There are some fine gory moments in "Carrie", but the real shocks come from the slick emotional exploitation employed by director Brian De Palma. The opening scene introduces us to Carrie (Sissy Spacek), naked and vulnerable, and subjected to utter humiliation by her peers in the school shower.
It's the moment of her first period and her confusion instantly underlines her naïvety. The reaction of the other girls is to mock and taunt her. With her position as the school freak established, it's time to go home to mommy, (Piper Laurie) who turns out to be a bible-bashing harridan of no emotional help whatsoever.
Not only is Carrie turning into a woman but she also discovers that she has developed telekinetic powers - the ability to move objects at will. It rapidly becomes clear that if provoked, she could wreak terrible damage on her tormentors. And unfortunately for them, they are planning an ultimate humiliation for her that no one will forget, should they survive.
In many ways, this is a deeply unpleasant film but unlike other examples of the horror genre, there are classic elements of tragedy that lend this gruesome tale a compelling edge. Sissy Spacek puts in a startling performance as Carrie, and perfectly conveys the deep unfairness of her character's vilification. She is a gentle and beautiful young woman who has until now survived her mother's emotional torture and the cruelty of her fellow pupils.
But there is to be no salvation for her or the audience, as De Palma cranks up the tension through a series of scenes that cruelly extend the agony for the already fearful viewer. Sad and tragic, this is a horror film with a rare emotional twist.
"Carrie" is on BBC1 at 10.55pm, Sunday 4th February 2001.