CARRIE (1976, Director Brian De Palma)

© 2020, by M. Keith Booker

Adapted from Stephen King’s 1974 debut novel, Carrie is one of the films that best demonstrates the participation of the horror genre in the New Hollywood phenomenon that arose in the late 1960s and continued through the 1970s, transforming American film in fundamental ways. Indeed, director De Palma is more frequently thought of as a New Hollywood director than as a horror director, even though many of his early films contain strong elements of the horror genre. Looking back from the perspective of half a century later (and with De Palma’s films as a key focal point), it is clear that the period roughly from the appearance of Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby in 1968 to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining in 1980, often regarded as a sort of Golden Age of American horror, was closely aligned with a particularly rich period in American film as a whole. Carrie, meanwhile, is also a landmark film of sorts in that itwas based on King’s first novel (and was the first film adaptation of a King novel), marking the beginning of a string of adaptations that has included such films as The Shining and Andy Muschietti’s It (2017), the top-grossing horror film of all time.

Among other things, De Palma has often been seen as a paradigm of the postmodern in American film, as when John Belton calls him the “most ‘postmodern’” of the filmmakers of the film-school generation (307) or when Fredric Jameson calls his films the “American equivalents” of French postmodernist films such as Jean-Jacques Beneix’s Diva (1981). As I have noted elsewhere, De Palma’s

“recycling of images and motifs from Hitchcock demonstrates, perhaps more than any other single phenomenon, the way in which the object of representation in the artifacts of postmodern culture is often not reality, but other cultural artifacts. De Palma’s career also nicely illustrates the lack of any real boundary between the popular and the postmodern in contemporary American culture” (124).

The aspect of De Palma’s early work that is most often associated with postmodernism is his tendency to borrow so transparently from the works of Alfred Hitchcock. Such borrowings are particularly obvious in Sisters (1972), Obsession (1976), Dressed to Kill (1980), Blow Out (1981), and Body Double (1984). Carrie—like The Fury (1978)—would seem to draw more upon horror film traditions in general than on Hitchcock, but even in Carrie De Palma takes pains to include nods to Hitchcock’s films, especially Psycho (1960). The action of Carrie, for example, is set in motion by a bloody shower scene, which is clearly meant to recall the crucial bloody shower scene in Psycho, surely the most famous such scene in film history. To make this connection even more obvious, Carrie includes notes of shrieking violin music borrowed from the iconic soundtrack of Psycho’s shower scene whenever Carrie uses her telekinetic powers. Carrie also resembles Psycho’s Norman Bates in the way that her turn to murder is largely conditioned by her abusive treatment at the hands of a controlling mother. And that mother is even visually linked to Psycho in her final scene as she wields a large kitchen knife in a manner that again recalls the shower-scene knife attack of Psycho. In addition, the pig’s blood that is used to humiliate Carrie at her high school prom is collected from a pig that is killed in the stockyards of a meat processing facility called “Bates Packing,” recalling the Bates Motel of Psycho. Perhaps more importantly, the high school that lies at the center of the film is called “Bates High School,” though this information is delivered only fleetingly and would be easy to miss, suggesting that De Palma perhaps included it more for his own amusement than as an interpretive key to the film.

Inside the girls’ locker room.

Carrie is at times almost a conventional high-school flick, somewhat reminiscent of films such as the then-recent American Graffiti (1973), a film that otherwise serves as a sort of sweetly nostalgic opposite to the cruel vision of high school life presented in Carrie. As Lindsey puts it, “The film is in essence a melodramatic rendering of female puberty where the mousy outcast triumphs (if only temporarily) over popular, better-looking girls by beating them at their own game and winning the Prom Queen’s crown” (33–34). Meanwhile, the true horror of Carrie resides not in the supernatural powers wielded by protagonist Carrie White (Sissy Spacek), but in the ordinary day-to-day humiliation suffered by the shy, sensitive Carrie at the hands of her insane religious fanatic mother (Piper Laurie) and her fellow high-school girls, including Chris Hargensen (played by Nancy Allen, who would marry de Palma in 1979), Sue Snell (played by Amy Irving, who would marry Steven Spielberg in 1985), and Norma Watson (played by P. J. Soles, soon to gain horror-film fame in 1978 as one of Michael Myers’s victims in Halloween). John Travolta (on the brink of major stardom in 1977’s Saturday Night Fever)also plays a key role as Billy Nolan, Chris’s seriously smarmy boyfriend. Though Sue soon has second thoughts, these other characters spend most of the film executing a panoply of adolescent cruelties in order to torment Carrie, who functions as the quintessential outsider, largely thanks to the religiosity of her mother, which sets her apart from the other teens. Carrie, of course, also stands apart because she is gifted with the power of telekinesis, something that she only gradually realizes in the course of the film. This power seemingly makes her the bearer of the supernatural in the film, opposing the tendency toward demonic supernatural villains in the horror genre. However, indications are that Carrie’s powers are not really supernatural at all (except in the eyes of her crazed religious-fanatic mother, who regards her daughter as a witch once her powers are revealed), just out of the ordinary, placing the film more in the tradition of classic monster movies such as King Kong (1933), in which the monster is treated sympathetically as unique lonely individual suffering at the hands of the cruel mob of humanity.

In Carrie’s case, her role as “monster” is also complicated by the fact that, unlike Kong, she is so physically unimposing. Small, pretty, and seemingly frail, she does not in any way stand out as physically monstrous. But she does—despite her shy, quiet demeanor—epitomize the notion of the monster as outsider, as one who stands apart from the normal. Like any teenager, she is desperately trying to find her place in the world, though in her case this quest is made especially difficult by the fact that her mother furiously seeks to block Carrie’s entry into what Mrs. White sees as a sinful secular world, a fact that in turn marks Carrie as an outsider and as a target for her school’s meaner students. That she does, ultimately, turn out to be dangerous, even deadly, is what marks Carrie as a horror film, though the terms of the film clearly ask us to consider whether it is not, in fact, Mrs. White and the “normal” teens of the film who are the true monsters, with Carrie as the true victim, destabilizing the relationship between the normal and the monstrous in the way the best monster films so often have.

Carrie begins with a scene that appears to epitomize the normal, as a group of high-school girls, all in matching uniforms, play a game of volleyball during their gym class. The game then ends as Carrie haplessly misses a shot, while the attitudes of the other girls suggest that such athletic incompetence is par for the course for Carrie, thus immediately aligning her with all of those, of whatever gender, who have ever suffered embarrassment in gym class. The vehemence with which the other girls on her team berate Carrie for missing the shot (Chris angrily yells at her “you eat shit!”) perhaps seems a bit exaggerated, however, suggesting that something a bit more than ordinary teen experience is at work here. Indeed, a closer look shows that there is something out of kilter about this volleyball game. There are eight players on the court for the team nearest the camera, but only six (the usual number) on the far-side team (including Carrie), with two other girls sitting, without explanation, on the court just out of bounds. This imbalance creates an unfair situation, with Carrie (of course), on the short end.

The film then immediately cuts to the girls’ dressing room as the girls shower and dress after class. The tone also shifts from the mundane scene of the volleyball game to what is essentially presented as a sort of high school boy’s fantasy of what girls’ dressing rooms must be like. Indeed, the dressing room scene is so clearly couched in this way that what at first appears to be a classic case of the male gaze taking charge of the film becomes, on second thought, a sort of parodic commentary on the male gaze[1]. The room is filled with steam from the showers, giving the whole scene a dreamlike quality, which is enhanced by the fact that it is all presented slightly in slow motion and accompanied by slow, dreamy music. Various girls dress, brush their hair, and cavort nakedly as they dry off after their showers, though the actual amount of nudity shown in the scene is relatively small, almost teasing the audience.

The camera then moves in on the shower room itself, filled with a thick fog from the steamy shower. One girl is still in the shower, alone, and it soon becomes obvious that this girl is Carrie, her lone status in the shower suggesting the way in which she tends to stand apart from the other girls. The camera continues to tease us as Carrie sensuously soaps herself in slow motion, while carefully keeping her breasts covered—anticipating a much more openly erotic shower scene that would provide a key moment in Dressed to Kill a few years later. Then, as Carrie suggestively soaps her inner thighs, the scene suddenly changes as blood begins to flow from between her legs. The echo of the shower scene in Psycho, perhaps the first scene in a major American film in which flowing blood played a major role, is unmistakable. It will soon become clear that Carrie has merely started her period, but the shock with which she reacts to the blood indicates, surprisingly, that this is apparently her first period, even though she is a high school senior, suggesting that the strictures placed on her by her fanatical mother have somehow impeded her sexual development.

In fact, Carrie clearly does not even understand what is happening, a situation that is immediately worsened by the other girls, who quickly take advantage of Carrie’s suddenly increased vulnerability to heap abuse upon her. Apparently interpreting Carrie’s ignorance of her own body as a sign of the religious fanaticism that has already marked her as different from the other girls, those girls (with Chris taking a leading role) begin to taunt Carrie with tampons and menstrual pads, eventually driving her back into the shower throwing tampons and pads at her and chanting “Plug it up!” The gym teacher, Miss Collins (Betty Buckley), eventually comes to Carrie’s aid, pushing her way into the shower and then attempting to bring Carrie to her senses by slapping and shaking her. Though it is not entirely clear at the time, Carrie reacts to this violence with an unconscious thrust of her telekinetic powers, causing the lightbulb in the shower to explode, accompanied by the trademark shrieking violins from Psycho. Finally, realizing how upset Carrie is, Miss Collins attempts to comfort her more conventionally, but the point has been made: Carrie lives in an unfair and violent world.

Afterward, the clueless school principal, Mr. Morton (Stefan Gierasch), attempts to deal with the situation, but only makes things worse by continually calling Carrie “Cassie,” no matter how many times he is reminded of her correct name. Conventional authority figures are never of any help to Carrie in this film. Those naming mistakes, combined with his general clumsiness in handling the situation, upset Carrie enough that she uses her powers to send an ashtray flying off of the principal’s desk. They send her home early; walking home, she is taunted by a neighborhood kid on a bicycle who calls her “Creepy Carrie.” In response, she sends the kid’s bike crashing to the ground. It is clear that her powers are getting stronger and that she is gaining more control over them, though she still seems to use them unconsciously and only when she is emotionally upset.

And she has plenty of reason to be upset. After all the abuse she has suffered during the day, one might expect her to find relief in the safety of home. However, we have already seen her mother, Margaret White (Piper Laurie), canvassing the neighborhood for Christ, spreading the Gospel to Sue Snell’s mother (played by Priscilla Pointer, the real-life mother of Amy Irving), who clearly finds Mrs. White a creepy annoyance. So it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that, when Mrs. White gets home and receives a call from the school about Carrie’s period, she greets her daughter, not with charity, but by smashing her upside the head with a large religious book, then reading to her from the book, in particular from a chapter entitled “The Sins of Women.” She then regales her daughter with the old Christian theory that menstruation is a curse visited upon women because of the sinfulness of Eve, even though Carrie tearfully protests that she has done nothing sinful, leading her mother to accuse her of thinking lustful thoughts, then to lock her in a special closet that has been prepared for religious chastisement—and that clearly has been used often during Carrie’s upbringing.

Mrs. White is a single mother, and she is the only person in the world that Carrie can look to for support, which makes it all the more poignant that, instead of support, the unfortunate girl gets mostly abuse. Mrs. White is clearly driven by a powerful sense of shame with regard to her own feminine sexuality, and she has just as clearly attempted to convey this same sense to her daughter—though without providing her with any actual information about sex or sexuality. For her part, Carrie seems remarkably healthy and well-balanced, given her upbringing, but one also gets the sense that her sanity is fragile and that she might, with the proper stimulus, easily be pushed over the edge into an insanity that might make her budding telekinetic powers particularly dangerous. Indeed, from this very early point in the film forward, we are essentially waiting for the combustible combination of Carrie’s fragility and power to explode into deadly action.

The following scenes, set in Carrie’s high school, further establish the consistent level of rejection and abuse that she suffers every day at school. Someone (Chris?) has even written graffiti on the inside of the doors to the gym, reading “Carrie White Eats Shit.” Miss Collins seems to be Carrie’s only defender, using surprising language for a teacher when she excoriates her gym class for the “shitty” thing that they did to Carrie. She then puts the girls through their paces on the playing field as part of their punishment, until Chris balks, causing the gym teacher to slap her, hard, in the face. Shocked, Chris calls on the other girls to support her against the teacher, but they just sheepishly look away. Apparently, there is little solidarity among bullies. But this is also apparently a rather unusual school, almost a sort of alternate reality school, where things that might be shocking in a normal school—as when the “good” teacher curses and slaps students—seem to happen routinely.

Carrie, meanwhile, spends her time in the school library researching telekinesis in an attempt better to understand her unusual abilities, which, per her research, might not involve witchcraft or the supernatural at all, but might simply be the product of a little-understood biological mutation. In any case, that Carrie’s powers seem to have kicked in roughly at the onset of her first period suggests that they are related to physiological changes in her body. Meanwhile, this connection also suggests the way in which the rise of her powers serves in the film essentially as an allegorization of the changes undergone by all teenagers during the process of puberty. In any case, the difficulties of adolescence and the cruelty of high school, with which so many viewers can no doubt identify, provide a crucial context for all of the events of the film.

Thirty minutes into the film, the cataclysmic events with which Carrie ends have already been set in motion. Sue Snell, upset at the abuse heaped upon Carrie by her fellow students, decides to try to do her a favor by convincing her boyfriend, star jock Tommy Ross (William Katt), to take Carrie to the senior prom. What Sue does not know, however, is that this attempted generosity will ultimately lead to disaster, which becomes obvious as soon as Travolta’s Billy Nolan enters the film at this point. Nolan is a juvenile delinquent type, a meaner version of the Vinnie Barbarino character that Travolta had debuted on the Welcome Back, Kotter television series only a year earlier. Nolan also anticipates the delinquent character (Danny Zuko) whom Travolta would so famously play only two years later in Grease (1978), though Billy Nolan is decidedly less charming than Zuko.

The camera pans down to Chris’s breasts to indicate Billy’s male gaze.

Chris is a rebellious sort who is clearly drawn to Billy’s bad-boy image, but he is quickly given a very negative intonation when he slaps Chris during his very first scene, after she calls him a “stupid shit.” It will eventually become clear that Chris and Billy have a mutually abusive relationship (verbally and physically) and that each of them perhaps deserves the abuse that they receive from the other. After the slap, Chris asks Billy if he wants to get them killed after he nearly crashes the car in which they are riding, foreshadowing the moment late in the film when both of them will die in a fiery car crash caused by Carrie’s telekinetic powers after they try to run her down as she staggers down the road after the prom apocalypse that she has just instigated in the school gym.

Meanwhile, just as Sue had convinced Tommy to try to help Carrie, Chris convinces Billy to help her torment Carrie, using her sexual wiles to recruit him to the elaborate plan to collect pig’s blood and then dump it on Carrie as she takes center stage after her rigged election as the queen of the prom. This pig’s blood plot, of course, links back to the menstrual blood at the beginning of the film, making clear that Carrie’s entrance into puberty is the crucial motif that ties the entire film together. Meanwhile, Chris and Billy are made even more unlikeable by the fact that they and their confederates are shown actually killing a pig in order to drain its blood. The crucial role played by Carrie’s emerging sexuality—and by blood, menstrual or otherwise—in the film recalls Barbara Creed’s well-known argument that the prevalence of the “monstrous-feminine” in horror films (and in world folk cultures) is due to a fear of the power of the female reproductive body. Reading Carrie White as a version of the witch, Creed devotes an entire chapter of her book on the monstrous-feminine to Carrie, noting how the crucial role played by Carrie’s menstrual blood in the film is consonant with a long tradition of viewing menstrual blood as both abject and magically powerful. For Creed, the role played in the film by Carrie’s mother is also crucial to its portrayal of the monstrous and frightening character of the female body, because motherhood is obviously crucial to the role played by the female body. Meanwhile, Carrie, according to Creed,

“evokes both sympathy and horror because her evil deeds are associated with puberty and menarche. The monstrous-feminine is constructed as an abject figure because she threatens the symbolic order. The monstrous-feminine draws attention to the ‘frailty of the symbolic order’ through her evocation of the natural, animal order and its terrifying associations with the passage all human beings must inevitably take from birth through life to death” (83).

Carrie and Tommy are the queen and king of the prom.
The pig’s blood ruins Carrie’s greatest moment.

Carrie, of course, complicates the figuration of the monstrous-feminine by presenting us with a figure who is frighteningly powerful, but who is also a largely sympathetic figure (much more so than in King’s original novel). Carrie, in a sense, stands in for all awkward adolescents who have been bullied in high school, but also for all women who have been abused because their sexual and reproductive power stands as an intolerable challenge to the dominance of the patriarchal order. In this sense, the monstrous turn taken by Carrie at the prom does little to dilute the sympathetic position that the film has carefully built throughout its runtime. In fact, Carrie’s revenge against the bullies in her school, followed quickly by revenge against her abusive and fanatical mother, takes on a sort of fantasy aspect in which we are invited to identify with her action and thus to imagine having the power to take revenge on our own tormentors.

It should also be noted that much of the sympathetic position enjoyed by Carrie has to do with the power of Spacek’s performance in that role. As Peter Hutchings puts it, “It should be clear not just how dependent the effectiveness of the film is on Spacek’s artistry, but also how that performance holds together notions of the monstrous and of the victim in a way that critical-theoretical accounts of the horror have often found hard to grasp or understand” (168). Spacek, though she had had a major role in Terrence Malick’s Badlands (1973), was still largely unknown when cast in the lead role in Carrie, which was somewhat unusual in that Carrie was a relatively big-budget, major-studio-distributed film, though not one that the studio, United Artists, promoted as a prestige product in the mode of Rosemary’s Baby. But Spacek was no longer unknown after this film, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. She would win that award a few years later for Coal Miner’s Daughter (1981) and would subsequently be nominated for that award four more times, building a reputation as one of the finest American actors of her generation.

Piper Laurie’s performance as Mrs. White, which garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, also helped to make Carrie sympathetic by making clear how deranged the girl’s mother really is. Meanwhile, these two Oscar nominations contributed substantially to the growing respect that the horror genre was beginning to gain through the 1970s. It might also be argued that Carrie was historically important, along with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Black Christmas (both released in 1974), as a precursor to the slasher boom that was initiated in earnest with Halloween in 1978. Worland, for example, sees Carrie is “a forerunner of the slasher cycle in its focus on disruptive adolescent sexuality” (242).

Viewing Carrie as a precursor to the slasher boom also adds significance to the role played by Sue Snell, who, as the only major character who survives prom night, emerges as a forerunner of the Final Girl characters who became so central to the slasher subgenre, especially as that genre was analyzed by Carol Clover[2]. Sue, meanwhile, takes on even more importance as the central character in Carrie’s famous coda, which would become one of the film’s most discussed and most influential scenes. Here, Sue, broken and traumatized from events that she herself inadvertently helped to set in motion, is still resting at home in bed. Then suddenly we see her walking in a dreamlike scene to lay flowers on Carrie’s very odd grave, which uses a “For Sale” sign (on which someone has written “CARRIE WHITE BURNS IN HELL!”) as a grave marker. Then, as Sue kneels to place the flowers at the grave, Carrie’s hand, still covered in pig’s blood, thrusts upward from beneath the ground and grabs Sue’s arm[3]. Sue screams, and then jolts upright back in her bed, awakening from the nightmare.

The bloody-hand bonus scare at the end of the film.

This added-on bonus jump scare has been replicated in numerous subsequent films, perhaps most famously in the ending of Friday the 13th (1980). In Carrie, of course, this final moment also completes the carefully constructed structure of the film, forming a bookend with that early shower scene. Indeed, the final scene at Carrie’s grave is accompanied by a variation of the same soundtrack music that plays in the shower scene. The grave scene also has some of the same dreamlike quality as the shower scene—no doubt partly because, this time, it is literally a dream. Part of the dreamlike look of the grave scene is achieved by the fact that it, like the shower scene, plays out slightly in slow motion. Moreover, the entire grave scene was shot with actress Amy Irving moving through it backwards, then played in reverse to give her forward movements an eerie quality. This seemingly gratuitous scene, then, plays a key structural role in the film, demonstrating that De Palma was genuinely interested in creating a work of cinematic art, not merely in making of an exploitative horror film.

This artistry helped Carrie to stand apart from most other horror films of its time and was no doubt one reason, in addition to the impressive performances of Spacek and others, why the film was both a critical and a commercial success. There were, in fact, a number of reasons for this success. In the most extensive critical discussion of Carrie to date, Neil Mitchell, argues that Carrie was successful partly because it tapped so well into contemporary trends and concerns in American society and in American horror film as a whole. For Mitchell,

“Carrie White was a new ‘monster’ for the modern world – an adolescent girl, frightening to her peers, unsettling for the adult patriarchy and confusing to herself. Her tragic journey from self discovery to self destruction may ultimately be rendered in the aesthetics of Grand Guignol theatre and the supernatural, but Carrie White is a recognisably real ‘monstrous’ figure” (11).

Indeed, the “real” nature of Carrie White is crucial to Mitchell’s view of the film, which for him participates in an overall movement toward more realistic, more human, monsters in American horror film, a trend that he sees as beginning with Hitchcock’s Psycho:

“That Psycho was loosely based on the crimes of notorious American serial killer Ed Gein (latterly an inspiration for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), is an indicator that a shift towards human ‘monsters’, however fanciful or fantastical their actions, was in evidence a full decade before King sat down to write Carrie, and closer to twenty years before De Palma directed his adaptation” (18–19).

In addition, Mitchell notes the tendency of these human monsters to arise from trends within American society rather than from foreign sources or forces, suggesting the effect of an extended period of disruptions and crises in American society from roughly 1968 to 1976. But he also emphasizes that Carrie arises in important ways from the personal concerns and inclinations of its director, making the film the culmination of De Palma’s early career:

“Sin, voyeurism, guilt, lust, religion, vengeance, duplicity, callousness, mental instability, cruelty, violence, sexuality, sex and sexism course through De Palma’s films, both pre- and post-Carrie, but it is in Carrie that the widest expansion and assimilation of all of his styles, themes and character traits is to be found” (29).

That Carrie does address so many contemporary social issues is part of what makes it seem like such a political film, even though it is hard to pinpoint exactly where the film stands on most issues. Obviously, the film opposes fundamentalism religious fanaticism, especially when that fanaticism is intended to repress feminine sexuality. Indeed, the film can certainly be seen as delivering a feminist message (King certainly thought of his original novel in this way[4]), and Clover sees the film as complicating the notion of the “male gaze” that is so dear to film theorists. For Clover, Carrie suggests “the possibility that male viewers are quite prepared to identify not just with screen females, but with screen females in the horror-film world, screen females in fear and pain” (5). In addition, the film has a lot to say about the competitive culture of American high schools, serving in retrospect as a chilling commentary on the pressures that would ultimately produce a string of teenagers who have turned to mass murder in their own schools. Finally, the film’s critical treatment of virtually every official institution that appears in it leads Gregory Waller to see Carrie as a direct descendent of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) as a film that “offers a thorough-going critique of American institutions and values” (4).  

Carrie made Spacek a star and propelled De Palma to the front ranks of New Hollywood directors. It also helped to make Stephen King a budding star in the horror world, while the film itself itself became one of the most important and influential horror films of the 1970s, a particularly rich decade for American horror films[5]. Carrie touches on a number of issues that are of broad relevance to American society, especially with relation to gender and sexuality, but also with relation to the pressures of adolescence and the toxicity of high-school culture. That it can be read in a variety of ways with regard to these issues stands as a testament to the film’s artistry and to De Palma’s determination to make something more than a shocking exploitation film.


Clover, Carol J. Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Updated Edition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015.

Coykendall, Abigail Lynn. “Bodies Cinematic, Bodies Politic: The ‘Male’ Gaze and the ‘Female’ Gothic in De Palma’s Carrie.” Journal of Narrative Theory, Vol. 30, No. 3, Fall 2000, pp. 332-63.

Creed, Barbara. The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis. Routledge, 1993.

Hutchings, Peter. The Horror Film. London: Pearson/Longman, 2004.

Lindsey, Shelley Stamp. “Horror, Femininity, and Carrie’s Monstrous Puberty.” Journal of Film and Video, Vol. 43, No. 4, Winter 1991, pp. 33-44.

Mitchell, Neil. Carrie. Auteur, 2014.

Newman, Kim. Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s. Bloomsbury, 2011.

Phillips, Kendall R. Projected Fears: Horror Films and American Culture. Praeger, 2005.

Tucker, Robert C., ed. The Marx-Engels Reader. 2nd ed. W. W. Norton, 1978.

Waller, Gregory. “Introduction.” American Horrors: Essays on the Modern American Horror Film. Ed. Gregory A. Waller. University of Illinois Press, 1987, pp. 1–13.

Worland, Rick. The Horror Film: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 2007.


[1] See Coykendall for a discussion of the ways in which De Palma both employs and subverts the male gaze in Carrie, as part of a more general pattern of gender reversals.

[2] Note that perhaps the most famous of all Final Girls, Halloween’s Laurie Strode, was played by Jamie Lee Curtis, who also plays the Final Girl in Prom Night (1980), one of the slasher films that builds most directly on Carrie and its insight that prom night is an emotionally charged moment that lends itself well to horror.

[3] The hand that comes from beneath the ground is really Carrie’s, in the sense that Spacek insisted on being buried beneath the ground so she could do the scene herself, rather than using a stunt double.

[4] Lindsey, on the other hand, has seen the film very differently. For her, “Carrie is not about liberation from sexual repression, but about the failure of repression to contain the monstrous feminine” (40).

[5] In addition to the many films clearly influenced by Carrie, the filmhas been directly remade twice, including a major studio remake in 2013, though the original still remains the definitive version of the story.