The Movie: 'Carrie' (1976)
The Scene: Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) isn't exactly a popular girl and her religious fanatic of a mother, Margaret White (Piper Laurie) doesn't help matters. Mommy dearest locks her in closets, forces her to recite scripture and refers to her lady parts as "dirty pillows." That doesn't stop Carrie from being brave and accepting an invite -- albeit a suspicious one -- to the prom. Carrie's date Tommy (William Katt) is the boyfriend of fellow classmate Sue (Amy Irving). After the girls at school traumatize Carrie in the locker room when she gets "the curse of blood," Sue has a moment of regret and offers up her man as Carrie's boy toy for the evening to make nice. At the prom, Carrie finally relents to Tommy's advances and a magical evening is had by all. That is, until Carrie's nemesis Chris (Nancy Allen) and her meatball of a boyfriend Billy (John Travolta) dump a bucket of pig's blood on her head when Carrie is named prom queen. Much to everyone's surprise, Carrie's been practicing her telekinesis and decides to open up a can of whoop ass on everyone at prom for revenge.
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Why It's Iconic: Though it's arguable that the film's final scare (Carrie's hand bursting out of the grave) was the thing imitated in slasher films throughout the 80's, it's definitely not the scene most people remember about 'Carrie.' The visual of an innocent girl drenched in gore is unforgettable and the humiliation Carrie suffers from the incident leaves a lasting impression. Proms around the world haven't been the same since.
Director Brian De Palma (using Stephen King's first published novel) helped shape a character we can all relate to -- taking what could have been just B-horror cheese (though there's plenty of that in the film as well) and revealed its humanity. The fact that the horror film centers around a woman and wasn't afraid to shatter a few male fantasies (read: the locker room scene) was the icing on the cake. De Palma's signature Hitchcockian references (Carrie's high school is "Bates High" and he uses the famous 'Psycho' violin music throughout) didn't hurt the cause either. 'Carrie' also paved the way for the now uber popular teen revenge flick.
Imitators/Flatterers: Films like 'Scream,''Jawbreaker,''The Descent,''2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams' and 'The Haunted World of El Superbeasto' all make reference to the bloody prom scene. A sequel, 'The Rage: Carrie 2' was released in 1999 with negative reviews and a TV remake starring Angela Bettis which debuted in 2002 fared similarly. 'Carrie's' strangest inspiration? Broadway's biggest flop (losing $8 million), 'Carrie: The Musical,' which is set for a revamp off-broadway next year. In addition to that hiccup, countless other media have parodied and paid homage to the wide-eyed girl drenched in red.