Carrie (1976 film)

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Original theatrical release poster
Directed by Brian De Palma
Produced by Paul Monash
Screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen
Based on Carrie 
by Stephen King
Starring Sissy Spacek
Piper Laurie
Amy Irving
William Katt
Nancy Allen
John Travolta
Betty Buckley
Music by Pino Donaggio
Cinematography Mario Tosi
Edited by Paul Hirsch
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • November 3, 1976 (1976-11-03)
Running time
98 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1.8 million
Box office $33.8 million[2]

Carrie is a 1976 American supernatural horror film[3] based on Stephen King's first major 1974 novel of the same name. The film was directed by Brian De Palma and written by Lawrence D. Cohen.

The film received two Academy Award nominations, one for Sissy Spacek in the title role and one for Piper Laurie as her abusive mother. The film featured numerous young actors – including Nancy Allen, William Katt, Amy Irving, and John Travolta – whose careers were launched, or escalated, by the film. It also relaunched the screen and television career of Laurie, who had not been active in show business since 1961.

Carrie was the first of more than 100 film and television productions adapted from, or based on, the published works of Stephen King.


Carrie White, a shy and friendless 17-year-old girl, is the scapegoat of her school in North Carolina. At home she is abused by her mentally unstable mother Margaret, who is a Christian fundamentalist.

While in the showers after gym class, Carrie experiences her abnormally delayed first period. Having no prior knowledge of menstruation, Carrie believes she is bleeding to death. The other girls, including Chris Hargensen and Sue Snell, add to her shame and humiliation by pelting her with tampons and sanitary pads. The gym teacher Miss Collins intervenes and as Carrie becomes more frantic, a light bulb bursts in the showers.

Miss Collins brings Carrie to the principal's office to excuse her from gym class for the next week. After Carrie grows angry from the principal repeatedly mispronouncing her name, an ashtray on his desk flips onto the floor. At home, Margaret receives a call from Miss Collins about the shower incident. Margaret tells Carrie that the "curse of blood" is divine punishment for sin and forces her to confess before locking her into a dark and cramped prayer closet to pray for forgiveness. A vengeful Carrie stares at her bedroom mirror until it shatters.

The next day, the other students laugh at her when she says that fellow classmate Tommy Ross's poem is "beautiful". Miss Collins subjects Carrie's PE class to a week-long boot-camp-style detention, threatening the students with suspension from school and the prom if they do not attend. Chris becomes defiant and is slapped by Collins; Chris storms out, unremorseful of her prom ban. Sue convince Tommy to invite Carrie to the prom.

Carrie suspects she may have telekinesis. While researching in the library, Tommy invites her to the prom, but she declines, fearing another trick. Tommy later visits Carrie's house and repeats his invitation, which she eventually accepts. Carrie tells her mother she is going to the prom, but Margaret declares the prom a sinful occasion. Carrie reveals her telekinesis by causing all the windows to slam shut, leading Margaret to believe she is a witch. Carrie insists on going to the prom, and Margaret reluctantly accepts.

Chris tells her delinquent boyfriend Billy Nolan that she wants revenge on Carrie. She goes with Billy and some of his friends to a local farm, where Billy and his friends slaughter pigs and store the pigs' blood in a bucket. Billy then sneaks into the school and places the bucket above the school's stage. As Carrie prepares for the evening, her mother tries to discourage her from going to the prom, claiming that "They're all gonna laugh at you!" Carrie's classmates are surprised to see her at the prom, and several girls point and snicker. After Miss Collins comforts her with stories of her own prom, Carrie begins to enjoy herself and dances blissfully with Tommy, who gives her a first kiss. Sue, who was unable to attend due to lacking a date, sneaks into the prom to ensure everything goes well for Carrie.

Carrie after having pig's blood dumped on her by Billy and Chris.

To Carrie's surprise but according to Chris and Billy's plan, she and Tommy are named prom king and queen. As the two approach the stage, Sue discovers Chris holding a rope attached to the bucket. Before Sue can warn Carrie, Miss Collins forces her out. The crown is placed on Carrie's head, then Chris pulls the rope and Carrie is drenched in the pig's blood. Chris and Billy escape the gym laughing, as Tommy is knocked unconscious by the falling bucket. Carrie hallucinates that the whole room is laughing at her.

Carrie snaps into a cold rage, and telekinetically seals the exits. She manipulates a fire hose and uses it to blast the students with water. The water makes contact with the electrical wiring and ignites a fire that consumes the gym. Nearly all of the students and faculty are killed as Chris and Billy witness the carnage from a high window. Carrie leaves the gym and begins walking home, covered in blood. Chris and Billy attempt to run Carrie over with Billy's car, but Carrie telekinetically flips the car over and causes it to explode, killing them.

Carrie returns home and takes a bath to wash off the pig's blood, and puts on her nightgown. She encounters Margaret and breaks down in her arms. Margaret confesses to Carrie that she and her husband Ralph believed that sex was a sin and abstained from it, until he got drunk one night and raped her, which she actually enjoyed. She embraces Carrie as the two recite the Lord's Prayer together, but halfway through the prayer, Margaret stabs Carrie in the back with a butcher knife. Carrie falls down the stairs and is cornered in the kitchen by a crazed Margaret, who attempts to stab her more. Carrie's telekinesis is adrenalized, and all the knives and sharp objects in the kitchen are sent hurtling into her mother, crucifying her in the doorway. Carrie screams and unhooks her mother as the house starts to shake, which then collapses onto them.

Some time later, Sue, the sole survivor of the prom massacre, has a dream in which she visits the lot where Carrie's house once stood. As she places flowers on the ground, Carrie's bloody hand shoots out of the ground and grabs her wrist—then Sue wakes up screaming in her mother's arms.




Carrie was the first Stephen King novel to be published and the first to be adapted into a feature film. In an interview in Port Charlotte, Florida at a public appearance near his home on the Gulf coast on March 20, 2010, King said he was 26 years old at the time and was paid just $2,500 for the film rights, but added "I was fortunate to have that happen to my first book."[4] De Palma told Cinefantastique magazine in an interview in 1977:

Lawrence D. Cohen was hired as the writer, and produced the first draft, which had closely followed the novel's intentions.[6] However, later versions departed from King's vision rapidly, and certain scripted scenes were omitted from the final version, mainly due to financial limitations.

The final scene, in which Sue reaches toward Carrie's grave, was shot backwards to give it a dreamlike quality. It was also filmed at night, using artificial lighting to create the desired effect. This scene was inspired by the final scene in Deliverance (1972).[6] Spacek had insisted on using her own hand in the given scene, so she was positioned under the rocks and gravel. DePalma stated, "Sissy, come on, I'll get a stunt person. What do you want? To be buried in the ground?!" However Spacek declared, "Brian, I have to do this." DePalma explains that they "had to bury her. Bury her! We had to put her in a box and stick her underneath the ground. Well, I had her husband bury her because I certainly didn't want to bury her. I used to walk around and set up the shot and every once in a while we'd hear Sissy: 'Are we ready yet?' 'Yeah, Sissy, we're going to be ready real soon.'"

The White house was filmed in Santa Paula, California and to give the home a Gothic theme, director and producers went to religious shops looking for artifacts to place in the home.

The site of one of the locations where Carrie was filmed, Palisades Charter High School ("Pali High"), was owned by Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher - parents of Carrie Fisher - years before the school was built. Some years after the couple had purchased the lot, the State acquired the land by eminent domain (compulsory purchase) to build the school.

Many young actresses auditioned for the lead role, including Melanie Griffith. Sissy Spacek was persuaded by husband Jack Fisk to audition for the title role. Fisk then convinced De Palma to let her audition, and she read for all of the parts. De Palma's first choice for the role of Carrie was Betsy Slade, who received good notices for her role in the 1974 film Our Time. Determined to land the leading role, Spacek backed out of a television commercial she was scheduled to film,[7] rubbed Vaseline into her hair, didn't bother to wash her face, and arrived for her screen test clad in a sailor dress which her mother had made her in the seventh grade, with the hem cut off,[5] and was given the part.

Amy Irving was cast alongside her mother, Priscilla Pointer, who would play the mother of Irving's character.

Nancy Allen was the last to audition, and her audition came just as she was on the verge of leaving Hollywood.[6] She and De Palma later married.


De Palma began with director of photography Isidore Mankofsky, who was eventually replaced by Mario Tosi after conflict between Mankofsky and De Palma ensued.[8] Gregory M. Auer served as the special effects supervisor for Carrie, with Jack Fisk, Spacek's husband, as art director.

A wraparound segment at the beginning and end of the film was scripted and filmed which featured the Whites' home being pummeled by stones that hailed from the sky. The opening scene was filmed as planned, though on celluloid, the tiny pebbles looked like rain water.[6] A mechanical malfunction botched production the night when the model of the Whites' home was set to be destroyed, so they burned it down instead and dropped the scenes with the stones altogether. The original opening scene is presumed lost. [6]


Awards and critical reception[edit]

Carrie received largely positive reviews and is widely regarded as one of the best films of 1976.[9][10][11] The film currently holds a 92% "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes; the consensus states: "Carrie is a horrifying look at supernatural powers, high school cruelty, and teen angst -- and it brings us one of the most memorable and disturbing prom scenes in history."[12]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times stated the film was an "absolutely spellbinding horror movie", as well as an "observant human portrait", giving three and a half stars out of four.[13] Pauline Kael of The New Yorker stated that Carrie was "the best scary-funny movie since Jaws — a teasing, terrifying, lyrical shocker". Take One Magazine critic Susan Schenker said she was "angry at the way Carrie manipulated me to the point where my heart was thudding, and embarrassed because the film really works."[14] A 1998 edition of The Movie Guide stated Carrie was a "landmark horror film", while Stephen Farber prophetically stated in a 1978 issue of New West Magazine, "it's a horror classic, and years from now it will still be written and argued about, and it will still be scaring the daylights out of new generations of moviegoers."[15] Quentin Tarantino placed Carrie at number 8 in a list of his favorite films ever.[16]

Nevertheless, the film was not without its detractors. Andrew Sarris of The Village Voice commented, "There are so few incidents that two extended sequences are rendered in slow-motion as if to pad out the running time..."[15]

In addition to being a box office success - earning $14.5 million in theater rentals by January 1978[17] - Carrie is notable for being one of the few horror films to be nominated for multiple Academy Awards. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie received nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress awards, respectively. The film also won the grand prize at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival, while Sissy Spacek was given the Best Actress award by the National Society of Film Critics. In 2008, Carrie was ranked number 86 on Empire Magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.[18] This movie also ranked number 15 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies, and #46 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 Greatest Cinema Thrills, and was also ranked eighth for its famous ending sequence on Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments (2004).[19]

In a March 20, 2010 interview, King replied that he thought, although dated now, Carrie was a "good movie."[4]



The score for Carrie was composed by Pino Donaggio. In addition, Donaggio scored two pop songs ("Born to Have It All" and "I Never Dreamed Someone Like You Could Love Someone Like Me") with lyrics by Merrit Malloy for the early portion of the prom sequence. These songs were performed by Katie Irving (no relation to star Amy Irving and her mother, Priscilla Pointer). Donaggio would work again with De Palma on Home Movies, Dressed to Kill, Blow Out, Body Double, Raising Cain, and Passion.

The other songs were uncredited in the film and omitted from all album releases due to different ownership. These songs are "(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave" by Martha and the Vandellas, "Education Blues" by Vance or Towers, and a third song called "Lady Lay", which is also presumed to be by Vance or Towers (it was co-written by the band's Michael Towers[24])Additionally, two brief musical interludes during the prom ("Pre-Prom Disco" and "Ernest's Announcement") were also written by the same songwriting team who wrote "Lady Lay"[24] and have never been issued.

The soundtrack album was originally released on vinyl in 1976 under the United Artists label. It was also released on cassette tape at some time during the '70s or '80s. A deluxe CD edition containing a few tracks of dialogue from the film was released by MGM/Rykodisc in 1997, and a 2005 CD re-release of the original soundtrack (minus dialogue) was available from Varèse Sarabande. Huge portions of the film's score were omitted from all of these releases. A bootleg version of the isolated score ripped from the Criterion laserdisc has also been in circulation on the internet.

In 2010, Kritzerland Records released all 35 cues of Donaggio's score for the film on a 2-disc CD set which was boasted as the complete score. Also included in this edition were the versions of "Born to Have It All" and "I Never Dreamed..." which were heard in the film, as well as karaoke instrumentals of both songs, and hidden at the end of the final track, a version of the "Calisthenics" cue with Betty Buckley's studio-recorded voiceover from the detention scene. The second disc was a remastered copy of the original 13-track album. The Kritzerland release was a limited edition of 1200 copies. Kritzerland re-released the first disc as "The Encore Edition" in Feb. 2013; this release was limited to 1000 copies.[25]

Related productions[edit]

Carrie, along with the novel, has been reproduced and adapted several times.


Main article: The Rage: Carrie 2

The Rage: Carrie 2 was released in 1999. It featured another teenager with telekinetic powers who is revealed to have shared a father with Carrie White. The film received universally negative reviews and was a box office failure. Amy Irving reprises her role of Sue Snell from the previous film.

2002 TV film[edit]

Main article: Carrie (2002 film)

In 2002, a television film based on King's novel and starring Angela Bettis in the titular role was released. The film updated the events of the story to modern-day settings and technology while simultaneously attempting to be more faithful to the book's original structure, storyline, and specific events. However, the ending was drastically changed: instead of killing her mother and then herself, the film has Carrie killing her mother, being revived via CPR by Sue Snell and being driven to Florida to hide. This new ending marked a complete divergence from the novel and was a signal that the movie served as a pilot for a Carrie television series, which never materialized. In the new ending, the rescued Carrie vows to help others with similar gifts to her own. Although Angela Bettis' portrayal of Carrie was highly praised, the film was cited by most critics as inferior to the original.[26]

Stage productions[edit]

Main article: Carrie (musical)

Early in the 21st century, playwright Erik Jackson attempted to secure the rights to stage another production of Carrie the musical, but his request was rejected. Jackson eventually earned the consent of Stephen King[27] to mount a new, officially-sanctioned, non-musical production of Carrie, which debuted Off-Broadway in 2006 with female impersonator Sherry Vine in the lead role.[28] Similarly, many other unofficial spoofs have been staged over the years, usually with a gym teacher named "Miss Collins" (as opposed to the novel's "Miss Desjardin" and the musical's "Miss Gardner"), most notably the "parodage" Scarrie the Musical,[29] which hit the Illinois stage in 1998 and was revived in 2005; Dad's Garage Theatre's 2002 production of Carrie White the Musical;[30] and the 2007 New Orleans production of Carrie's Facts of Life,[31] which was a hybrid of Carrie and the classic American sitcom The Facts of Life.

2013 film[edit]

Main article: Carrie (2013 film)

In May 2011, MGM and Screen Gems announced that Carrie would be adapted to film once more.[32] Playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa wrote the script as "a more faithful adaptation" of King's novel. Aguirre-Sacasa had previously adapted King's epic novel The Stand into comic-book form in 2008.

The role of Carrie was played by 16-year-old actress Chloë Grace Moretz.[33] Julianne Moore starred as Carrie's mother Margaret White, and Gabriella Wilde as Sue Snell.[34] Alex Russell and Broadway actor Ansel Elgort played Billy Nolan and Tommy Ross respectively.[35] Portia Doubleday was given the role of Chris Hargensen and Judy Greer was cast as Miss Desjardin.[36]

Kimberly Peirce, known for her work on Boys Don't Cry, directed the new adaptation.[37] It was released October 18, 2013 to mixed reviews and commercial success.


  1. ^ "CARRIE (X)". United Artists. British Board of Film Classification. November 4, 1976. Retrieved June 20, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Carrie, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 23, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Carrie Movie Review - Stephen King's Teen Horror Classic Carrie - the Movie". 2012-04-10. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  4. ^ a b Stetson, Nancy (March 25–31, 2010). "King rules The Big read for a day in Port Charlotte". Florida Weekly: p. B8.  Newspaper column review of a live interview by Christy Arnold of King onstage at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County, Florida, March 20, 2010: "Although the film "Carrie" is dated now, he said he thought it was a good movie. 'I was fortunate to have that happen to my first book.' (He was 26 years old and was paid $2,500, he said.)"
  5. ^ a b Brian De Palma interview (July 1977); accessed 30 June 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d e Carrie DVD featurette ("visualising Carrie"). United Artists. 2002. 
  7. ^ Carrie DVD featurette ("Acting Carrie"). United Artists. 2002. 
  8. ^ Brian De; accessed 2007-05-27. Archived April 29, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Greatest Films of 1976". Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  10. ^ "The Best Movies of 1976 by Rank". Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  11. ^ IMDb Year: 1976
  12. ^ "Carrie". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger. Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun Times) Review of Carrie (1976); accessed 2007-05-27.
  14. ^ Take One Magazine, January 1977 at Carrie... A Fan's Site
  15. ^ a b "Pundits Page". Take One Magazine, p.57. March 1997. 
  16. ^ "Quentin Tarantino’s Handwritten List of the 11 Greatest Movies". Empire Magazine. 2008. Retrieved 2013-10-02. 
  17. ^ Richard Nowell, Blood Money: A History of the First Teen Slasher Film Cycle Continuum, 2011 p 256
  18. ^ "Empire's 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time". 2006-12-05. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  19. ^ "The 100 Scariest Movie Moments". Archived from the original on July 19, 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-06. 
  20. ^ "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies: Official Ballot". American Film Institute. Retrieved March 7, 2012. 
  21. ^ "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills". American Film Institute. Retrieved March 7, 2012. 
  22. ^ "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains: The 400 Nominated Characters". American Film Institute. Retrieved March 7, 2012. 
  23. ^ "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition): Official Ballot". American Film Institute. Retrieved March 7, 2012. 
  24. ^ a b "BMI Repertoire". Retrieved November 17, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Special 2-CD soundtrack "Carrie" full score composed by Pino Donaggio". Retrieved August 3, 2013. 
  26. ^ "TV Reviews: "Carrie"". Internet Movie Database. 2002-11-04. 
  27. ^ "Eric Jackson Interview". Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  28. ^ "New York Times Theater Review". The New York Times. 2006-11-26. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  29. ^ "Hell in a Handbag's Scarrie site". Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  30. ^ "Sci-Fi Dimensions Review". scifidimensions. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  31. ^ "Carrie's Facts of Life - Official Site". Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  32. ^ Kit, Borys (May 19, 2011). "MGM, Screen Gems Team for 'Carrie' Remake". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  33. ^ Fleming, Mike (March 27, 2012). "MGM Formally Offers Lead Remake Of Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’ To Chloe Moretz". Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  34. ^ "Julianne Moore And Gabriella Wilde Board Carrie Remake". 2012-05-14. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  35. ^ ""Chronicle" star Alex Russell and Broadway actor Ansel Elgort join "Carrie" remake opposite Chloe Moretz". Up and Comers. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  36. ^ "UPDATE: Judy Greer HAS NOT Signed On To The Carrie Remake As The Gym Teacher". 2012-05-25. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  37. ^ Fleming, Mike (January 4, 2012). "MGM/Screen Gems Eye Kimberly Peirce To Direct Remake Of Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’". Retrieved March 29, 2012. 

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