Just a warning to start, this post will have spoilers.
Like “The Exorcist,” “Carrie” was a 1970s horror flick that managed to snag some attention from the Oscars, something that’s become rare in today’s award season.
In this case, both lead actresses Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek were nominated for their performances in the 1976 adaptation of the Stephen King novel. Looking back at the picture, there’s no doubt that both women deserved the nominations.
While Spacek was certainly the star of the picture, though, it’s only right to start with likely the most memorable performance from “Carrie,” delivered by Laurie.
Laurie’s acting creates a character that is intense, frightening, aggressive and threatening. What the performance really hinges on, though, is Laurie’s ability to display just how much her character believes in what she’s saying.
Margaret White isn’t acting the way she is from some kind of vendetta against her daughter, she isn’t particularly evil and she’s not exactly trying to be malicious toward Carrie. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Instead, Margaret is so mentally disturbed that she is fully convinced that what she’s doing is for the good of Carrie. She has this horrifying conviction that what Carrie’s doing is wrong and by taking the actions she does is going to save her.
It’s this character’s significant belief in what she’s doing that makes Margaret so damn intense. This is especially true in the picture’s finale where Margaret sees the only viable option is to kill her own daughter.
The climax is so effective because the audience know that what Margaret is doing is so obviously wrong, yet the character is so warped that she believes it’s right. It makes the performance as a whole simply chilling.
Spacek’s acting is commendable for a different reason. For much of the movie, her performance is a buildup. Through much of the picture Spacek simply plays a nice, shy teenage girl who, unfortunately, has to live through a torturous home environment.
Her frustrations with her mother along with her longing to be accepted and make friends is all well done thanks to Spacek’s acting. As a result, watching her snap during the infamous prom scene is even more suspenseful.
Spacek is also fantastic in that sequence, mainly thanks to her expressions such as her wide yes, laser vision focus and angry face of stone.
The final scene from Carrie’s point of view is also important, since it shows that Carrie is completely horrified because of what happens and is distraught over the situation.
Overall, both performances made the 1976 a true horror classic.