High school. How do we ever survive it? Yeah, I know there are those who were popular and think back on it as the best time of their lives. I saw them at the reunion, and they’re still the most popular. Then there are the ugly ducklings. You can walk though any high school campus and pick them out instantly. You may not see much of the hell they go through—most of that takes place away from the sight of the teachers—but it’s always the same. Some people never fit in. Myself, I was somewhere in the middle, not popular but not picked on much because I was the tallest boy in school, and even though I didn’t know how to fight, most of the bullies were intimidated by me. Sheer luck. I was socially inept, felt awkward all the time, and, to my shame, when I did see the ugly ones picked on, I did nothing about it.
Stephen King must have had a horrible time in high school. That, or he observed a lot of it. This first novel is far from the only time he has skillfully portrayed the terror, the abuse, the relentlessness of bullies. It’s painful to watch it in this brilliant film by Brian De Palma. In 1976 we had never seen anything like this. It was groundbreaking in so many ways, from the opening with all the naked girls in the locker room, to the finale, literally drenched in blood and fire. It hit me so viscerally that, in spite of the fact that most of the people dying at the prom were innocent, and at least one of them was a true friend just caught in the crossfire, I was rooting for Carrie to blow them all away. Sorry, that’s just how I felt.
Even though most of the characters were fairly one-dimensional, the acting is great all around, particularly from the young women, Amy Irving and Nancy Allen and P.J. Soles. Piper Laurie is amazing, frightening in her portrayal of a Christian sexual psychopath (lot of those running around), and should have won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. It’s an unforgettable performance. But of course the most amazing thing is Sissy Spacek, who is absolutely fearless as an actress. Look at her eyes when she is covered in pig blood, It is pure insanity, and pure hatred. It was easy to believe that she could summon up the demons of Hell there in that scene of her ultimate humiliation.