An Ode to Brian De Palma’s Carrie

Our favorite film poet Nigel Parkin pays lyrical tribute to the 1976 horror masterpiece Carrie

November 16th is the 40th anniversary of the day Brian De Palma’s masterful adaptation of Carrie went on general release in North America. A baptism of fire and blood for all those discovering the heartbreaking genius of Stephen King, as filtered through the sensibility of the great De Palma, whose Hitchcockian touches and balletic flourishes highlight the beauty, tragedy and darkly glittering fairy tale magic of this exquisite piece…

Little Red Carrie

By Nigel Parkin

Dear dear Carrie, with your straggle of straw hair,

Instantly found on the fringe, the sideline,

The ball of life taking you by surprise,

Striking and jolting you with the same force

And malice as those girls who despise you.

The jeers, the tuts, the stuttering bounce

Of that discarded ball spit the same words –

‘Carrie White eats shit.’


And in the locker room, as naked girls

Emerge from mists, adored, idealized

By the camera, you stay in the steaming

Shadows, a primal creature in the swamp

Of creation, telling your own story,

Running to a different time, a late Eve,

Your hands caressing your body as if

In ecstasy. Unconscious urges mock

The cleansing waters. Somewhere deep within

Something stirs. Blood slithers down the inside

Of your thigh – another jolt, another

Cruel surprise.


Terrified, you reach out with bloody hands,

Clutching at the girls, who push you, in disgust,

Back into your corner, where they torment you

With tampons, towels and taunts, transforming

Into grotesque monsters in your eyes as

They howl and cheer. And we see them as you

See them, made wild by your plight, the she-wolves

Moving in for the kill.


The explosion of the overhead light

Shatters the moment, slashes the mood

Like a knife. We’ve heard the sharp, screeching strings

On the soundtrack before, in another

Shower. We shouldn’t be surprised. This is

Bates High School after all. The bird’s eye view

Of the volleyball court in the first shot

Announces the style, the sense of homage,

But is this just a matter of angles

And effects or is there something deeper?

Are the stories of Norman and Carrie

Somehow connected?


The answer exists in one word. Mother.

Home is a chapel of fevered restraint,

Maniacal sermons of sin and sex,

Blood and boys, the panting wolves at the door.

But what are wolves, after all? Powerful

Manifestations of nature, from which

You cannot hide. Because in truth, the wolf

Is inside you, waiting to consume you

From within. Look at Norman, dressed as Mom.

‘My, what a big knife you wield.’ For so long

He seems to be Little Red Riding Hood,

The child bound by the mother’s commands,

Shut away, meek, nervous, too dutiful,

Until we see that he has swallowed her

And that his inner wolf, so long repressed,

Is violently released in her clothing.

Carrie, it seems you’re playing the same role

And the wolves are beginning to howl.


First there is Chris, the plastic pouting face

Of hate, with boorish brute boyfriend Billy.

They snarl, scratch and sniff each other, turned on

By cruel thoughts. He huffs and puffs while she blows

And he kills a pig. What could be more apt?

Then there’s Tommy, with his hair and his smile.

Friend or predator? You cannot be sure.

He steps into your path in the deep woods

Of the library, asks you what you are

Carrying, then invites you to the prom

With him, ‘Because,’ he says, ‘you liked my poem,’

Reaching into you, taking possession.

We know this is his girlfriend’s bidding but

Still there is the question, is there something

More to this, something dangerously real?


These are the wolves we can see but the one

We really need to fear remains hidden,

With brief, ominous indications of

Its terrifying power. The storm builds.

And you begin to play Cinderella

But we know this version will be blood soaked

And twisted, a monstrous hybrid with teeth,

Fur and fire.


The vision of you drenched in blood carries

A primal force. Little Red Riding Hood

Must have looked much like this when she emerged

From the belly of the wolf, full of rage,

Reborn, transformed, a girl turned inside out,

Her true, strong nature burning, bleeding, raw.

Is that the blood of pig or wolf on you?

Prey or predator? In truth it is both.

As you raise hell, with apocalyptic

Fury, you are both ecstatic and sad.


And ultimately, like the pig, you try

To seek shelter and safety. But the wolf

Within you knows you cannot stop yourself

From blowing your own house down, burying

Your being, your young, stifled, desperate soul.


But still your hand reaches up through the coals,

Through the years, through our memories and dreams,

Holding us in place, kneeling at your shrine,

Where we belong.