A few years ago, MGM made one of the silliest decisions of recent cinematic history. Why not revitalize "Carrie" for a new generation? The final product was a firm answer why "Carrie 2: The Rage" was not a good idea in the first place - it paled severely in comparison to Brian Depalma's mildly entertaining, but rather overrrated, original.
"Carrie" stars Sissy Spacek as the title character, an outcast who gets verbally and physically abused by the other children at school - then finds herself coming home to face an equally abusive, fanatically religious mother (Piper Laurie). The movie mainly revolves around the ways that some of Carrie's classmates (including an early John Travolta) push her over the edge at the school's prom.
Little do they know that Carrie has telekenetic powers and when they make her angry - look out. The prom sequence has become one of the more famous in horror film history, but the film leading up to that doesn't provide anything much in the way of thrills. Many of the scenes simply revolve around Carrie's classmates goofing around. The best sequences are the loopy confrontations between Carrie and her mother. The two best performances in the picture, watching the two face off against one another is entertaining.
Again, those two characters are the only ones that are developed very well. The rest of the teens are simply one-dimensional characters, with little interesting about them. The film is livened by Depalma's touches, though. Interesting camerawork and some other stylistic touches (the split-screen at the prom seemed like a bit much, though) added to what power the film has. It's not as scary now as it probably was when the film was first released, but it still has some positive features. With this new special edition DVD, MGM has not really made leaps with the presentation quality, but has provides some stellar new features.
VIDEO: "Carrie" is presented here with a new 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. If this is a new effort, I must say that I'd hate to see what the old non-anamorphic edition looked like. Sharpness and detail are definitely lacking throughout nearly the entire picture as many scenes either look suprisingly soft and even occasionally hazy. Darker sequences appear murky and undefined. Overall, although the picture is only 25 years old, it looks older than that here.
Aside from the softness in the image, there are several other flaws that are visible throughout the movie. Print flaws are the main problem, as speckles, marks, scratches are visible in mild and even heavier amounts at various points throughout the picture. Several scenes also appeared mildly grainy. Pixelation is noticable on a handful of occasions during the picture, as well. Some minor edge enhancement is also visible, but it's about the least of the problems on display here.
Colors looked decent throughout the movie, usually appearing somewhat faded, but otherwise looking average. Flesh tones seemed largely accurate and natural, but overall, "Carrie" looks like nobody's taken very good care of her during all these years since she was first in theaters. A mediocre presentation from MGM, who should have realized that the picture is in need of restoration.
SOUND: "Carrie" is offered in Dolby Digital 5.1. For a movie of its age, the surround-sound presentation is actually pretty enjoyable. The sequences where Carrie uses her powers use the surrounds quite nicely for some shock sound effects and surrounds come in well for the occasional ambient sounds. Audio quality was fine for a movie of the film's age - both the creepy score and sound effects as well as dialogue came through with respectable clarity and didn't sound thin or edgy. The original mono is also included.
MENUS:: MGM has provided fantastic animated menus for several of their recent major efforts. The menus for "Silence of the Lambs" were a terrific and eerie introduction to the movie, as are the menus for this edition of "Carrie". The mixture of sound clips from the movie in the background of the main menu is an especially nice touch.
Acting Carrie: This is a terrific 43 minute documentary that provides interviews with many members of the cast as well as the crew, including both director Brian De Palma and actress Sissy Spacek. The participants are extremely enthusiastic and entertaining as they provide memories of what it was like to be in this picture that, in many cases, launched their careers. Although this is called "Acting Carrie", it's actually also a very strong look at the production itself, moving from casting to production to reaction of the movie. Very insightful and informative, as well as occasionally funny.
Visualizing Carrie: This is a 40 minute documentary that mainly focuses on production issues and obstacles that came up during filming. One of the most interesting pieces of this documentary is the discussion of a "rain of stones" sequence that was going to happen, but had to be lost from the film because of technical issues. The documentary also touches on Depalma's vision of the story and the changes between the screenplay and the novel. A very insightful and informative piece.
Also: A 6 minute featurette on "Carrie: The Musical"(which must have been scarier than anything in the film itself); a 6 minute animated photo gallery; the original theatrical trailer and also, wonderfully extensive text notes by DVD producer Laurent Bouzereau about the evolution from novel to screen.
Final Thoughts: I still find bits and pieces of "Carrie" entertaining, but I've never been a strong fan of the overall movie itself. MGM's new special edition DVD provides some really great supplemental features, but the film itself is in need of some restoration. Still, fans should enjoy this nicely priced new edition.
The Film ** 1/2
Video 75/C = (300/400 possible points)
Audio: 80/B- = (320/400 possible points)
Extras: 84/B = (252/300 possible points)
Menus: 85/B = (170/200 possible points)
Value: 84/B = (252/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: ** 1/2
DVD GRADE: B-