyone at this school, from the staff to the students. And that shit sticks with you. Case in point: My mom doesn’t drive because a driver’s ed instructor destroyed her confidence behind the wheel.
Froemming: My high school memories all look like the movie “Mandy,” so I got nothing here.
Now in gym class, Miss Collins informs the girls who tormented Carrie in the shower that they will have a week’s worth of suspension, which is really detention because they have to be doing workouts in gym at this time. The stupid teacher can’t tell the difference between “suspension” and “detention,” so I am not shocked when she ups and slaps Chris for refusing any of this and having her prom ruined.
Brown: I’m pretty sure Miss Collins says detention. If the girls skip detention, they are suspended for three days and have their prom tickets revoked.
Everyone is accepting their punishment, you know, because they did a REALLY SHITTY THING. Everyone that is, except for Chris, because she doesn’t want to do calisthenics for 50 minutes? Then again, Chris is pretty much Parker Posey from “Dazed and Confused.”
Brown: Also, know what else is missing from this punishment? An apology to Carrie.
Now, we see Chris riding around town with JOE-DOWN icon John Travolta in his second movie role. He’s a doofus in a red sports car that is drinking and driving at a 30-year-old level.
You keep making the Bud from “Urban Cowboy” reference and I get why. But, I posit to you, Froemming, that this is the origin story of Vincent Vega.
Froemming: Considering he gleefully murders a pig later on, I have to agree with you on this.
Now Billy is driving with Chris and it feels like “American Graffiti” here a bit, only more coherent and less wasting-my-time.
Brown: Billy is also EXTREMELY quick to violence when he’s called a stupid shit. Not in the charming Marty McFly way where he challenges the threat. More in the violent sociopath way of a man that will spend his night plunging an adrenaline needle into a woman’s chest.
But somehow this is charming because Billy and Chris show up to a party and he gets a blowjob in the car before they go in. But, not before Chris espouses over how much she hates Carrie White while, you know, she’s performing fellatio.
… Sorry for being gross, all, but wouldn’t it be hard to whine about a loser at school when, you know, your mouth is busy?
Froemming: Depends on the size.
Anyway, we have Sue convincing her boyfriend, Tommy, to ask Carrie to the prom, because she feels bad for her role in the shower, and might also be a cuck. Tommy reluctantly agrees, and we see him asking Carrie out to prom while hanging out at the library.
Carrie is no dummy. She suspects this is some scheme hatched up by her tormentors.
Brown: Tommy is definitely a dweeb, but he seems like a nice enough guy. He’s not a schemer.
But, Chris and Billy are! Because Chris didn’t want to spend an hour’s worth of time working out after school, Carrie has to pay!
So, joined by a pair of redneck classmates, they break into a pig farm and go HAM on a sow to get a bucket of blood.
… I’m pretty sure they were at a slaughterhouse. Doesn’t seem like it’d be hard to find blood sitting around instead of gleefully killing a pig yourself.
Froemming: Or a butcher shop? Pretty sure you can buy blood there, they might even give it to them for free. But no, we have Billy slaughtering this pig, which by the way, he will eat but his future co-worker will not.
Miss Collins finds Carrie and finds out Tommy asked her to the prom. She tries to spin this as good for Carrie, who does not have a lot of self-esteem. She gives the girl a pep talk and then interrogates Sue and Tommy, because this is fishy to her too.
Honestly, I assumed these two were in on Chris’ plan the first time I watched it. It wasn’t until the end I realized they were not. They are just weirdo do-gooders in a school full of sociopaths.
I do like when Collins asks Tommy if he will care how it looks when he walks into prom with Carrie and Sue says they don’t care how they look like.
With the poodle hair these two have, I assumed she meant this in general.
Brown: When Sue told Chris to “just shut up” during detention, I figured she was honest in wanting to do right by Carrie. Because she’s not a monster like Chris.
Not wanting to give up, Tommy goes to Carrie’s house and doesn’t take no for an answer. Eventually, Carrie reluctantly agrees to go to prom with him.
When Carrie tells her mother about the prom date, it doesn’t go well. She throws water in Carrie’s face and basically states that men will start lusting for her now that she’s menstruating?
Next, Miss White will pull a Brick Tamland and tell Carrie that her period will attract bears.
In a fit of rage, Carrie uses her telekinesis to slam the windows in the house. Against her mother’s wishes, Carrie proclaims she’s going to go to prom and make friends and have a good time.
There’s a short montage where we see Carrie making her own prom dress while Tommy rents a tux with a ruffled shirt that is somehow more puffy than his hair. I dunno if Seinfeld would be proud or embarrassed for him.
Froemming: I do like Tommy’s buddy pulled a Joe-Brown-at-Froemming’s-wedding and bought a tuxedo shirt instead.
Brown: No regrets. It was a classy tuxedo T-shirt.
Froemming: Now Carrie is putting on makeup and getting ready for prom, and her mother goes to her room to tell her to call it off, what with everyone staring at her “dirty pillows” and all.
Carrie refuses, and even uses her powers to knock her mom down a few times, to show her who’s boss.
Brown: Carrie basically goes all Bane “Do you feel in charge” on her mom.
Froemming: Her mom gives the infamous line “They’re ALL GONNA LAUGH AT YOU” to Carrie, which Adam Sandler ruined, because he is a joy vampire.
Brown: God damn… we thought that stuff was funny in the ‘90s. (REDACTED) you, Adam Sandler.
Anyway, Tommy picks her up and they head to prom. This will be both the greatest and most awful night for everyone involved.
I do like Carrie’s anxiety about going in general, dancing, all of it. The movie does a good job with social anxiety at a time such a thing was considered “need more cocaine blues.” Also, the prom is the most 70s thing I have seen, and we watched “Saturday Night Fever.”
A little jump back, we see a day or two before Chris and Billy setting up the bucket of blood that will ruin everyone’s night. Travolta here does an impression of a slave on a plantation and it is somehow not even in the top 50 most offensive things we have seen him do in a movie.
Brown: This is my biggest nitpick of this movie.
This bucket of blood is posted on the ceiling of the gym for days. We see people decorating the gym, spreading the word about Tommy and Carrie going to the prom together. In hanging up all those lights and paper stars and all that other tracky crap, no one noticed a string tied to a bucket of blood over where the stage would go? Maybe they think it’s confetti for the prom king and queen… you wouldn’t think to check said bucket for that?
Also, I would think a bucket of pig’s blood would stink after a few days. I’ll blame the copious amount of weed that a high-schooler in the ‘70s would be high on.
At the prom, Carrie is finally enjoying life as Tommy brings her into his world and seems genuinely happy for her and likes her as a friend. Hell, even Miss Collins is happy Carrie is finally coming into her own now, not all shy and scared.
We see Billy and Chris under the stage, plotting a revenge that stemmed from Chris’ refusal to do jumping jacks for a few days. We also see P.J. Soles rigging the vote for prom king and queen, and this movie justifies Michael Myers killing her with a phone cord in “Halloween.”
At the White household, we see Carrie’s mom violently chopping carrots, leading me to believe she really hates vegetables. Her weird religious views she imposed on her daughter blew up in her face. Who would have thought a teenager would rebel from her overbearing mother?
Brown: I was legit happy for Carrie here. At the very least with Tommy, she made a friend. She’s out of her shell. She looks better than her weird classmate wearing a baseball hat with her dress which, frankly, should be a target of ridicule instead of Carrie.
Hell, Carrie gets her first kiss out of the night. It was better than my first kiss: I got told by the girl “We’ll work on it” and had my first panic attack.
Don’t think I’ve ever said that story publicly before, so there you go, people.
Anyway, Carrie is on top of the world and she and Tommy are named king and queen of the prom. Sue rushes to the prom and sneaks in, making Miss Collins’ threat to not have people without tickets in, a moot point.
Look, I will just show the scene here. It is a cinematic classic our dumb words will not do justice to.
Kids can be so cruel.
Well, it is at this point Carrie has the worst panic attack since Brown’s first kiss/fear boner…
Brown: Pleading the fifth.
Froemming: …and well, with all the laughing and hearing the principal call her “Cassie,” shit is about to go down.
Some say revenge is a dish best served cold. These chuckleheads never saw “Carrie,” because her fire hot fresh revenge of burning her whole prom to the ground is some breathtaking revenge.
Brown: Again, we’re too much of jabronis to do this scene justice with our words.
There’s something really cool about the way this scene is cut and edited. I don’t know if I’ve seen any other movie who makes these split-scene edits and makes it work like this movie.
In fact, a movie nowadays would follow the silence of the blood dump with something too on-the-nose like The Prodigy’s “Firestarter.” Fine song, but it would be lazy filmmaking.
Froemming: Would they play “Smack My Bitch Up” when Billy smacks Chris these days?
Brown: In the ‘90s, probably. I feel like nowadays, it’d be some Halsey song.
Froemming: Well, after walking out of the prom caked in blood while everyone is burned alive, Carrie starts walking home. And I think it has been since “Pulp Fiction” we got a Travolta death in a movie.
I could watch that on repeat like Cage in a bear suit.
Carrie now heads home, where she has to take a long bath to wash the blood off herself and reflect on the mass murder she committed via her brain.
Brown: Does… does any law enforcement officer in this (assuming) Maine town want to stop a teenager who is glazed in blood? Anyone?
When Carrie gets home, the house is kind of torn up and has candles lit everywhere. And when Carrie goes upstairs to take a bath, Miss White is clearly standing by the door. It’s really unwholesome, like flying a kite at night.
Carrie starts crying and embracing her mom after being embarrassed at the prom. Well, the night is about to get much, much worse.
See, Miss White was raped by Carrie’s father after a night of drinking. This happened before they were married and Miss White admits to liking it. She considers Carrie and her telekinesis to be her punishment for sinning. Thinking that Carrie is a sort-of witch, Miss White stabs Carrie in the back and sends her tumbling down the stairs.
With Miss White going for the killing blow, Carrie uses her telekinesis to crucify her mom with knives and potato peelers.
… Not a great way to go. But if you’re trying to kill your daughter, you kind of have it coming.
Froemming: After killing her mother via kitchenware, the house starts imploding. She drags her mother to the room with the creepy Jesus statue, and the house burns to the ground. I am not sure if Carrie did this, as she seemed surprised by it, or if it was…
Brown: I’m guessing poor construction of the house. Also, did the ceiling have rocks in it? Because the debris that falls on Carrie’s head and kills her, it looked like a rock. It was like William Shatner throwing rocks at the lizard thing in “Star Trek.”
Froemming: Maybe her mom was a hoarder? I dunno. They both burn to death as the house implodes upon itself.
After, we see Sue sleeping as her mom dumps some exposition on us, informing us she is being treated for trauma from the event of her classmates burning to death in front of her eyes. She then dreams about laying flowers at the now pile of rubble that was Carrie’s home, and a bloody arm grabs her from the below. She wakes up screaming.
The moral of this story for Sue is what is on Charles Bukowski’s grave: “Don’t Try.”
Brown, let’s pop on our tuxes and head down to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: No question. It’s a classic. This was the first Stephen King film adaptation and no wonder there were so goddamn many after this. But this may still be the best one.
Froemming: Oh yeah, this is a great movie.
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: