Carrie ★★★★

Had been way too long since I got to a De Palma so I took advantage of a screening tonight and crossed off a big horror blindspot. All I could think about watching this is what a magic trick Sissy Spacek's screen presence is, almost like getting to cast an alien life form for your movie. So unusual in appearance and mannerisms but also so, so vulnerable and childlike and unsettling. Carrie is perhaps the best use of her talents I've seen with the main competition being Altman's 3 Women just one year later.

Here she plays what would have been a stock shy high school girl in the hands of another performer and elevates it to a perfectly tortured and paranoid presence, scarred by her mother's cruel religious zealotry and creepily calm in her exploration of telekinesis. We barrel towards an inevitable climax on prom night and abruptly slow to a crawl. It's a terrific sequence that gets to be both an earnest, romantic unveiling of Carrie to her classmates and also a suspense setpiece since we know the reversal is coming. This duality even plays out within a single shot circling Carrie and date, at first a swooning moment of magic that then speeds up and spirals out of control to become a disorienting warning of what's to come. There's inescapable goofiness in the bloodshed that follows but De Palma knows to heighten the filmmaking to match it and go out with a series of stylistic exclamation points.