Even though I found my previous Brian De Palma film, Dressed To Kill, wildly problematic, I decided to watch one more of his flicks as part of It’s All Connected 2020: Blow Out. Of all the De Palma films from this era, this was the one that I’d been wanting to see the longest. I even tried giving it a look one time, but the volume was weird and loud, so I had to turn it off, not wanting to wake up my wife and kids. I’m glad I finally got around to it on Amazon Video because Blow Out became my favorite of this particular bunch!
Once I decided to dive into Brian De Palma’s films as part of It’s All Connected 2020, I had to figure out which ones leaned towards horror and which of those happened to be streaming right now. That got me to 1980’s Dressed To Kill which is currently on Amazon Prime. Now, compared to Phantom Of The Paradise, Carrie and The Fury, this film might just barely qualify as horror (most would probably go with the “thriller” label), but it certainly got me thinking, so here goes!
I am ridiculously embarrasses to admit that I have never seen Carrie all the way through, unrated up until this point. I swear, I THOUGHT I had. It was even crossed off in my copy of Creature Features, but, after deciding to watching something classic on the NetBox and choosing Carrie, I quickly realized I had never seen this movie. You know how I knew I’d never seen it? The tampon scene. I’ve heard about it and remembered hearing about a little too late and was completely horrified. Not by the menstruation itself, but by how utterly horrible that would be if it happened to you in public and, instead of people being like “Oh hey, we all do that and don’t die, no worries” they laugh and throw tampons. Even the fat, ugly girl with glasses. What does she have to laugh at!!!
Sorry, I got heated up watching this flick (is that a pun?). I had three overwhelming emotions the whole time: dread, anger and hope. See, we all know about the pig’s blood at the prom and that carnage quickly ensues. But I was still gritting my teeth the entire time Carrie was getting ready for the Greatest American Hero to take her to prom. I kept wondering if he and his maybe girlfriend (the survivor) were in on it, or if they really were just being nice. I wanted him to be a nice guy because he really seemed like one, unlike that pig-killing mook Travolta. Anyway, once the craziness actually started (and boy, does director Brian De Palma play these scenes up to all their nerve-wracking potential) that’s when the rage kicks in. It’s weird because I don’t usually get this emotional when watching a movie, but the dread I felt reminded me of the first time I saw Dark Knight. I had a visceral, in-my-gut reaction to Heath Ledger’s Joker. I was scared of the screen whenever he was on. I had the same feeling leading up to the prom scene. That’s a hell of a thing to get a jaded film fan like me to feel.
Think about it. The dumb villain girl was SO angry at someone else for HER OWN MISTAKE that she set into motion a fairly complicated plan with a lot of working parts that went off without a hitch, all for the sole purpose of humiliating the initial victim of her jerkiness AGAIN. If she had survived, the CIA should have picked her up to plan assassinations, cause she’s cold blooded.
Also, wow, I did not see the teacher’s death coming. That was nutzocrazytown. Bisected even. You gotta reign that in Carrie, at least to have one witness who can blame the dumb girl with the red hat for everything even though she’s dead (sup PJ Soles).
This far into the review, I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I’ve never read Stephen King’s novel that this was based on, so I have no idea how much of the movie was in the book and vice versa or how “accurate” it was, but it works perfectly on the screen. One of the most impressive story elements is the layers of danger. You’ve obviously got Carrie with her crazy power and the evilness of teenage girls, but also Carrie’s mom. You NEVER know what she’s gonna do. Damn. I wonder of JK Rowling got the closet idea from Carrie. If so, she should have put a scene in the movies where Harry burns their stupid house to the ground, because you NEED that kind of catharsis after a movie like this. And, even as much as I wanted Carrie to survive this whole mess, move to another town and start over, maybe raise a child of her own who isn’t crazy, she had to pay for what she did.
Finally, the final bit. Unlike the prom scene, there was zero dread for the final “hand out of the ground” scare. Part of the reason is that my memory was refreshed of the scene while watching Going To Pieces, when Sean Cunningham and Tom Savini are talking about the ending of Friday the 13th. They talk about having just seen Carrie and wanting to do something like that, hence the burnt kid out of the water. Another factor that kind of took me out of the moment comes from the survivor’s mom. She’s talking to her friend on the phone and says something along the lines of “The doctor says that she’s young and she’ll forget.” Haha, what?! She’s 17 or 18 and she’s going to forget the night her entire class was decimated by Hellfire and a house fell into the earth? The night her maybe-boyfriend died? Wow, good doctoring there. The final reason why it wasn’t very scary is that it’s very obviously a dream, She’s all glowy and whatnot, plus the hand comes out kind of slow and sloppily. I guess it would have been pretty scary the first time you saw it, but I guess I’ve seen too many movies that ripped the idea of that last minute scare like F13 and The Strangers.