"Devil's Advocates: Carrie" Book Review
Written by Neil Mitchell
2013, 100 pages, Non-Fiction
Released on October 10th, 2013
Being a full-time retail drone, film reviewer person, magazine columnist and occasional pen-for-hire as I am, I find myself with less and less time for reading. It's a bad habit, I know. That said, I will always make the time for Devil's Advocates – a line of film books that has become my absolute favourite in film criticism literature. So when the latest three releases in the series arrived upon my bookshelf, I immediately delved right in. Even better that they happened to concern three of the greatest horror films of all time – Carrie, The Thing and The Silence of the Lambs. I devoured all three of them in less than a week. First up – the always traumatic and heartbreaking Carrie.
With Kimberly Peirce's remake currently giving folks cause to return to Stephen King's novel and the de Palma classic of the same name, writer and editor Neil Mitchell opens up the latter for discussion with his Devil's Advocates entry.
Carrie follows the standard Devil's Advocate format, being a history, making-of and critical evaluation, all at once. Everything from the television movie starring Angela Bettis (I'll be honest – I didn't even know that existed) and awful sequel (I wish I didn't know that one existed) is covered in great deal, with particular emphasis upon the story and de Palma's direction. With the remake only very recently upon us, Mitchell isn't able to touch upon that particular film's intricacies (or lack thereof) but, let's face it, we're not missing out on much. Prefer the remake? Yes, we're all going to laugh at you.
The film is aged enough that a lot of this is old information, but Mitchell conveys it in a manner that is never dull or workmanlike. I was new to King's tale of the real-life Carrie White upon whom he had based his title character, but even if you didn't know, it bears repeating. There's also the entertaining story of its casting, which was done in tandem with Star Wars: A New Hope. There's an alternate universe out there in which Carrie was played by Princess Leia. A part of me wishes he could have seen that. Anyway, even if much of it is old information, these books are so short and sweet that they're over before you know it. At 100 pages, Carrie is one of the most slender of their books yet, but it's packed with information, photographs and intelligent discussion.
As Sissy Spacek's doe eyes bulge out from the cover, so the book is scattered with pictures from the film, depicting its most iconic moments. Spacek is so expressive, de Palma's film so iconic that it brought the memories just flooding back at every page. John Travolta, you bastard. I had recently re-watched Carrie before reading Mitchell's book, but I was still left with an overwhelming urge to watch it all over again. It's completely inevitable, but there's always that sneaking hope that this time Sue Snell will manage to alert the teachers... that the bucket of blood will miss Carrie and poor Tommy... that it could, please, just this once, be averted...
Alas, no. Viewing nearly forty years later, Carrie as tragic and affecting as ever. This book is a great discussion as to why that might be.