Unlike Stephen King’s ending, which settles for an imperfect, yet compassionate mirroring between two complex female characters, Brian De Palma’s ending lingers on rage, which comes back to haunt from beyond the grave. Sue, who alternates between bully and sympathizer, ultimately finds herself identifying with Carrie’s pain. However, there is no closure for either Carrie or Sue — while Carrie is crushed under the weight of her own pain, Sue is compelled to carry the guilt of Carrie’s death, which is now a source of horror to her. Even the way in which Carrie reaches out to Sue in the dream is aggressive, as her hand shoots up from her grave and grabs Sue, pulling her inside the crypt.
Although Sue is not nearly as cruel as the other bullies at school, she ends up shouldering the guilt of Carrie’s tragic demise, which fuels bottomless grief and the fear of suffering a similar fate. Despite De Palma’s sympathetic portrayal of Carrie, this shock ending paints her as a creature of terror in Sue’s mind, who will now be forever haunted by the specter of a girl wronged. Within the ambit of genre tropes and the film’s gothic overtones, this sequence works remarkably well, jolting audiences out of a latent state of complacency or the misconception that the worst is truly over.
If anything, this ending is more tragic. Despite attempts by those like Sue to understand and comfort Carrie, she breathes her last feeling cornered and betrayed by the world. Her rage, linked to her personhood and autonomy, momentarily paves the way to liberation in the form of vengeance, but is too much to sustain her. In the end, she remains condemned, even in death, only understood in surreal fragments through channeled feminine grief, and rage.