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Dream To Nightmare: How Brian De Palma Filmed The Bloody Prom Scene In ‘Carrie’

Sissy Spacek in Carrie
United Artists

Prom: the night of every high schooler’s dreams, a night that will forever remain in your memories … at least that’s how it is in the movies. People say that prom is a night that you’ll never forget and while there are plenty of films depicting the staple high school moment, the most unforgettable prom scene in cinema has to be in the infamous “Carrie.”

If you know anything about the story of Carrie, you’ll know that the prom depicted in the movie starts out like any dreamy romantic scene in a coming of age film. However, that doesn’t last long and the dreamy scene turns into one’s worst nightmare all thanks to the famous blood dump scene. In the movie, Carrie’s bullies douse her with a bucket full of pigs’ blood, making this scene the breaking point before Carrie unleashes her telekinetic powers in a fury of revenge.

Nowadays, CGI would most likely be the preferred method to create the bloody scene but back then director Brian De Palma used practical effects in order to create the desired visuals. With a mixture of Karo syrup and red food coloring, Sissy Spacek (who played Carrie) recalls the bloodbath feeling like “a warm blanket falling over me.” She also mentions in interviews that because of the hot lights, the syrup would stick to her skin and she would have to shower to get out of her dress.

Although the iconic prom scene took two weeks and about 35 takes to create, De Palma reportedly said that the blood soaking shot was captured in one single take. With practical effects, this is an incredibly difficult task to achieve and the precision required in the scene would have to be nearly perfect in order to perfectly hit Spacek. But Jack Fisk, the film’s production designer and also Spacek’s husband simply stood on a ladder and dropped the bucket of “blood” on her, clearing the shot in one take.

In the 2013 remake, hundreds of gallons of fake blood were used to get the scene to look just right, but De Palma and his crew managed to pull it off effortlessly, creating one of the most memorable prom scenes in movie history.

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