(1976)4.5Mark DemingStephen King's first novel was also his first work adapted for the screen and, with the arguable exception of The Shining, is still the best, thanks largely to a remarkable performance from Sissy Spacek as Carrie White and a surprisingly subtle, intelligent presentation by director Brian De Palma. De Palma wisely doesn't focus on Carrie's strange power to move objects with her mind in the first act. Instead, he emphasizes her miserable existence as a high-school outcast with a remarkably awful home life, and Spacek's performance brings Carrie to painfully vivid life. Carrie White personifies every high-school student who didn't fit in, and Spacek makes her sympathetic without making us wonder why people pick on her; when Carrie finally takes her revenge, Spacek transforms her into a monster with a strange dignity, at once terrifying and heroic. De Palma presents the story in clear, well-paced fashion, for the most part avoiding the all-too-obvious homages to other filmmakers that often mark his work and (with the exception of the split screen for Carrie's rampage at the prom) laying off distracting visual trickery, letting his cast and Larry Cohen's screenplay do the work. Often regarded as a watershed of '70s mainstream horror, Carrie is at the same time one of the truest and most painfully perceptive films about the high-school caste system; nothing would touch it in this regard until Todd Solondz's Welcome to the Dollhouse in 1996.