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Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1975) is an exploitation film, but not a pure exploitation film.

陈年•佳酿
Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1975) is an exploitation film, but not a pure exploitation film. At the time, it was popular and won a huge box office by $33,800,000 with a relatively low budget by $1,800,000 according to Box Office Mojo, because it has exploiting elements such as horror, slasher, religion, revenge, nudity and sex references. However, it lasts its impact until now merely because it has told a typical teen story about the adolescent angst, alienation, discrimination, humiliation, sex education and the problems from family, which are all still relatable to the contemporary teenagers.


1. Why is Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1975) regarded as an exploitation film?
The poster and the trailer of Carrie are both noticeable and strange. They both highlight the provoking slogan that is ‘If you have a taste for terror, you have a date with Carrie (Sissy Spacek). Filmmakers exploited such material in their promotional campaigns, moving beyond typical film trailers and posters...
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Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1975) is an exploitation film, but not a pure exploitation film. At the time, it was popular and won a huge box office by $33,800,000 with a relatively low budget by $1,800,000 according to Box Office Mojo, because it has exploiting elements such as horror, slasher, religion, revenge, nudity and sex references. However, it lasts its impact until now merely because it has told a typical teen story about the adolescent angst, alienation, discrimination, humiliation, sex education and the problems from family, which are all still relatable to the contemporary teenagers.


1. Why is Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1975) regarded as an exploitation film?
The poster and the trailer of Carrie are both noticeable and strange. They both highlight the provoking slogan that is ‘If you have a taste for terror, you have a date with Carrie (Sissy Spacek). Filmmakers exploited such material in their promotional campaigns, moving beyond typical film trailers and posters (Mathijs & Sexton 2012). The slogan advises male audience who has a taste for terror and if he is the one of the popular guys at school will have a date with Carrie. And another provoking slogan below that is ‘If only they knew she had the power’. Carrie has the supernatural power “Telekinesis” has been pointed out in the trailer. The slogan advises female audience that Carrie is a bullied girl at school, but she has her own power. To some degree, when female youth audience see this, they would feel empowered by Carrie. Targeting young female theatre goers was a key distribution strategy (Nowell 2011). Specifically, those young female theatre goers who have a “bad taste” of watching slasher films. The trailer ends up with a fully red bloody picture with Carrie’s scary staring. And the right-side picture of Carrie on the poster is entirely covered by blood. They both illustrate that Carrie is a slasher film. Richard Nowell (2011) argues that ‘early teen slasher films that were marketable and attractive to female youth’.

Carrie as a horror, it has the typical 60s-70s horror films’ sound effect which is the ‘Ging Ging’ a very jarring and thrilling sound since it’s used in Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960). However, Carrie was not like any other contemporaneous horror films, because it was set in 1970s an American high school. It let itself have a niche market which was a teenager-pitched marketing campaign. What is more, Carrie has a very unique horror element. The story of Carrie can be divided into two storylines. One is Carrie (Sissy Spacek) gets abused by her mom (Piper Laurie) at the creepy home, and the another one is Carrie gets humiliated by her classmates at the bright campus. All the scenes at Carrie’s home with her mom have the very unique horror element which is the religious horror, whereas all the scenes at the campus before the Carrie’s final massacre at the prom have no obvious horror element at all. Religious horror films often combine elements of supernatural power into the plot. When Carrie’s mom sees Carrie has the supernatural power “Telekinesis”, she thinks Carrie is a witch and got the Satan’s power. The darkness of religion as a horror element had been exploited into Carrie.

For those audience who had never watched the trailer of Carrie before they watched the whole film would be always amazed by the opening scene in the bathroom, which is the opening gymnasium shower sequence where the slow motion long shot with the soft background music all building up a harmonious atmosphere. The opening scene may make the audience consider this film is technically going to come across as an art house film. For those audience who had watched the trailer before would not expect to see such an artistic scene. In a word, the opening scene is beyond audiences’ expectations. However, within the entire scene, all the girls including Carrie are either naked or half naked. Nudist film "nudie-cutie" is a subgenre of exploitation films (Lewis, J., 2002). There is a more necessary reason why Brian De Palma had to put the sequence over there at the beginning of the whole film, which will be further articulated in the second part of the essay.

The trailer of Carrie seems giving away everything, but in fact the ending of the film is still much beyond audiences’ expectations. From one point of view, Carrie can be also regarded as a cult film. Audiences believed that the conventional teen films would always end up with a happy ending or at least a partly positive ending, while Carrie has such a nihilistic ending that everyone died at the end except Sue but she was in the midst of the endless fear. Compared with any other teen films shown in the course which also have the cruel endings such as Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955), Badlands (Terrence Malick, 1976) and Heathers (Michael Lehmann, 1988). Although Plato (Sal Mineo) in Rebel Without a Cause got shot dead, Jim Stark (James Dean) and Judy (Natalie Wood) survived and redeemed themselves. Similarly, in Badlands Kit (Martin Sheen) was sentenced to die in the electric chair, but Holly (Sissy Spacek) got off with probation and later married the son of the lawyer who defended her. And in Heathers J.D. (Christian Slater) bombed himself to death, but Veronica (Winona Ryder) chose to live and she said that she just got back from hell. All the three films ended in tragedy someone either died or got killed, but the other protagonists (One or two) were alive and more or less redeemed at the end. That is why a lot of audiences were so craving to see a plot twist in Carrie when Carrie’s mom is hugging corrupted Carrie and soothing her with warmth where Carrie might be able to find a way to redeem herself. But at the end when that hand comes out of the grave, everyone is totally freaked out and feeling disappointed for Carrie. Robin Wood (1986, p. 9) says that Carrie is the dominant American horror films of the 1970s, a genre called ‘the most important of all’ of that era and ‘perhaps the most progressive, even in its overt nihilism’.
Carrie is regarded as an exploitation film because it has its niche marketing strategy, the style of mix various exploiting elements (Slasher, religious Horror, nudist film), the unexpected contents and the nihilistic ending.


2. Why is Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1975) also regarded as a typical teen film instead of a pure exploitation film?
There is nowhere better exemplified than in the opening bathroom scene that suggests the whole film is actually going to talk about female youth’s body and sex. Audiences can see those naked or half naked girls how energetic and confident they are when they face their nakedness. On the contrary, Carrie (Sissy Spacek) is taking a shower alone in the corner and cautiously scrubbing her body. Sissy Spacek asked Brian De Palma how he wanted her to react when Carrie first time realizes that she is bleeding in the showers and Brian De Palma told her "It's like you've been hit by a truck." Here it connotes that Carrie does not know about sex at all. This is the fundamental reason why Carrie is alienated and humiliated by her classmates. Why does Carrie have no knowledge about sex? It’s because her teachers did not give her a proper sex education and helpful guide. Furthermore, Carrie’s mom (Piper Laurie) was misleading her into completely wrong sexual cognition. Carrie had been told by her mom that intercourse is a sin and menstruation is a curse, and her mom was trying hard to prevent her from going out with any boys. According to a report about sex education in USA: Approval of sex education in schools has been growing since the 1960s. Perhaps reflecting that increased approval, the proportion of high school students taking sex education courses in general and sex education courses that discussed birth control in particular has increased since the mid-1970s (Smith, T.W. 1990, p.418). It states that in 1970s sex education on youth was just carrying out. The sexual liberation activists were able to succeed by riding a wave of activism that swept through college campuses throughout the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s (Morrow, K. 2012, p.15). In Carrie Chris (Nancy Allen) and Bill (John Travolta) both as high school students acted very open to sex such as having a sexual intercourse in a car.

By having such a domineering and religiously zealous mother and being so alien to "normal life" things made Carrie a very easy target, and her super-passive personality caused by her mother made her an ideal punching bag even for more sympathetic characters such as Sue. Sue felt guilty for throwing tampons at Carrie, so she wanted to make it up to her by having her boyfriend, one of the most popular guys at the school, take Carrie to the prom and show her a good time. Why was Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) laughing at Carrie after she got drenched in blood? Several of her peers did begin laughing. Carrie's mother had previously planted a seed in her mind the idea that "they are all gonna laugh at you." What is occurring is a mixture of what her mother has threatened and promised will indeed happen, her worst fears, her imagination, her paranoia, and everything else." Brian De Palma's explanation extends to why other characters, who would be unlikely to laugh in such a situation, are also shown laughing there. The "actual" reactions of most people at the prom are most likely the looks of shock and dismay they express immediately after the blood has been spilled, while the sequence is still in slow motion. The truth is Carrie didn’t see Miss Collins laughing at her. Instead, she became a psycho who had the “persecutory delusions” there. Freeman and Garety (2004) suggest that emotions may play a role in the formation and maintenance of persecutory delusions. Carrie’s emotion of anger had reached its climax brought her with the persecutory delusions that she started to imagine everyone indeed was laughing at her and about to hurt her. When Carrie was released in 1976, critic Pauline Kael was quick to point to Brian De Palma as the owner of “the wickedest baroque sensibility in American movies.” The Washington Post backed her up by calling the film, “The Psycho of the present generation.”

When Carrie’s mom said “I can see your dirty pillows” to Carrie. Carrie asserted “Breasts, they are called breasts, and every woman has them”. She refused to obey to her mother's orders, and resolutely made her own choice to go to the prom with Tommy (William Katt). Here audiences can see a teenage girl has grown up as a woman.
Carrie is inherently a teen film about a young girl’s growth confronted with improper parent, classmates and all the teen physical and mental issues. It lasts its impact until now because the contemporary teenagers can still find it’s relatable. Different ages, but same teen issues.


Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1975) was the first Stephen King novel adapted into a movie. King even likes this version better than his own novel; he says it's "much better than the book." In a March 20, 2010 interview, King said although Carrie is dated now, it was a "good movie." Exploitation films can also be good films; they are the non-mainstream commercial films by blending with the various exploiting elements. Their essence is to transcend the audience's expectations of the genre films. In Carrie, the audience will never ever forget Carrie’s bloody hand reaches out from the grave, only because it’s transcendent.


Reference:
Kakmi, D., 2000. Myth and Magic in De Palma’s Carrie. Senses of Cinema, Februar.
Lehmann, H., 2017. Affektpoetiken des New Hollywood: Suspense, Paranoia und Melancholie (Vol. 2). Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG.
Lewis, J., 2002. Hollywood V. Hard Core: How the struggle over censorship created the modern film industry. NYU Press.
Mathijs, E. and Sexton, J., 2012. Exploitation and B Movies. Cult Cinema: An Introduction, pp.143-154.
Mitchell, N., 2014. Carrie. Columbia University Press.
Morrow, K. 2012, Sex and the student body: Knowledge, equality, and the sexual revolution, 1960 to 1973, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Nowell, R., 2011. " There's More Than One Way to Lose Your Heart": the American film industry, early teen slasher films, and female youth. Cinema Journal, 51(1), pp.115-140.
Rhodes, J. (2006) “Paranoia: The Psychology of Persecutory Delusions Daniel Freeman and Philippa Garety Hove: Psychology Press, 2004. pp. 208. £24.95 (hb). ISBN: 1-84169-522-X -,” Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy. Cambridge University Press, 34(4), pp. 511–511. doi: 10.1017/S1352465806233265.
Smith, T.W., 1990. A report: The sexual revolution?. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 54(3), pp.415-435.
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