Don't call her Cinderella. In Brian De Palma's successful adaptation of Stephen King's emotionally brutal Carrie (1976), the socially outcast high school girl (Sissy Spacek) is bullied at every turn: at school, where Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen) and the other girls abuse her for sucking at volleyball; and at home, where her domineering, hyper-religious mother (Piper Laurie) convinces Carrie that her first period is linked to a biblical blood curse. Her only apparent ally is Mrs. Collins (Betty Buckley), perhaps the world's most empathetic and proactive gym teacher, who finally steps in and calls the girls out on their nasty behavior. But more often than not, Carrie just can't catch a break...and when she does mount any kind of emotional defense at home, she's locked away in her "prayer closet".
Naturally, this kind of treatment can't last forever...but instead of a fairy godmother, Carrie's secret weapon is her budding telekinetic powers. We see early glimpses of her inner strength when Carrie is tormented in the locker room, not to mention when her case is brushed off by the principal (Stefan Gierasch) and during of several prayer closet punishments: glass breaks and an ashtray flips over, but nothing that couldn't be written off as a freaky coincidence. Things finally look up when one of her reformed tormentors (Amy Irving) convinces boyfriend Tommy (William Katt) to take Carrie to the upcoming prom: initially flabbergasted by his invitation, she finally ignores her mother's objections and decides to have a fun night out for once. Unfortunately, Chris decides to pull the mother of all pranks, and the resulting chaos remains one of horror's most iconic, enduring, and pivotal payoffs. Simply put, Carrie is a true masterclass in tension and release that's rarely been equaled during the last 40 years.
It's also home to several career firsts for De Palma and his cast and crew. Carrie was the first filmed Stephen King adaptation (appropriately enough, also his first published novel), with the first screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen (who would later pen the screenplays for It and The Tommyknockers). It also marks De Palma's first mainstream hit, as well as the first time he worked with Italian composer Pino Donaggio (following the death of Bernard Hermann a year earlier) and a budding young actor named John Travolta (who appears as Chris' obnoxious boyfriend, Billy). Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie also earned their first and second well-deserved Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively. Despite the statistics, Carrie remains enduring after four decades for its rock-solid structure, fantastic music and editing by Pino Donaggio and frequent De Palma collaborator Paul Hirsch (who won his own Oscar the following year for Star Wars), and the weight of King's original story.
Largely mistreated on home video until now, previous releases of Carrie included an MGM Special Edition DVD more than fifteen years ago, as well as a barebones 2008 Blu-ray that used the same faded source elements and left out all the bonus features. Shout Factory, by way of its Scream Factory imprint, has given Carrie the deluxe treatment it rightfully deserves with this new two-disc Collector's Edition: sourced from a newly-created 4K restoration of the film with a pile of exclusive cast and crew interviews---in addition to the older MGM extras, some of which feature the reclusive De Palma---it's a truly well-rounded release that fans will enjoy from top to bottom.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Shout Factory's consistently good 1080p transfer of Carrie is obviously a marked improvement over MGM's 2008 Blu-ray. It's all thanks to a brand new 4K master from the original camera negative; much like Shout's Transformers: The Movie Blu-ray, this is a new feather in the studio's cap. Image detail and textures are quite good---keeping in mind that Carrie's occasionally soft and diffused appearance falls perfectly in line with De Palma's later films from the era---with excellent color reproduction (the third-act prom sequence bursts with saturation without *ahem* bleeding) and little to no dirt and debris along the way. Natural film grain is evident from start to finish, with no signs of excessive noise reduction or other digital manipulation. Overall, it's deserving treatment of a film that some might assume could never look good, so I'd imagine that die-hard fans and newcomers alike should be pleasantly surprised.
DISCLAIMER: The promotional stills and screen captures on this page are decorative and do not represent the title under review.
Both audio options (a tasteful English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and the original 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mix) sound as good as expected, with the former serving up a much more dynamic and immersive atmosphere during key moments. Dialogue is very clear from start to finish, while channel separation is quite noticeable at times and the terrific score by Pino Donaggio (a long-time contributor to De Palma's films) is very strong and occasionally spills into the rear channels. Purists might favor the two-channel mix, yet I think Carrie's final 30 minutes all but demand the extra four. Optional English subtitles have been included during the main feature only.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
The interface is presented in Shout's typical no-frills style and features smooth, simple navigation and the bare minimum of pre-menu distractions. Separate options are provided for chapter selection, subtitle setup, and additional bonus features. This release is packaged in a dual-hubbed keepcase with stylish, attractive reversible cover artwork featuring new and vintage artwork promoting the film, plus a matching slipcover for good measure.
Above: Stare at the pictures long enough and you might not even notice the Jeopardy! font.
Bonus Features Disc 1
(sorely lacking an audio commentary) includes two small nuggets: the film's spoiler-heavy Theatrical Trailer
(2 minutes) and a few Trailers
(4 minutes total) for various remakes of the film, which look like the most awful movies in existence (seriously, I could barely get through these things). Luckily, the second disc is much better.
Disc 2 offers six brand new cast and crew interviews, along with other old and new goodies. "More Acting Carrie" (20 minutes) continues an older MGM interview session (also included) and features Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley, William Katt, Piper Laurie, Edie McClurg and P.J. Soles. "Writing Carrie" (29 minutes) chats with screenwriter Lawrence Cohen, who talks about the rules of adaptation and different versions of King's original story. "Cutting Carrie" (25 minutes) sits down with editor Paul Hirsch, who talks about his working relationship with De Palma. "Shooting Carrie" (15 minutes) catches up with DP Mario Tosi, who also details working with the director and his careful uses of lighting on the film. "Casting Carrie" (16 minutes) features casting director Harriet B. Helberg and lots of interesting "what could have been" moments. Finally, "Bucket of Blood" (24 minutes) is another interview with composer and long-time De Palma collaborator Pino Donaggio (speaking in Italian with subtitles), who talks about influences and legends like Bernard Hermann and his relationship with De Palma and editor Paul Hirsch.
Also new and exclusive to this disc is an episode of "Horror's Hallowed Grounds" (11 minutes), a hunt for Carrie's most familiar locations hosted by Sean Clark. It's lightweight but enjoyable fare...and surprisingly enough, a few of these familiar places look identical---or at least extremely similar---to those seen in the film 40 years ago.
Everything else on Disc 2 is ported over from the 2001 MGM Special Edition DVD (most of which weren't included on the studio's 2008 Blu-ray) including the "Acting Carrie" and "Visualizing Carrie" interview sessions (with Sissy Spacek, Amy Irving, Betty Buckley, Nancy Allen, Jack Fisk, William Katt, Piper Laurie, Priscilla Pointer, P.J. Soles, Brian De Palma, Lawrence D. Cohen, and Paul Hirsch), a "Carrie the Musical" featurette, a few vintage TV & Radio Spots, a Still Gallery (with behind-the-scenes photos, posters, and lobby cards), and the "Stephen King and the Evolution of Carrie" text gallery featuring extensive text notes by noted DVD producer Laurent Bouzereau.
Overall, this is a great collection of bonus features and, though visually lacking and a bit repetitive, there's absolutely no shortage of first-hand information here. Unfortunately, no optional English subtitles are included.
Brian De Palma's Carrie is, in many ways, a landmark horror film that shows its age but is still as enjoyable as ever, thanks to the fantastic lead performances by Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, as well as a memorable score and great editing by frequent De Palma collaborators Pino Donaggio and Paul Hirsch. Mario Tosi's cinematography also deserves special mention, giving Carrie a mixture of hazy, dream-like visuals peppered by moments of color-soaked dread that undoubtedly influenced the director's future films. These visuals are showcased beautifully on Scream Factory's new Collector's Edition, which serves up a superlative 1080p transfer sourced from their recent 4K restoration, as well as plenty of new extras piled on top of all the old ones. It's a truly definitive release for this genre classic and, along with Raising Cain, another treat for De Palma fans this Halloween. Very Highly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.