Seminal motion picture was talk of the nation when it was released and helped launch the film careers of three major stars—Spacek, Irving and John Travolta—in addition to bringing the talents of director De Palma to the attention of everyone who loved a great horror movie.
It was also the first film based on a Stephen King novel, back before King was the blockbuster writer he is today. A big-budget movie, it went places with effects the little indie flicks at the time couldn't. An important film to say the least. But was it a great film? Just about. Not perfect, but nearly. It's not an "Omen," "Exorcist" or "Rosemary's Baby." Just about though. Spacek received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress while co-star Piper Lauire received one for Best Support Actress.
Spacek plays a tormented teenager who is struggling with teasing classmates at Bates High School (named after the "Psycho" character) and an overbearing, religious fanatic of a mother, played right on target by Laurie. After Carrie has her period in a shower at school, in front of all her taunting female peers (who throw tampons at her), her mother locks her in a closet as punishment. As a result of the incident, one of the girls (played by future De Palma girlfriend and frequent star Nancy Allen) is prevented from going to the prom and decides to get revenge with the help of her horny boyfriend, played by a young John Travolta.
What no one realizes is that Carrie is a powerful psychic who can kill with her thoughts. When a devastating prank is played on her during the senior prom, the shit really hits the fan. The prom scene is one of the best suspense scenes captured on film in the 1970s and De Palma exhibited a style for slow-motion camerawork and split screens that would become his trademark.
The film could have been a masterpiece, if not for the lame humor De Palma threw in. Bad humor is, sadly, another De Palma trademark, and it comes across as goofy and needless. But it's a minor flaw and doesn't prevent "Carrie" from being one of the best horror films of the 1970s.
As one of the first modern splatter films to focus on high school kids, "Carrie" would be often imitated. A sequel was released in 1999, with Irving reprising her original role as the nice girl at the high school.