Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Spell (1977): Carrie with chants

Tubbo?  Really?
The Spell (1977)
dir: Lee Philips

One criticism that people have rightly had about Carrie is that Carrie's Mom is over-the-top.  Carrie never had a real great life, and it is one of the disservices to the real lives of kids who are bullied. Carrie never gets a respite, but some do. Another criticism is that Carrie never seems to really deserve it, and thus generates more empathy than a usual outcast. The Spell fixes those problems, but creates a whole slew of others.

The Spell was a tv movie rip off of Carrie, with the basis of a girl who feels like an outcast using telekinetic powers to exact revenge on those around her.  The Spell knows it is ripping off Carrie, and even uses the same type of dreamy flute music periodically that defines the romantic dream-like scores of Carrie.  But, The Spell is also limited by its being a tv movie.

The Spell is about Rita, a girl who may be a size 9 or something to make her a little overweight as a 15-year-old girl.  When the film opens, however, she is picked on as fat, called Tubbo and Moby Dick. And, today was rope climbing day, which Rita couldn't manage.  However, her primary tormentor taunts her by doing fucking aerial rope tricks like spinning around,  and eventually falls and dies.

The next scene is set months in advance and the father is telling Rita not to go for the second helping of waffles because she's fat.  And, so is the basis for Rita.  She's fat.  She can also be kind of bitchy in the way that all teenagers are.  She goes out for a walk instead of making dinner like she was asked. She gets mad at her sister for beating her in a breath holding contest, and other such things.  But, her mom is torn between protecting Rita and raising Rita.  She wants to protect Rita from bullies, but then she wants Rita to grow up right.  And, as a parent, that's a hard line.

That is the main way that The Spell differentiates itself from Carrie, by giving her a decent home life. Well, decent-ish.  Her father and sister seem to be united against Rita from the beginning of the movie. More her father than her sister.  I think Rita is mainly jealous that her sister has good looks and is athletic while Rita is just plain Rita.  Rita isn't given any qualities outside of being fat, telekinetic, and doing needlepoint.

Rita also attacks weird people.  Like her father's business associates?  And her father himself.  It isn't a Rita against the school movie like Carrie, nor does it have the disaster mass murder finale that Carrie delivers, providing the same type of catharsis that a movie like The Final delivers.  The Spell is firmly happy with keeping its intents low.  Especially when the finale is mainly two people chanting under their breath at each other.  Oy.

Beyond that, however, the realism is well worth it, and you might as well check it out if you're tired of re-watching Carrie.  It tackles fat shaming, and offers an imperfect protagonist, in order to make everything feel that bit more real and a little less over the top.

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