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
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
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.