DirectorBrian De Palma
Release Date(s)1976 (December 13, 2022)
Studio(s)United Artists/MGM (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
Carrie was the first adaptation of a Stephen King story in any form, and arguably, the best of the lot with very few contenders for the title. With career-defining performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, this drama/horror hybrid about an awkward teenage girl was a hit with both critics and audiences, doing very well financially when it was released. And although it wasn't the first to do so, its conclusion involving a shock ending became something that was adopted by other filmmakers to the point of it becoming passé. It may be dated due to the timeframe that it takes place in, but it's still considered by many to be one of the top horror films ever made.
Getting into the specifics feels a bit unnecessary at this point. It's one of those stories that’s gone beyond being mere fiction and has become a part of the cultural tableau. However, one would be remiss not to cover it at least a little for newcomers. Carrie is a shy high school girl, constantly bullied by her fellow students, as well as her overbearing, unbalanced, religion-obsessed mother. In response, she develops telekinetic powers that she keeps hidden from the world, but once the pranks played upon her by her classmates reaches their zenith, she suddenly finds within herself the need for revenge against those who simply wouldn’t leave her alone.
Carrie isn’t one of those horror film that can you can simply pop in and rewatch ad infinitum for its camp factor or its comedic value; it has little to none of both, acting more as a drama than a horror film, which is partly why it's so effective. The final minutes of the film, which include the blood-soaked night at the prom, aren't quite as interesting as those that proceed them. We come to understand the pain and anguish that Carrie goes through on a daily basis, both at school and at home. Once we reach the moment when she can't take anymore of it and lashes out, we're on her side. Yet, we're also not on her side during these moments. It's that quandary that makes the character and the story interesting, and why the setup is so much more important than the payoff.
Carrie is also one of Brian De Palma’s most accomplished films. He freely admits that he had more time to prep the film than almost any of the others that he made. Because it was so influential and such a big hit, he would be known through the marketing of his other films as “the master of suspense,” or some variation thereof. He would go on to produce a staggering body of work, much of it polarizing to some degree, but all of it worthy of either celebrating or re-evaluating. He would later make another film about telekinesis, The Fury, and Carrie would eventually serve the sequel and remake machine, but nobody can deny the power or the legacy of the original. It’s a masterpiece, through and through.
Carrie was shot by cinematographer Mario Tosi on 35 mm film using Arriflex 35 IIC and Cinema Products XR35 (Mitchell NC) cameras with various lenses and filters, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Scream Factory revisits the film on Ultra HD with a new 4K scan of the original camera negative, graded for High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are available). Their previous Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release was quite impressive in 2016, and their new UHD tops it with richer textures and tighter grain, which is still heavy, but more intricately woven. The film’s use of split diopter shots and soft focus lenses gives it a thoroughly cinematic look, and this release retains that “flawed” but organic appearance. The HDR grades allow for deeper hues and added dimension, though there’s some blue push present in certain scenes. It doesn’t detract from flesh tones or other colors, but it’s there. Blacks are deeper with added shadow detail, particularly in Carrie’s home where all of the shadowy interiors are laden with darkness. The image is stable and clean throughout, as well. While this isn’t an enormous jump in quality over its Blu-ray predecessor as that was already a great presentation to begin with, the additional clarity and detail found in this release definitely boosts the film’s visual palette, making it the definitive presentation going forward.
Audio is included in English 2.0 mono, 2.0 stereo, and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. The 5.1 mix does a very good job of reproducing the film's soundtrack in a wider field, while the 2.0 stereo track is a basic fold-down. Dialogue is clean and clear on both tracks, but a bit too quiet in certain sections. Sound effects and score benefit the most from the extra channels, and there are some nice atmospheric and low end moments to be had as well. The 5.1 certainly opens the soundtrack up during the prom sequence. The mono track is a personal preference point, but the other tracks are faithful to the original sound design without spoiling it. All three tracks are clean and free of any leftover damage.
Scream Factory’s 3-Disc Collector’s Edition of Carrie on 4K Ultra HD sits in a black amaray case with a Blu-ray of the film in 1080p (featuring the same restoration), as well as an additional Blu-ray of extras. Both the insert and the slipcover feature the original theatrical artwork. The following extras are included on each disc:
DISC ONE: FILM (UHD)
- Audio Commentary with Joseph Aisenberg
DISC TWO: FILM (BD)
- Audio Commentary with Joseph Aisenberg
- Newspaper Ad Gallery (HD – 26 in all – 4:29)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:06)
- The Carrie Trailer Gallery (HD – 3 in all – 6:09)
DISC THREE: EXTRAS (BD)
- Writing Carrie: An Interview with Screenwriter Lawrence Cohen (HD – 29:07)
- Shooting Carrie: An Interview with Director of Photography Mario Tosi (HD – 15:22)
- Cutting Carrie: An Interview with Editor Paul Hirsch (HD – 25:09)
- Casting Carrie: An Interview with Casting Director Harriet B. Helberg (HD – 16:03)
- Acting Carrie (Upscaled SD – 42:22)
- More Acting Carrie (HD – 20:19)
- Visualizing Carrie: From Words to Images (Upscaled SD – 41:33)
- Bucket of Blood (HD – 23:53)
- Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (HD – 11:25)
- Singing Carrie (Upscaled SD – 6:23)
- More Carrie:
- TV Spots (HD – 5 in all – 3:11)
- Radio Spots (HD – 2 in all – 1:29)
- Still Gallery: Rare Behind-the Scenes Gallery (HD – 58 in all – 4:54)
- Still Gallery: Posters and Lobby Cards Gallery (HD – 46 in all – 3:56)
- Stephen King and the Evolution of Carrie Text Gallery:
- Stephen King and the Writing of Gallery (HD – 7 in all)
- From Novel to Script (HD – 3 in all)
- Book & Film Comparison (HD – 3 in all)
Carted over from previous DVD and Blu-ray releases is a substantial amount of extras, though Disc Three is a carbon copy of the extras disc included in Scream Factory’s previous Blu-ray release. New to this edition is an audio commentary with author Joseph Aisenberg, which is a frustrating commentary at times, but informative and insightful at others. There are far too many points when the commentary drops out and the film’s audio kicks in, not for emphasis but simply because Aisenberg has either run out of things to say or certain details have been edited out. He occasionally falls into the trap of watching the film, but gets back on track to highlight the differences from the book and the original screenplay, pointing out moments where the film was restructured, scenes that were trimmed down, or scenes that weren’t filmed at all. He attempts to discuss some of the film’s thematic material as it pertains to female sexuality, but it seems almost perverse and backwards coming from a man, despite some of his comments being genuinely enlightening. (Perhaps somebody like Kat Ellinger would have been a better fit.) Also new to this release is a Newspaper Gallery featuring 26 snipped newspaper ads for the film upon its theatrical release and original television premiere. Next is the theatrical trailer and a trailer gallery for all of the subsequent incarnations of Carrie, including the TV miniseries, the sequel The Rage: Carrie 2, and the 2013 remake.
Next is a series of interviews with screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen, director of photography Mario Tosi, editor Paul Hirsch, casting director Harriet B. Helberg, and composer Pino Donaggio. The documentary Acting Carrie features interviews with actors Sissy Spacek, Amy Irving, Betty Buckley, Nancy Allen, William Katt, Piper Laurie, Priscilla Pointer, P.J. Soles, art director Jack Fisk, and director Brian De Palma. More Acting Carrie offers additional interviews with actors Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley, William Katt, Piper Laurie, Edie McClurg, and P.J. Soles. Visualizing Carrie features interviews with Brian De Palma, Jack Fisk, Lawrence D. Cohen, and Paul Hirsch. There's also the always welcome Horror's Hallowed Grounds locations revisit featurette with Sean Clark, as well as the Singing Carrie featurette, which discusses the musical version of Carrie. Next is a series of 5 TV spots, 2 radio spots, and three still galleries. The first contains 58 behind-the-scenes photos and the second contains 46 stills of posters and lobby cards from around the world. The Stephen King and the Evolution of Carrie Text Gallery, created by Laurent Bouzereau, is broken up into three sections: Stephen King and the Writing of Gallery, From Novel to Script, and Book & Film Comparison.
While this is a fairly comprehensive set of bonus materials, there are a few things left out. Not carried over from the Region B Arrow Video Blu-ray release is an audio commentary with Lee Gambin and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, the Comparing Carrie 2016 featurette, and an alternate TV opening. Seemingly locked away forever on the Criterion Collection LaserDisc release is an audio commentary with Laurent Bouzereau and Lawrence D. Cohen. It’s also a shame that the deleted scenes couldn’t be found, which includes the lost prologue.
As I said with Scream Factory's previous Collector's Edition Blu-ray, their new 4K Ultra HD release appears to be the final word on Carrie on home video. It’s a step up in nearly every way with a terrific A/V presentation and a satisfying extras package. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons