Yes, I know it is a scandal not to have included Scarface, which is of course a histrionic exercise in excess unmatched before or since. Say Hello To My Little Friend, Chainsaws in the Shower – it is all terribly iconic.
But there are better films in De Palma’s CV and something always gets left out when you make a shortlist. What is interesting in having put this list together is how varied De Palma’s output has been. Yes, there is a certain emphasis on crime as a genre (as well as Scarface, The Black Dahlia, Wise Guys and Snake Eyes all miss out) but there are horror classics, action films, psychological thrillers as well as war and gangster efforts on display too – more eclectic than we might have been inclined to think.
Although De Palma’s CV may not be solid gold all the way through, it is at least noteworthy that he has proven himself a genuine master at each genre he has attempted. There is real quality in this list.
Most will be aware that a remake of Carrie is on the way and a very sensibly cast remake it is too.
Chloë Grace Moretz is an incredibly gifted young actress and although Let Me In was an utterly redundant remake, it at least shows that Moretz can handle the moral ambiguity of such an iconic role. The imperious Julianne Moore is also a more than worthy successor to Piper Laurie in the role of Carrie’s, frankly, demented mother. But so far the trailers for the remake are showing us nothing new, nothing to make this a necessary or worthwhile remake.
The original is a stone cold classic, having lost none of its impact over the years and De Palma gets top marks for some real virtuoso direction. He draws sensational performances out of Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie and the finale, all split-screens, wide eyes, pyrotechnics and mayhem manages to be terrifying, chaotic and yet controlled all at the same time. The build up is too tense for words, our knowledge of what is coming doing nothing to dampen the startling unpleasantness of a bucket of blood being dumped on Carrie at the moment of her supposed triumph.
These days, horror films mostly seem happy to make do with making us jump with sound effects or testing our tolerance for grue with ever more unpleasant violence. But there was a time when atmosphere, tension, a sense of dread and the ability of a film to get under your skin were more to the fore. Carrie is such a film, staying with you long after the curtain closes. Curtains. You know, after the film finished? Never mind. Ask your Mum and Dad.