It’s hard to believe that it’s been four decades since the most memorable prom night in cinema history, when a ginger-haired social outcast unleashed her telekinetic fury on the unsuspecting Bates High School class of ’76. I’m talking of course about Brian De Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Carrie. The film, which received two Oscar nominations, including one for actress Sissy Spacek, was one of the first to really highlight the real life horrors of high school bullying, and how dehumanizing it can be. Of course, it was also a highlight of a new wave of horror films coming from Hollywood in the ’70s, which included classics like The Exorcist, The Omen, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead and Halloween.
To celebrate the prom to end all proms, several members of the cast got together recently for a special event organized by actress Nancy Allen, who played the film’s premiere “mean girl” Chris Hargensen. Taking place at the glorious Ace Theater in downtown Los Angeles on October 14th, this 40th anniversary celebration had many of the original cast and crew reuniting for a Q&A and screening, moderated by Hannibal showrunner (and Carrie super fan) Bryan Fuller. This was all followed up by a 1970s prom-themed afterparty.All proceeds from the event went to the weSPARK charity, a cancer support center. In addition to the charity, the event was promoting the brand new Shout! Factory/Scream Factory 2-disc Carrie (Collector’s Edition) Blu-ray, which was released on October 11th (and which you can read our review of here).
The film was screened to a very enthusiastic audience, many of whom were dressed in Carrie-inspired costumes and shouting out lines from the film (when Carrie’s revenge at the prom was about to start in the film, the house lights turned red, much to the excitement of the fans). The Q&A after the film featured Nancy Allen, her fellow mean girl PJ Soles (Halloween) and the legendary Piper Laurie, who played Carrie’s mom Margaret White (also well known for her roles in The Hustler and Twin Peaks). They were joined by the film’s editor Paul Hirsch, and other actors from the film, like Terry Bolo, who played maybe the one girl who’s nice to Carrie at the prom (fat lot of good it did here in the end), and Doug Cox, a.k.a. “the Beak.” William Katt, who played Carrie’s poor prom date Tommy Ross, even showed up via video for a digital greeting to the fans.
Speaking to Nancy Allen at the event, I had to ask her how it felt to be cinema’s original “mean girl,” long before that was even a term in our pop culture vernacular. “It feels fabulous! I love starting trends,” she said with a laugh. “When we all made the movie, we all saw the dailies and we knew it was going to be something fun and special. And we all had a great chemistry working together. But there was no way to predict this. We were just actors happy to be working. John [Travolta] and I were always making everyone laugh on the set, so I thought we were going to be the movie’s comic relief, but it turned out everyone hated us! But the fans love to hate us!”
Organizing this reunion under the banner of charity was all Allen’s doing, in the name of the weSPARK organization. “This is my baby yeah. At weSPARK, we offer free services to cancer patients and their family and friends, and everything is free. We’re in Sherman Oaks, and it’s an amazing place.” I had to ask if she ever thought her two worlds, that of acting and of philanthropy, would ever collide like this. “It was my idea to do this. I had the idea a few years ago when the cast reunited for a fan show. I though how fun it would be to do the same thing for a fundraiser, but I couldn’t organize it back then. So it was at the 25th anniversary of Robocop, and we did that first. And once I realized the 40th anniversary of Carrie was coming up, I thought, ‘This is perfect, and we can do it now.’ And along with the release of the Blu-ray, it was perfect.”
With big films like Carrie and Robocop under her belt, Allen is used to being noticed in the real world, sometimes in surprising locations. “The first thing that comes to mind, I was in the Colosseum in Rome. Three Japanese tourists were kind of following me around, and I’m thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ And they suddenly say, ‘Woody Allen!’ And I say, ‘Actually, Nancy Allen,’ and they excitedly say, ‘Oh, Carrie, Carrie!’ It was all great though.”
I also had a moment to chat with an acting legend a multiple Oscar nominee Piper Laurie, who played Carrie’s crazy religious zealot mother Margaret White, the real villain of the film. Laurie reminded me that Carrie brought her out of a long hiatus from acting. “arrie brought the actress out of a long retirement from acting, as she soon reminded me. “I had retired, I hadn’t worked in 15 years. I was living in upstate New York, living a totally different life—a housewife, mother, sculptress—and I had some random thoughts about how nice it might be to act again someday. I hadn’t thought about it for years.”
She continued, “Then my agent in New York sent me a script, and I knew it was going to be directed by this new director Brian De Palma. And I read it and I didn’t like it. And my husband said, ‘Well, Brian De Palma has a comedic approach to everything he does,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, I misread the script! It’s a comedy.’ And I met with Brian and we liked each other, and I ended up doing the movie.” It was only while filming that Laurie realized that really was more of a dramatic horror movie.
As for returning to Carrie 40 years later, Laurie said, “It brings me great joy, especially these days, to get away from all the ugliness of our political season.” That said, Laurie’s got plenty more on her plate to keep her busy; Recently, Laurie wrote her memoirs, which contain many behind-the-scenes stories of her long career. She said, “I took three years writing my memoir, and I recently recorded an audio version which I narrated, and that took me a year to record! Her memoir is called Learning to Live Out Loud, and it’s available now on Amazon.
All in all, a blast was had by everyone in attendance celebrating this classic film, both the prom guests and their dates, as well as the cast and crew. And unlike that eventful prom from the movie, this time we all came out of it alive. May we all be so fortunate when the 50th anniversary prom rolls around.
For more photos from the event, be sure to check out our gallery below.
Are you a super fan of De Palma’s Carrie? Share your favorite parts of the film with us in the comments.
Looking for something creepy to watch? We’ve got a few suggestions in the anime realm.
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Images: MGM / Shout Factory/Scream Factory