Recently, I sat and watched one of my favorite movies growing up, Matilda. The story of a precocious young bookworm who’s so smart she actually develops telekinesis has aged extremely well, and I found myself enjoying it all over again. However I’m older now, and certain aspects of it stood out to me as a little surprising, primarily the fact that Matilda is basically Carrie for kids with a really strange twist at the end.
Let’s start with some background. Matilda came out in 1996, directed by Danny Devito, and based upon off an excellent book by one of my favorite authors ever, Roald “Pimp Factory” Dahl. Roald Dahl was an incredible man who flew planes during WW2 and worked for MI6 supplying intelligence to the Allies in between seducing oceans of sexy, sexy women before casually writing surprisingly dark books for kids. Then, when he got bored doing that, he took a break and authored an hilariously vulgar novel, My Uncle Oswald, about a sexual deviant and his graphic, sticky adventures around the world, which may have been vaguely inspired by his own sensual exploits during the war as a spy. Dude did what he wanted and we loved him for it. So when I say he was James Bond with an old fashioned typewriter, that’s only because it’s accurate. Luckily, Ian Fleming, the guy who wrote the Bond series, was one of his colleagues and therefore around to take notes.
You can practically feel him seducing you with his eyes
One day in the eighties, he sat down and penned a book that touched on child neglect and endangerment called Matilda. A super intelligent child is born to a family of swindlers and dunces and struggles to be herself, kind of like Lisa from The Simpsons. She goes to libraries as often as she can, eventually taking home dozens of thick books in a cute little red wagon, an image which probably won’t make any sense to kids nowadays. “Why doesn’t she just buy a Kindle?”, they’ll ask, while you stand in the corner and feel old at 22. Matilda’s parents are massively negligent and fail to appreciate how treating a kid like crap everyday breeds supervillains. So of course, one day, her powers burst out, like a gangly teen from an itchy sweater vest or Tetuso from Akira. She explodes the hell out of a television after getting annoyed at her dad for forcing her to watch it. Her parents are extremely stupid, so they don’t realize they’re living with someone with the ability to explode their faces, and so they chalk up the incident to coincidence and keep treating her like crap. In the meantime, Tetsuo-Matilda keeps getting more powerful.
The flick kicks into dark territory when this neglected, lovestarved, superpowered child is sent to school. With other children. Who can die. But to even the odds, there’s a complete monster in charge of the place, one Ms. Trunchbull, played, I might add, by the same woman who went on to play Aunt Marge in the Harry Potter films. You remember Aunt Marge, don’t you? She’s the bitch of a woman who ends up getting her comeuppance from a child with supernatural abilities.
Well, in a strange bit of foreshadowing, Ms. Trunchbull is a bitch of a woman who ends up getting her comeuppance from a child with supernatural abilities. Seriously, she’s awful. Just an horrible, awful human being with no love or empathy for anyone but herself. And so, she decided the best thing to with her life is become a principal of a school for dozens of precocious little kids. She even says, verbatim, “My idea of a perfect school is one with no kids!” It’s baffling she keeps doing what she does for a living, especially since the movie makes it clear that she killed a man earlier and stole his fortune. As a result, she’s clearly not poor, but simply a sadist, who gets off on making kids miserable so much that she’ll happily return to school daily to toss them around and lock them in spiky Iron Maidens for unspecified amounts of time. Judging by the fact that in all the years she’s been at this job, no parent has ever been curious as to why exactly their child returned from school with tetanus, rusty iron nail wounds, and fear in their eyes, I can only imagine that every parent in the Matilda universe is just awful at caring for kids. There’s the terrifying off-chance that Mrs. Trunchbull may actually be the lesser of two evils for some of the schoolchildren.
Anyway, Tetsuo-Matilda and Trunchbull clash multiple times and eventually their conflict comes to a head. Here’s where the Carrie comparison comes. If you’ll remember, Carrie is that movie about the girl whose classmates humiliate her at the prom and so she uses her recently-developed telekinetic powers to slaughter and burn them all. There’s a remake coming next year with Chloe Moretz. The telekinesis comparison between Carrie and Matilda is fairly obvious, so here’s the twist. Matilda, at the end, features Trunchbull being humiliated and chased out of the school by Matilda, who goes on to live happily with the angelic Ms. Honey. She even writes messages on the chalkboard exposing Trunchbull for killing Ms. Honey’s father, so we can only imagine Trunchbull is on the run as well. Carrie ends with mass murder and Carrie supposedly committing suicide by literally imploding her house with her still inside it. Here’s what I’m suggesting: Carrie is Mrs. Trunchbull.
She faked her death all those years ago, assuming a new identity of Agatha Trunchbull. Her attempted suicide had drained away the rest of her psychic powers, but not her general misanthropy. Annoyed at the young people who made her prom miserable and indirectly led to her mother’s death, she devoted her life to finding some way to get revenge on generations to come. She eventually became close to one Magnus Honey, the father of Ms. Honey, who treated her like a sister, and considered her an aunt to his child. In return for his friendship and housing, she brutally murdered him, took his money, and used it to construct the school Matilda would eventually attend. So, you can imagine how fractured her mind becomes when a child manages to beat her with the very powers she used to have. What’s terrifying is that Trunchbull, in the movie or the book, never explicity dies. She just sort of drives away in a frenzy, likely plotting revenge on Matilda and children around the world before just sort of giving up and becoming Bill O’Reilly.