Stephen King started on the novel after feeling piqued by the criticism that he couldn't write about women. Naturally his very male imagination took him to a girls' shower room. Brian De Palma's too – and the opening scene of his adaptation is pretty heavy on the male gaze. Carrie is a victim of high school bullying, and therefore someone the creators sympathise with, and want the audience to sympathise with as well. She's a real, rounded character as a result. But then King also makes her the vessel for otherworldly dangerous powers – a female threat born of festering resentment and the psychological disease created by patriarchal religion. As such she is the manifestation of a peculiar male sense of guilt about male desire, and how it locks women up in the impossibility of being both a madonna and a whore. The stress that creates leads to a bloodbath.

De Palma links Carrie's menstruation with the development of her telekinetic powers – female sexuality is a threat. But unlike a lot of subsequent slasher films, where that sexuality is punished, King clearly wanted repression to be the dangerous choice, leading to unnatural abilities and the will to use them for murder. However, that softcore shower scene at the beginning of the film feels like a trap for the audience, still. It's dangerous territory for prying eyes to enter. A less voyeuristic director than De Palma would have abandoned the slowmo and soft focus and made the scene look real, not fraught with sexual tension. The problem isn't sex but Carrie's ignorance, but De Palma muddies the waters (sorry).

Sissy Spacek is magnificent in the role – spending much of the first half of the film looking like an alien, before being transformed Cinderella-style into a real princess. De Palma has some fun turning her house into a gothic ruin and her mother into a witch. He is less successful when it comes to the horror of the prom, where he starts deploying outré tricks like splitscreen to try to convey the sense of confusion, which now look dated. But the mood of the final mother-daughter confrontation is well-built, and the shock twist in the last scene is justly famous.

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