I tried to respond to Scott and Shroomy in the comments of the last post, but as usual I was too long-winded and my remarks went over the limit by 1,000 characters. So here it is:
I'm not saying that Paxton is an inferior character to Laurie. Indeed, he's more realistic. But that doesn't mean the film overall is a better parable about the dangers of religious fundamentalism -- where Frailty
draws a clear line between the black and white (demons are those who have killed, they should all be killed, if you haven't killed an "innocent" human then you're a "good person," and a demon-slayer who shakes your hand can tell that), Carrie
cuts a wide swath across all of society. Not only is it an individual coming-of-age story for a teenage girl (and an unbearably dark one, considering her fate), but it shows the ugly consequences of violence against everyone -- good, bad, or in between. Remember, Carrie kills her benevolent gym teacher and her nice guy prom date as well as bullies Nancy Allen and Travolta, and in all cases we're not to feel happy that anyone dies. The only villain is Laurie; her abuse of Carrie turns her into a murderer, just as Paxton's abuse of Fenton turned him into a murderer (even though his series of killings took place off screen): but Paxton literally WAS doing the work of God, killing only "demons." Carrie's destruction hit closer to home for me, I think, because I don't buy the demon shit (not that I buy telekinesis either) -- her destruction was total.
Therefore, the horror is more frightening; Buckley and Katt don't deserve to bite it, but they do -- and likewise, do we not feel bad that Travolta and Allen die? I think we do. Sure they were cruel, they were assholes, but De Palma doesn't judge them as deserving death -- their murders are treated as the same kind of evil generated by Carrie, which grew from her own experience of being abused. The central difference, then, between Frailty
is that Paxton's film draws a clear line between demons and "good people," with the demons being "destroyed" (remember: not "killed") by those doing God's work (but be careful, I'm not saying Paxton supports serial killings) -- and he wants his audience to know the truth of who is evil and who has the power to see demonic powers in human form. De Palma, on the other hand, creates a world where everyone is human, so the loss of life is sadder: even Laurie was a human being before getting fucked over by Carrie's father, and her abuse of her daughter is a latent abortion she self-justified with her view of a sinful world.
Despite these differences in world view, I do think the two films are comparable. Both are definitely dealing with child abuse, bullying, and the misdirected rage than can percolate from that. And both are dealing with religious fundamentalism, though I grant that Paxton is more even-handed about Christianity than Brian DeBlasphemy. I just think Carrie
is a more beautiful film, and more emotionally touching. I also think the cinematography is leagues better in Carrie
camerawork is rather staid, and rarely evocative (self-conscious sunlight-halos notwithstanding), and the script I think lacks dimension in the dialogue; Carrie
has a far better sense of humor (Frailty's
lone piece of comedy is the "now Adam you just can't make that stuff up" scene, but everything else is deadly -- and wrongly -- serious). And I don't think there's a comparison between De Palma's and Paxton's blocking and composition. Scott is right that Frailty
is being often overrated and underrated (though I think more overrated), but there's not even enough in the 1970s section to even compare to a great film like Carrie.
And I forgot Casualties of War
as one of De Palma's best -- it sure is a hell of a film, for the most part.