Double Feature Friday: Pranks Gone Bad Edition

Posted: January 22, 2010 by Rebecca in Double Feature Friday, Horror Movies
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Tonight’s double feature will be Carrie and The Burning

….in each, stupid teenagers make some stupid decisions, and the pranks that they thought would be hilarious don’t turn out the way they planned, leading to some not-so-fun consequences.

Carrie (1976)

Directed by Brian De Palma (Sisters, Scarface, The Untouchables)

“You were warned never to push Carrie to the limits.  Now you must face the evil consequences.”

Adapted from Stephen King’s novel of the same name, Carrie is a story of a lonely teenage outcast who is constantly made fun of and tortured by her peers.  We never get a background of specifically why Carrie White (Sissy SpacekCoal Miner’s Daughter, The Ring Two, An American Haunting) has been singled out to be picked on, but we can assume it’s due to her upbringing by her fanatically religious mother.  Our story starts on the day Carrie gets her first period while taking a shower in the locker room after gym class.  Her mother (Piper LaurieThe Hustler, The Faculty)has never taught her about menstruation (and we can assume that sex-ed was not a subject of curriculum in Carrie’s school), thus she freaks out when she sees the blood and runs to her peers for help thinking she is dying.  They begin to laugh hysterically at her, and throw tampons and pads at her, shouting “Plug it up, plug it up!”, primarily led on by the class bully Chris Hargensen (Nancy AllenDressed to Kill, RoboCop, Poltergeist III).

When the gym teacher, Miss Collins (Betty Buckley“Eight is Enough”, Wyatt Earp) sees what is going on she puts a stop to it.  As Carrie screams and freaks out, we get a first hint of her telekinetic ability when one of the lights in the locker room blows out.  A bit later, when in the principal’s office getting permission to go home he constantly calls her by the incorrect name, and she gets so angry that an ashtray flies off his desk.  Later at home she is confronted by her mother who is very angry that she is now a woman, Carrie asks why she never told her, and her mother just goes on and on about the sins of the woman, and then locks her in the closet so that she can think about things.  Later that night, Carrie breaks a mirror in her room with her telekinetic ability, which she then begins to research at school the next day.

Also the next day, those that tortured Carrie are sentenced to detention with Miss Collins, instead of refusal of prom tickets.  Chris Hargensen is very unhappy about this, and freaks out on Miss Collins during this detention, and thus is not allowed to go to the prom.  Another of Carrie’s classmates, who also is in detention for torturing Carrie, but feels bad about it, Sue Snell (Amy IrvingThe Rage: Carrie 2, Hide and Seek), asks her boyfriend Tommy Ross (William KattHouse, Jawbreaker) to ask Carrie to the prom.  Eventually Carrie accepts.  Meanwhile Chris has cajoled her boyfriend Billy Nolan (John TravoltaGrease, Pulp Fiction) into slaughtering a pig so that they can dump the blood onto Carrie at the prom….death and destruction ensues.

Carrie is a great movie that highlights the common problem of bullying at school, but gives Carrie a tool to fight back.  Her telekinetic ability gives her the power to get revenge on those who have bullied her, the kids at school, and also gives her the ability to fight back against her domineering mother, who possibly has caused her to be an outcast.  Is it a good thing that she ends up killing a multitude of people, including SPOILER those who have only tried to help her?  No, but when someone like Carrie is bullied relentlessly, her pent up anger had to go somewhere, and in this case it was released in a very violent way.  Chris Hargensen was such an awful evil spoiled brat that she just couldn’t leave Carrie alone, even though Carrie really had done nothing to her, she was the one who incited the bullying against Carrie, and she was the one who pulled the prank on Carrie that caused the destruction.  I look at her as the real villain in this film.

The Burning (1981)

Directed by Tony Maylam

“If you go down to the woods today… Watch out for Cropsy!”

The Burning begins at Camp Blackfoot.  Some campers are planning a prank to scare the handyman, Cropsy (Lou David), because apparently he is a sick bastard who revels in torturing the campers.  They decide to put a burning, worm-infested skull next to his bed, and then wake him up by pounding on the windows of his cabin.  Well, the prank works, but Cropsy gets so terrified that he knocks over the skull onto his bed which ignites the bed, and his pants.  He then gets up in fright, and knocks over a can of gasoline which he keeps next to his bed for some reason, and so he gets completely lit on fire.  He runs out of the cabin, to the horror of the campers, falls down, and rolls down a hill into some water, finally extinguishing the flames.  Cropsy survives and is brought to a hospital, where one of the orderlies uses him a scare tactic for aspiring hospital workers.  Very nice!

Five years later, Cropsy is released from the hospital, he harbors resentment for the campers who put him in this situation of course.  He also is horribly disfigured, and the skin grafts that the doctors tried to repair his burs with did not take.  He leaves the hospital, ends up in a scandalous area filled with peep shows and prostitution, he goes home with a prostitute, but stays in the shadows, and turns off the lights in her apartment.  Unfortunately for him, there is a thunderstorm, and when some lightening lights up his face, the prostitute freaks out on him, and he ends up stabbing her with some scissors.  Now, did he stab her because she freaked out on him, or was he planning on killing her anyway?  We’ll never know.

Cut to a different camp, Camp Stonewater, which is across the water from old Camp Blackfoot.  One of the campers who was in on the prank that burned Cropsy, Todd (Brian Matthews) is now a counselor, and Cropsy has come back to this camp to get his revenge.  We meet a group of campers, including a young Jason Alexander as Dave!   This was also both Holly Hunter’s and Fisher Stevens‘ movie debut.  There is some antagonism between some of the campers, as there is an outcast named Alfred (Brian BackerFast Times at Ridgemont High, Loser) who is a peeping tom, and has snuck up on a girl named Sally (Carrick Glenn) in the shower to scare her.  Her “boyfriend”, Glazer (Larry JoshuaDances With Wolves, Unforgiven) is angry about this, and threatens to beat Alfred up.  Later, as the campers are swimming, Glazer pushes Alfred (who can’t swim) into the water.  To get back at Glazer, some of Alfred’s friends shoot some kind of pellet gun at Glazer.  The next day, the older campers, along with Todd and a female counselor, Michelle, are to go on an overnight camping trip downstream.  Cropsy follows the campers on their trip, and that night the killing begins…

Cropsy is a terrifying movie villain.  We only get a few glimpses of his disfigured visage, but that is enough.  He has been horribly burned, and will never have a normal life again, so we do have some sympathy for him in that respect, but he does not take his anger out in a good way.  His weapon of choice is a pair of ultra-sharpened hedge-clippers, and they cause a lot of destruction.  This is a very bloody movie, and the raft massacre is the most infamous scene in the movie.  The special effects are great, and were created by Tom Savini!  This is one of the best summer camp horror movies in my opinion.

Thoughts on the double feature

Some SPOILERS may follow

–        Both of the movies have a prank that goes bad in some way, which ends up causing death and destruction. In the case of Carrie, Chris Hargensen and her cronies decide to slaughter a pig, and then dump the pig’s blood onto Carrie at prom.  In The Burning, our campers decide to put a burning skull into Cropsy’s cabin.  Of course, neither prank goes exactly as planned.  In Carrie, after the blood is dumped on her, she uses her telekinetic powers to kill everyone at the prom (excluding Sue Snell who is locked outside), the auditorium ends up engulfed in flames.  She then causes Chris and Billy to get in a car accident which causes the car to explode.  When she returns home, and her mother tries to kill her, she ends up killing her mother, and then the house implodes on them, and she dies as well.  In The Burning, Cropsy is lit on fire when he knocks the skull onto his bed, and then knocks over a can of gasoline.  He then returns to kill the campers, and counselors at a nearby camp.  He then dies a fiery death.

–        Both movies involve a bully- In Carrie we have Chris Hargensen and her cronies. In The Burning we have uber-cool, and uber-old for camp, Glazer.

–        Each movie involves an abundance of long, curly, man hair!

–        Each movie has an abundance of tube socks!!!!

–        In each, some sport is played briefly.  In Carrie, the movie begins with a volleyball game.  In The Burning, when we cut to the second camp, we are introduced to most of our characters as they play a game of softball.

–        Each movie involves a relationship between a girl and a guy where the girl pushes a guy away, but the guy keeps coming on to her.  In Carrie, Chris has a weird relationship with Billy, where she will seemingly invite him to kiss and fondle her, but then she pushes him away.  This happens multiple times, with her finally using this relationship to get him to agree to participate in her prank.  In The Burning, we have two relationships, one involving Eddy (Ned EisenbergMillion Dollar Baby, Flags of Our Father) pursuing the shy Karen (Carolyn Houlihan). When he goes too far, she pushes him away, and he ends up getting angry and yelling at her.  When she runs off she is killed by Cropsy.  The other relationship is between Glazer and Sally, she seems to be slightly pushing him away, and is not sure whether she wants to go further in her relationship with him, but they do end up together after a bit of teasing. Unfortunately they are then both killed.  (Obviously they broke one of the cardinal rules in surviving a horror movie!)

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