In October, my month of allowing myself to watch as many horror movies as possible, when I usually keep them to a minimum since they sometimes contain panic attack triggers for me, I posted about the horror films that make me feel empowered as a women, because the female protagonists act in such an extremely unfeminine way, but how, since these films are written and directed by men, it’s hard not worrying that these films contain a tone parody towards these protagonists’ behavior, or else the urge to see women completely debased. In a broader sense, with a good horror film that doesn’t feature a female protagonist, I’m always surprised when there’s a film in this genre that’s so compelling instead of just suspenseful and captivatingly gross. For instance, the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and 28 Days Later (2002), are two excellent films that don’t solely focus on their female characters and that also transcend the sometimes artless goal of suspense that characterizes the horror genre; these two films, both with male protagonists, are both so well-directed and with such strong character development, when I watch them I’m like “Oh no! Don’t die! You have such a sense of stoicism and dignity, the world needs you!” instead of like “Ew! His head just got smooshed!” Anyway, these are great movies, but give me Carrie, The little girl in the Exorcist, or the plagued, witchy sisters in the Paranormal Activity franchise, and I just want to run around like a crazy banshee scaring bullies and priests. Especially Carrie (1976), about the sweet, bullied teenage girl with magic powers, raised by an abuse and fanatical mom, who flips her shit after being pushed around too much and kills a bunch of people. This plot does so much to me; there is a scene of her being bullied in a locker room that so perfectly shows how daunting locker rooms can be – young women are mostly naked in one room, and there are no teachers around, and there are so many opportunities for the mob mentality to take over, with unsupervised popular girls who look good in their underwear feeling compelled to really extra pick on the unpopular girl wearing plain underwear or flat-chested or timid in the face of the intimacy of the locker room: the worst bullying I took was always in the locker room.
Also, the Elektra complex and the Oedipus complex are the well-known pop-psychology terms for a child’s heterosexual attraction to their parent of the opposite sex. But what is the name for a daughter wanting to please her mom almost to the point of a crush? I think this is more common than the world acknowledges, since incest is so gross and taboo and homosexuality is still taboo, but in Carrie, the protagonist loves her horrible mom so much, it’s so heartbreaking and angering, and it really pushes a button for me with how extreme and sometimes painful, and often disappointing, the bond with our parents is. The last thing I’ll say in praise of this film (I could go on and on) is what a rush it is to see this sweet girl’s bullies get their come-uppance. As far as revenge fantasies go, this film really takes the cake.
But is Brian De Palma to be trusted as the director, the man charged with bringing Carrie to cinematic life? I’m lazily quoting Wikipedia here instead of doing my research, BUT my laziness aside, it’s still interesting to know that:
De Palma is frequently criticized for his filmmaking style. Julie Salmon has written that "many critics argued that De Palma dressed up his woman-hating wickedness so artfully that the intelligentsia didn't see him for what he was: a perverse misogynist." Feminist writer Jane Caputi responded to De Palma's statement that "I'm always attacked for having an erotic, sexist approach-- chopping up women, putting women in peril. I'm making suspense movies! What else is going to happen to them?" by saying "Things can only 'happen to' women in the femicidal grammar. We also can note with great irony just whom De Palma claims is being attacked." David Thomson wrote in his entry for De Palma, "There is a self-conscious cunning in De Palma's work, ready to control everything except his own cruelty and indifference."
So, I don’t know, maybe De Palma’s an alright guy with fine artistic intentions, but whose to know. And I think it’s important to know a director’s intentions.
In walks the Carrie remake (2013), directed by Kimberly Pierce, who (sorry to sound superficial, but) one can tell is cool just by her personal style:
Plus, she has the filmmaking chops of having directed an unwatchably (for me) sad and great drama about Trans boy Brandon Teena.
To slip from my Master’s degree lingo into my speaking voice again, this movie kicks so much ass and is so exciting and cool and had me bouncing on the couch going “Get them, Carrie! They can’t push you around!” over and over. To see this fictional young woman empower herself by educating herself on what she can achieve with her telekinetic power and realizing that the shame her mom has taught her to have about her body is uncalled for, and to know that a strong woman has made this film … it was just such an unmitigated pleasure as a feminist and horror enthusiast (of GOOD horror movies).
What’s most satisfying to me with this remake is the fact that it changed the outcomes of all the plot points I’d been disappointed with in the original. Now the plot plays out exactly to my wishes: this time Carrie only hurts, doesn’t kill, her well-meaning gym teacher; she isn’t responsible for killing the well-meaning popular boy, Tommy, because he’s already dead when she sets fire to the gym; and most importantly, she and the well-meaning popular girl, Sue, actually get to have a conversation in this version, in which Sue apologizes for her former bad behavior to Carrie, and Carrie gets the chance to lament having been pushed to the point of killing – she was a young woman who’d wanted to lead a compassionate and successful life. I can’t recommend this movie enough. I give it a thousand stars, and a face full of scars.