Carrie (1976)

SPOILER ALERT: As these reviews are of an academic nature, they may contain spoilers. Those that do feature this warning. Future reviews will try to limit spoilers for a public audience, but until then, read at your own risk.

Carrie

Dir. Brian DePalma, 1976

In the nearly four decades since it was released, Carrie has gone from low-budget lark to breakout hit to part of the classic cinema canon. Perhaps I should have kept this knowledge out of my mind when I watched this film for the first time, but I couldn’t, and came out sorely disappointed.

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is a girl being raised by a single mother with a horrific concept of Christianity. When she has her belated first period, she’s mocked relentlessly by her peers, causing two of the students (Amy Irving and William Katt) to cheer her up by taking her to the prom, while her biggest tormentor (Nancy Allen) plots to embarrass her at the same event. Meanwhile, Carrie’s newfound womanhood seems to extend beyond the normal– she’s also become telekinetic. The result is the now-famous bloodbath of a third act, from which only one character escapes.

Though the horror is still devastatingly effective, and director Brian De Palma nicely integrates some levity into what comes before, the majority of the film is muddled and reeks of campy after-school specials, which as a concept were only a few years old at the time. The two “good characters” played by Irving and Katt turn out to be doing the right thing, but their motives for helping Carrie are initially ambiguous, especially to someone who knows how the film will end (read: everyone). I seemed to be the only person who didn’t like this, but so be it. C

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Sisters (1973)

SPOILER ALERT: As these reviews are of an academic nature, they may contain spoilers. Those that do feature this warning. Future reviews will try to limit spoilers for a public audience, but until then, read at your own risk.

Sisters

Dir. Brian DePalma, 1973

If nothing else, Sisters is a cracking homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1950s prime. Nowhere is this more clear than in the first act of the film: the rich colours, the score by Bernard Hermann, the decoy hero, and a crime witnessed from the real protagonists rear window.

In Sisters, Margot Kidder plays a former Siamese twin who previously lost her sister after she became impregnated by their doctor. After losing her emotionally disturbed counterpart, Kidder starts to become her from time to time, resulting in the murder of one of her suitors. When reporter Jennifer Salt sees the murder, the cops take too long and the evidence has been cleaned up. Undaunted, Salt begins investigating the crime herself, but is hypnotized into believing she saw nothing. At the end, the bad guys are caught, and Salt is believed by everyone…except herself.

What distinguishes Sisters from Hitchcock is two things. Made after the abandonment of the Hays Code, the murder scene is much more graphic than it would have been a decade earlier, and the viewer’s sense of dread is far more heightened. More unusual are two setpieces in the film’s third act: the hypnosis scene, where various characters appear randomly in the protagonist’s own psyche, and again at the end; when the final piece of evidence lies unremarked upon, except by a cow. If nothing else, the film’s ending is reminiscent of David Lynch, whose first feature film Eraserhead was released just four years after this. B+