Stephen King’s Carrie: Founding of the Horror Genre

By Stephanie Bajzik

While literally dozens upon dozens of Stephen King’s books, short stories and novellas have been transitioned into film, it is critical that we all recognize just where the King’s reign began. With the debut of his 1974 book, Carrie would take the world by storm in the coming years. The 70s were a groundbreaking era for the horror genre with original releases like The Exorcist, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead. Last spring, Carrie celebrated her 40th bloody anniversary. Much like many other classics, she has bred four remakes and even a dreadful musical. As we approach the half century milestone this decade, let us pay respect to the King’s premiere novel and its cinematic debut that changed history.

Bringing Back a Genre

The horror genre has always been a titan in literature. With greats like Poe, Stoker and Shelley leading the way all those years ago, readers have been keeping themselves up late with fear for centuries. It wasn’t until the mid-twentieth century that we began to see a comeback for horror with new voices such as Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson. Finally, a hopeful English teacher heard the cries of the public for spine chilling thrill. While he’s developed quite a band of followers and fans over the years, many quickly forget that Carrie’s emergence founded a new era for horror entirely.

It was truly one of the first examples of a successful book to film adaptation in which the convergence proved so beautifully done. Brian de Palma took on the directing role with utter prestige, spending months storyboarding Carrie to prepare before even picking up a camera. Because of this dedication, he was able to breathe life into the pages of Carrie in a way that was completely unprecedented. By taking the cringe worthy moments of adolescence and morphing them into a scream fest, the King made his presence in literature and film apparent.


Creating a Female Protagonist/Antagonist

Most movies in the genre struggle to offer women fortuitous roles and are even left dumbfounded at times over where women fit into the mix. Typically, females in horror are the ones making those ridiculous decisions that play into their ultimate demise, showing the audience the cards long before the fateful end. However, Carrie was different. She took the painful portions of growing into a woman and turned them into terrifying cinematic history. This included changes in her own body that she didn’t herself understand. For that reason alone, Carrie has universal even now with young crowds fighting to find their place in the world. Whether we were also being bullied and picked on or were the bully ourselves, we were able to perceive the underdog in us all transform into a vengeful monster, giving us some insight into our own psyche.

Winning Critical Acclamations

Although the Academy is not the most reliable indicator for quality in Tinsel Town, we can’t deny that many people care a lot about the Oscars. For a low budget horror flick to garner attention in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories, it makes you think twice. Sometimes horror is just undeniably acclaim-worthy, even for the highbrow Academy.