Watched Carrie last night.  It came well-recommended by reviewers.  Wow, what a crappy movie.  It served to reinforce my theory that cinema is experiencing a renaissance after a drastic slump in quality during the 70s and 80s.  It’s awfullness included, but was not limited to:

  • A cast of utterly two-dimensional, charicatured, undeveloped supporting actors.  Sissy Spacek is forced to carry the film almost single-handedly, with Piper Laurie as her nutzo mother being the only other character with even a hint of depth.
  • Wretched production values.  Particularly egregious are the scene in which the “rain” is clearly only coming down in a thin sheet directly in front of the camera; and the phys-ed scene featuring the worst use of a split-focus lens ever.  In the latter they manage to make it look as if the gym teacher, who is standing several feet in front of her class, is in fact addressing them from some  parallel universe.
  • One of the most gratuitous nudie scenes I’ve ever seen occurs right at the beginning of the film.  I felt sleazy as the camera panned slowly, leeringly across the girl’s locker room after a volleyball game.  I can just hear de Palma: “Now, in this scene I need you to make sure you position your breasts directly in front of the camera as you walk past it.  It’ll really add to the *cough*drama of the scene.”
  • Godawful slow pacing.  I’m all for slow pacing, mind you.  I watch movies that put others straight to sleep.  But could someone please explain the importance of showing the girls’ entire excercise routine?  Set to goofy music, no less?   And I think it should be obvious to all but the slowest viewers, by the third time the camera pans in slow motion from Chris’s hand, to the rope, to the bucket of pig’s blood in the rafters, that there is some kind of cause-and-effect relationship between these objects, and that something bad is going to happen when she pulls the rope.
  • Stupid camera tricks, like the kaleidoscope-O-vision used to indicate Carrie’s embarrassment or something.
  • Incongrous attempts at “humor”‘ – what the hell were they thinking with the tuxedo scene?!  And why does the dialogue suddenly shift into high-speed Chipmunk Mode for a few lines?!!!
  • That Chris, she’s one talented girl.  She can say your name while she’s going down on you – with perfect pronunciation!
  • An incredibly stupid and pointless “twist” ending.

There were a lot of terrific films from the 30s through the 50s, and even into the 60s.   After that, something changed.  I can’t think of many movies worth remembering after that until sometime in the 90s.  Maybe it’s my imagination, but it seems like the movies went through a very formulaic phase in the 70s and 80s.  Characters were cardboard cutouts, there was little sign of nuance or subtlety, and production values were shoddy.  Every (R-rated) film seemed to have it’s obligatory skin scene and mandatory comic relief, even if they seemed completely out of place and contrived. 

Compare that to now, when even the schlockiest of the big genre movies has high production values, when despite the barkings of moral watchdogs movies seem less likely to have sex or nudity unless it’s actually called for, and where smart, quirky films like Garden State and I Heart Huckabees have nationwide releases. It’s a good time to be a movie buff.

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  1. I thought…

    Carrie sucked too… although I do think that there were a decent number of good movies in the 70’s and 80’s… Like Amadeus, Gandhi, Bladerunner, Aliens, Terminator, Platoon, The Last Temptation of Christ, Network, A Clockwork Orange, and some others…
    80’s was better than the Seventies in my book… although I still hold Network as one of my top 5 films…

    of course, the exceptions probably confirm the rule… also note that the schlockiness of these decades also helped to push to create independent type films.. so we are blessed now due to the curse of before…

    1. Re: I thought…

      screw you guys.

      1. Re: I thought…

        You mean you don’t suck?
        I bet I could find contradictory evidence if I made inquiries…

        and what’s wrong with sucking.. 😉

        1. Re: I thought…

          well that guy downn there says I was a social event.


          -back to the nunnery.

  2. “Carrie” was more of a social event than a film. (A “film” being a movie of quality, whereas a “movie” is just a motion picture.)

    Yes, the cinematography, acting, and direction are clearly of a lower quality than many earlier movies.

    Big movies of the time included Carrie, Jaws, Willard, Soylent Green, Logan’s Run, and Rollerball. All have aged poorly, especially when compared to classics such as The Maltese Falcon and All About Eve.

  3. Ah, the Late 60’s to mid-70’s cinema

    Wow, what a lot of schlocky crapola was made then. I’m really turned off by the ultra-low production values — the gritty, cheapy feel — of most flicks from that era. It’s like everything was made like a TV movie: washed-out and generally horrid lighting, shaky and bizarre camera work, pointless edits and inserts, etc. And many of these movies are granted Groundbreaking Filmaking status. Say, Taxi Driver, for example. Heard loads forever about that one. Suffers from all the above gaffs, and while ground-breaking for it’s time (with the violence, strains of underage lust and violence), it just doesn’t hold up. Now, say, Casablanca, saw that just the other day again, and it is still good.

    Uncrappy Brain De Palma movies are few on a good day and Carrie wasn’t one of them.

  4. “I ♥ Huckabees” was about as nauseating as films actually made in the 70s. Cute, but dumb all at once. Nice moral, wretched wardrobe, film/camera angle… Eh. We discussed already.

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