Carrie – Stranger Age
Brian De Palma’s most famous film, Carrie (1977) is out again on September the 18th. Giving us the occasion to talk about teenage rampage, inspiring for many genres on big or little screens.
by Paola Dicelli
Reading time 4 min.
The iconic prom, kind of gunfight at the O.K. corral,
the movie’s climax.
De Palma’s Carrie White is a perfect example. Introvert, bad at sport and living by her church mouse mother. She is seventeen and bullied by her classmates. The only thing she got is her power : telekinesis. Power she will use to destroy, worn down by her schoolmates. The iconic prom, kind of gunfight at the O.K. corral, being the movie’s climax. But is she a bloody murderer like Jack the ripper ? Of course not, De Palma doesn’t judge his protagonists. Showing first their disadvantage, their abnormality toward others, their mitigating factors. Even if Carrie burned alive half of her high school, stabbed her mother, electrocuted a teacher, they still throw tampons and pig blood to her face. It is more revenge than murder. Largely deserved according to Carrie, according to the viewer.
You can find a similar deal between murderer and audience in the Friday the 13th franchise, premiered in 1980, three years after Carrie. The film focuses on Jason Voorhees, a young deformed boy willing to avenge his mother, who has been decapitated trying to revenge her son she believed was dead, killed by instructors who’d rather mate than watch over children. The hunt of teenagers in summer camp, the innovative massacres (Jason never gets into a bloodthirsty routine) come from unfortunate events. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, the victims get killed despite their innocence. Jason simply murders a group of person resembling the one that murdered his mother. During the prom, in her fury, Carrie acts the same way, withdrawing individuality to her victims to murder a crowd. A process you can find in Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, in which Alex, students scapegoat, runs a mass shooting, firing, like in a video game, on a large group representing the bullies, indiscriminately. In horror films, the moral pact between the audience and the murderer leads to catharsis, we hope the young viewer will expel their urges by watching the movie. In the independent Gus Van Sant movie, the audience’s awkward posture is on trial. This radical approach earned him the Golden Palm in Cannes 2003.
Fortunately, Eleven in the Netflix series Stranger Things absolves all the sins made by teenage killers. She is a better version of Carrie, Jason and Alex. But their destiny seems similar at first. Baby, Eleven was kidnapped and raised in a lab to be tested over her telekinesis (such as Carrie). But she miraculously escapes and been taken care of by a group of teenagers which lost a friend, instead of becoming a serial-killer. When she uses her powers, she does it wis kindness – to separate two people fighting for instance. Eleven rarely kills. Why ? Her soul is saved by her friendship with Mike, Lucas or Dustin. It is restful Steven Spielberg meeting with Friday the 13th. A meeting that could have prevented Carrie, Jason or Alex to lose it : a good old friend who wishes you the best.