Carrie Recaps: Part Fourteen
So, we’re back – another Monday night, another delve into the bloody (in the cursing sense) and bloody (in the gory, soak-through-six-tampons-in-an-afternoon sense) world of Carrie.
We left off last week as Tommy and Carrie, whaddaya know, win prom King and Queen (do I capitalize that? Are they titles in this context? Man, I copy-edited for too long and it’s broken me for life, I swear to you). We start off with Billy goading Chris into pulling the string and releasing the bucket of blood on to the winning couple, and, of course, that’s a chance for Monsieur King to get all horny on us again as Billy ogles Chris:
” When this was over he was going to have her until every other time she’d been had was like two pumps with a fags little finger. He was going on her like a raw cob through butter.”
Look, I get why a warm corn-on-the-cob might go through butter in a pleasingly metaphorically sexy way, but a raw one…? That’s just going to kind of squish up against it uselessly for a bit, right? Well, at least King was projecting realistic expectations of teenage boy’s sexual prowess, I suppose.
Chris pulls the string attached to the bucket of blood (and it had to be her to do it – after all this back-and-forth about where the responsibility for this attack lies, having anyone but her do it would skew that argument permanently in another direction), and we briefly cut into Carrie’s point-of-view as the oblique horror of what has just happened begins to settle in, but we cut right away again before she can process it.
And then we’re over to my favourite narrator in the form of Sue Snell, who is busy making herself some cocoa when the town alarm begins to ring. And she finds herself curiously unaffected:
“As the whistle mounted atop the town hall on Main Street suddenly began to shriek into the night, and falling in cycles of panic, she did not revert immediately to the window, but only turned the heat off under the milk so it would not burn.”
I dunno, man, I just like these little glimpses into Sue that we get. Her commitment to normalcy is so intense that she calmly turns off the heat on the milk for her cocoa before she goes to see what the commotion is about. When she does approach the window, she sees an explosion in the distance and notes that the school is on fire. Now, I’m not saying this is the worst way to introduce the carnage of the evening – Sue has always been kind of detached emotionally from the bad stuff that has happened in the book, and I appreciate the parallels of her literal physical and apparent mental distance from what’s going on – but it does leave it feeling a little flaccid after we’ve been so up-close-and-personal with Carrie, her powers, and their outcomes in the past few chapters.
And then, just to drive home this complete sucking of tension and impact from what should be the biggest moment of the book, we cut to a long, badly-written series of quotations from a witness present at the prom – not only do they sound so painfully and obviously overwritten (” there was a sparkle as the big lights over the stage apron reflected on something metallic…Some of it hit the mural and ran in long drips”) for what’s meant to be a first-person account, but it also robs the scene of much of the immediacy required to make it stick.
Ugh, Stephen, you had one job – make the blood-bucket sequence feel important. But this, this protracted and relatively boring section as Some Chick describes what happened (the blood was dropped, they were all shocked, and then began to laugh at Carrie) – it removes us from the punch of the action. Even though this is ostensibly an epistolary novel, it has consistently used the POV of people it can’t or shouldn’t – and the one time when that would actually improve the book, King goes for a long-winded, after-the-fact retelling. This segment would be infinitely better through the point of view of Carrie or at least Tommy, but we get stuck with this instead. Bah.
Carrie’s rampage finally begins, as she flees the hall and then returns with an evil grin on her face and begins wreaking havoc on the crowd. Now, this section is a dissapointment, because what I really want is the point of view of Carrie here and not the clunky, unconvincingly overdetailed rememberings of some random student we barely know, but I do really like how Tommy’s death is handled here – he is knocked to unconciousness by the bucket, and dies shortly afterwards, the only victim of the Prom Night Massacre who doesn’t die at Carrie’s hands. It feels right that Carrie shouldn’t be the one to off him, given the tenderness we saw blossoming between them these last few chapters, and I appreciate the bittersweetness in his death being likely attributed to Carrie but actually unrelated to her, a victim of Sue’s good intentions.
Chaos begins to unfold, and the book turns to extended selections from local news tickers to describe what’s going on at the scene – once again, stripping away much of the tension as King suddenly commits to this epistolary novel idea two-thirds of the book too late. We’ve barely heard from Carrie this chapter, and she’s the only one (save for my own literary crush on Sue Snell, but whatever) that I actually want to hear from. Before the end of the chapter, we get another brief visit with the Snell of my Dreams as she goes to take her parent’s car out in an attempt to help, and is concussed by an explosion in the school: it’s the first bit of in-the-moment action we really our hands on, and it immediately throws the whole mess into sharper focus, however briefly. But that’s us for this week, so you’ll have to tune in for my next recap to find out if King can turn this third act around!
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(header image courtesy of Empire)