This post includes a brief plot summary and an explanation about the ending of the film Carrie (1976). Beware of spoilers.
Directed by Brian De Palma, the 1976 supernatural drama is based on a 1974 novel of the same name written by Stephen King. The film stars Sissy Spacek as Carrie White. Today’s post is solely based on the film, not the novel.
Carrie (1976) – Plot Summary
A young girl named Carrie White experiences her first period while showering at school. However, Carrie has no idea of what is happening, therefore, she panics and screams for help. Meanwhile, Carrie’s classmates ridicule her and throw tampons at her. The whole incident draws Miss Collins’ attention, the gym teacher intervenes and sends the girls away.
The school principal summons Carrie to his office. After discussing her situation with Miss Collins, the principal decides to send Carrie home. Meanwhile, Carrie is becoming aware of her telekinetic powers.
Margaret (Carrie’s mother) is a very religious woman. So, when Carrie told her that she got her period, the woman did not react well. In Margaret’s head, a girl’s period is caused by sin, therefore, she decides to lock Carrie in the closet and ask her to pray (for forgiveness).
At school, Miss Collins prepares a hefty punishment for the girls who tormented Carrie at the locker room: they have to stay at school after class. One of the girls, Christine (a.k.a Chris) decides to walk out from detention. Then, Chris incites other girls to ignore Miss Collins’ orders, but none of her classmates follow her plea. Due to her bad attitude and lack of remorse, Miss Collins gives Chris a couple days of suspension and bans her from going to the upcoming prom.
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Unlike Chris, Sue is actually sorry for what she did. So, in order to atone for her actions, Sue decides to skip prom and asks her boyfriend (Tommy) to take Carrie instead. At first, Carrie rejects Tommy’s invitation, scared that it might be another prank. However, after a couple of more attempts, Carrie caves in and accepts to go to the prom with Tommy. Meanwhile, Chris and her boyfriend Billy plot against Carrie.
As Carrie is dressing herself up for prom night, Margaret discourages her daughter from going. However, Carrie does not listen to her mother and leaves the house with Tommy. When the pair arrives to the prom, everybody is looking at the two in disbelief. Miss Collins says a couple of nice words to Carrie and then Tommy takes his date away for a dance.
Chris and her accomplices switch a couple of ballots to make sure that Carrie and Tommy win as Prom Queen and Prom King. While they were both on stage, Chris and Billy douse a bucket full of pig blood on top of Carrie. Tommy tries to help his date, but the bucket falls and knocks him unconscious. Seeing Tommy laying on the floor and the blood all over her dress causes Carrie to hallucinate.
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Carrie (1976) [DVD]
For a moment, Carrie sees everyone laughing at her. Enraged, the girl locks everyone inside with her telekinetic powers and stars a fire. After a while, all the attendees end up dying one by one. Meanwhile, Carrie calmly walks outside. On her way home, Carrie sees Chris and Billy trying to run her over, so she flips their car and makes it explode.
When Carrie arrives home, she takes off her dress and washes herself. Meanwhile, Margaret reveals that Carrie was born out of non-consensual sex. Despite of the shocking revelation, Carrie still reaches out to her mother for solace. While pretending to comfort Carrie, Margaret stabs her own daughter in the back. Scared, Carrie tries to escape but her mother chases her around the house. Out of despair, Carrie uses her powers to levitate different sharp objects and directs them at her mother. Margaret dies, the house collapses and burns down with Carrie inside of it.
After some time, Sue’s family is moving to another place so their daughter (the only survivor) can recover from the horrific night where she witnessed all her teachers and classmates die.
In a dream, Sue sees herself walking by Carrie’s house. She steps closer to lay some flowers on the house’s remains, but then, out of nowhere, Carrie’s bloody arm appears and grabs Sue’s foreman. The shock makes Sue wake up in screams while her mother is next to her trying to calm her down.
Carrie (1976) – Ending Explained
That ending scene went from haunting to straight up scary in a blink of an eye. So, who saw that ending coming while watching it for the first time? I certainly did not. As I said before, the ending is quite intense and raises a lot of questions. For instance, why did the house collapse? Also, why did Carrie “snap” and who’s fault was it? Last but not least, is Carrie a villain or a hero?
Why did the house collapse?
The house collapse was an amalgamation of all the things that happened to Carrie up until that moment. With her mother no longer in the picture, Carrie could have perfectly escaped and called for help or even hide somewhere else. That said, why didn’t she try to run away? At that point, Carrie had enough. First, she was heartbroken because of what happened during prom night. Not only that, but Carrie’s mother just stabbed her in the back a few minutes ago.
The poor girl had no support or any type of stability in her life. Her mother was a religious fanatic who saw sin in everything, including in her own daughter. Not only that, but Margaret also used religion to punish Carrie and basically abuse her for no apparent reason. Now, that also brings up another question: did Margaret ever loved her daughter Carrie? That’s the tricky question.
Carrie definitely loved her mother, even though she killed her (in self-defence). However, it’s hard to tell whether Margaret felt the same about Carrie. The way how Carrie’s mother tried to end her daughter’s life was very sneaky to say the least. Basically, Margaret knew that Carrie had a rough night and pretended to comfort her when she was at her lowest, only to stab her in the back. What kind of mother does that to their own child? Frankly, Carrie deserved better.
Despite of the betrayal, Carrie decided to stay in the house and die with her mother. But why? Carrie felt guilty for killing her own mother. In addition, there weren’t many options for Carrie: she basically annihilated everyone that went to prom and those who conspired against her. So even, if Carrie escaped from her mother’s claws, she wouldn’t be able to run from the police for too long. Having said that, Carrie decided to leave the world with her mother. The girl “broke down the house” with her telekinetic powers and the fire came from the candles that her mother lit before she arrived home.
Who’s fault was it?
If one takes a closer look at Carrie’s life, it becomes easier to understand why she “lost it” during prom night.
Let’s start with Carrie’s household. Her mother (Margaret) is a despicable woman who hides behind religion and uses it as an excuse to mistreat her own daughter. By the way, Carrie’s father is no longer in the picture, so there is really no one in the house to protect Carrie from her abusive mother.
So things are pretty much awful at home for Carrie and not only that, she has to deal with a bunch of mean classmates who often bully her for the smallest things. The main perpetrator is definitely Chris, the one who conspired to pour pig blood all over Carrie’s head during prom night.
Fortunately, there are still some good people in this story who tried to help Carrie, namely: Sue, Tommy and Miss Collins. Out of these three, Sue is the only who survived that fateful night. Although Sue meant well by asking Tommy to take Carrie to the prom, did she do more harm than good?
If Carrie didn’t go to the prom, there would be no pranks with pig blood and everybody would still be alive. Isn’t that true? Perhaps, that’s the reason why Sue keeps having nightmares. The ending scene reflects how Sue feels about the incident: she knows that her intentions were good, but they ended up hurting Carrie in more ways than she could’ve ever imagined. “Dead” Carrie grabbing Sue’s arm is a metaphor for the latter’s guilt.
Out of these three people (Margaret, Chris and Sue): who is the guiltiest for what happened that night? In my opinion, there is a tie between Margaret and Chris. On one side, we have Carrie’s mother. Then on the other side, we have Carrie’s main bully at school. Out of these two, I would say that Margaret needs to acknowledge her part for what happened that night. After all, she is Carrie’s mother.
If Carrie lived in a more loving household, maybe she would have better coping mechanisms for all the bullying that she was suffering at school. When Carrie was preparing for prom night, all her mother did was to discourage and say that everyone was going to laugh at her. Yes, Carrie is indeed different from others, but as a mother, Margaret should’ve encouraged her daughter to come out from her shell. Unfortunately, she didn’t and highlighted all the insecurities that Carrie already had. So, the pig blood wasn’t the main trigger of all that anger inside Carrie, she’s been fed for a while.
Is Carrie White a villain or a hero?
Here’s another big question: is Carrie White a villain or a hero? Some might say, that Carrie killed innocent people during that fateful night which might make her look like a villain. While others, will hail her as hero who stood up against her bullies and gave them what they deserve. So, which one is she? Personally, I believe she’s neither. In this story, Carrie White is a victim.
Carrie White didn’t snap out of nowhere. Her classmates have been mean to her for a while and the environment at home wasn’t the best. Now, does that mean that Carrie’s classmates and Margaret deserved to die? Killing the abusers might not always be the best answer, but in certain cases, it might be the only way to make them stop. Carrie White did not kill for pleasure, she did it to survive.
Having said that, Carrie’s classmates should’ve been more mindful of their actions. After all, Carrie White is a person just like them. She’s a little more closed off than her peers, but she has the right to be that way and no one should be bothering her for that. Losing their own life, was perhaps the hardest lesson that they had to learn from their actions.
As the woman who hide behind religion, Margaret is actually the greatest sinner in this story: she failed deeply as a parent. When Carrie needed her mother the most, the woman just stabbed her own daughter in the back (literally). What kind of parent does that to her own child? Some might use mental illness as an excuse for Margaret’s awful actions, but having mental issues is not a good enough reason to be cruel. Sadly, abusers tend to use these type of tactics on their victims: they create their own personal narratives to justify their horrible behaviours and actions.
Carrie (1976) is a classic in the horror genre, but the film itself is not scary at all. Personally, I would label Carrie (1976) as a tragic coming-of-age tale. If the supernatural element wasn’t there, the whole story would’ve been even more depressing. Why? Let’s say that Carrie was just a regular girl without any special powers, what could she have done to stand up against her bullies during prom night? Probably not much. However, everything changes when Carrie awakes her telekinetic powers: she becomes the one with the upper hand.
There are no winners in Carrie (1976), only losers, including Carrie herself. The moment when Carrie exacts revenge on her classmates might seem satisfying at first but then that feeling goes away pretty quick. It’s great to watch Carrie stand up for herself but then, every action comes with a consequence. After all those deaths, even if Carrie managed to escape from her mother, she would probably end up in prison and lose her freedom.
One the most heartbreaking scenes in Carrie (1976) is definitely the moment when the bullies douse pig blood on Carrie White. Everything was running smoothly for Carrie up until that moment. The night had everything to be great: Carrie had a nice dress on, her makeup was on point, her date was pretty enviable and she even got her first kiss. As a timid girl, Carrie doesn’t smile much nor does she interact with others, but that night, Carrie was shining. So, it was painful to watch this young girl’s happiness being tear apart by a bunch of mean teenagers.
The prank itself reveals that Chris is indeed a very spiteful person. Basically, she wanted Carrie White to rise to the top so she could pull her down again. Unfortunately, people like Chris (and Carrie) exist in the real world, which leads one to wonder: what is the purpose of bullying? It seems very pointless to make someone suffer just for “fun”. What the girls did to Carrie in the locker room was mean, but what Chris and her conspirators did to Carrie during prom night was heartless.
Carrie (1976) is full of strong performances. Sissy Spacek is very convincing as the sheltered Carrie White, Piper Laurie makes the viewers’ blood boil as Carrie’s mother. Meanwhile, Amy Irving is very relatable as the remorseful classmate who used to poked fun of Carrie White but then had a change of heart and tried to make amends.
In my opinion, Carrie (1976) has a very timeless quality to it because of its story. Although the plot itself sounds very cliché, the emotions that come with the story are very relatable. Bullying and abuse existed back then and it’s going to continue to exist, whether we like it or not.
Carrie’s death is tragic on so many levels. First, it’s clear that Carrie White was a very lonely individual. Second, although Carrie was a timid girl, in her heart, she wanted to fit in but didn’t know how. Third, even though Carrie was the victim in this story, she still felt guilt for killing her abusive mother.
By the way, were the people at the prom really laughing at Carrie White? When I watched Carrie (1976) for the first time, I thought that everyone was indeed awful and laughing at her. However, watching Miss Collins laughing too made me question my initial interpretation of the scene.
No one at school stood up for Carrie, except for Miss Collins. So why would the teacher laugh at Carrie instead of helping her in that situation? Can people become heartless and lose common sense overnight? I think not. After giving it some thought, I don’t think Miss Collins was actually laughing at Carrie. Personal theory: the shock of seeing the pig blood all over her body caused Carrie to hallucinate. The imagined scene was a projection of Carrie’s own insecurities, remember Margaret’s last words before she left the house: “they are going to laugh at you”.
Carrie (1976) is not a tale of revenge. The film explores complex subjects in a way that is relatable for the viewer. The story also works as a cautionary tale: it teaches the importance of kindness and how everyone’s actions matter. Overall, Carrie (1976) is a very noteworthy watch with a powerful ending that will haunt its audience’s heart.