Despite many attempts at rebooting and remaking Stephen King’s first novel (including most recently in 2013), the 1976 version of “Carrie” remains the best version of the story. The story itself is a perennial tale that strikes a chord with anyone that has ever felt out of place, ridiculed or powerless. But it is director Brian De Palma’s version that has lasted for 40 years (celebrating its anniversary on November 3rd) and has woven itself so completely into the fabric of pop culture.
There has been one other film adaptation of King’s book, a TV movie, a sequel and a Broadway musical, and yet it’s De Palma’s vision that has stood the test of time and embedded itself into the public consciousness. Much of this is the great work of screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen, translating King’s epistolary novel into a vital examination of teenager outsiders, but it also is De Palma’s expert direction. The film is melodramatic at times, with heightened emotions echoing throughout its running time (even in the comic moments, it’s a pretty heightened view of reality). But that’s perfect for the tableau of teenage life, where everything is the most important; every social faux pas, every Prom, every moment is weighted against surging hormones and a rigid societal structure within the school. By using larger emotions, the dramatic score by Pino Donaggio, and the excellent framing of camera shots, De Palma puts the audience into the mindset of a teenager and allows them to empathize easily with the emotions.