I can’t find any interviews with Stephen King on this Carrie remake. I keep looking, but so far…nothing. The reason I bring this up is because he’s usually very vocal about his book-to-film adaptations. For example, he HATED Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (I know, right? That movie is a classic).
Most writers are protective over their creations—as they should be. But King somehow manages to turn “protective” into “bitchy diva” (We’re talking Elton John territory). That’s why his interviews are so entertaining. He will throw shade at everyone (Look up his remarks on Stephenie Meyer and the Twilight series sometime. Hilarious). So, yeah, if you see any stories online with King talking about this movie, please drop a link in the comments because I would love a good laugh.
Speaking of a good laugh, let’s talk about this remake. The first Carrie came out in 1976 and starred Sissy Spacek. Fun fact: It was also John Travolta’s first major movie. Yeah, this movie was downright creepy, like most of the horror films from the 1970s. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you rent it now, especially if you plan to see this version (because then you can understand what I’m talking about). But I’ll get into that more in the spoilers below…
Here’s how Sony describes the plot: “A reimagining of the classic horror tale about Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz), a shy girl outcast by her peers and sheltered by her deeply religious mother (Julianne Moore), who unleashes telekinetic terror on her small town after being pushed too far at her senior prom. Based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King, Carrie is directed by Kimberly Peirce with a screenplay by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa.”
Carrie is a giant puberty metaphor. I will say this over and over again. Sex, womanhood, birth—all of these are recurrent themes in the story. The movie hits on this right off the bat with the infamous shower scene, where poor, sexually-uneducated Carrie starts her period for the first time in the girls’ locker room and freaks out because she thinks she’s dying. Carrie, herself, was even the result of unwed sexual intercourse, and her mother considered killing her because she was a “sinful” abomination. Let’s not forget Carrie’s telekinetic “special powers” that suddenly make her more confident and get her noticed (*cough* womanhood). Also, Carrie wears a virginal pink dress to the prom, which then turns red after another girl spills a bucket of pig’s blood on her. Oh, yeah. And then while she’s bloody, she murders an entire high school (a.k.a. children). No joke, I could write a 30-page academic paper on all of the pubescent symbolism in this story (Hell, Stephen King wrote an entire book on it).
The cast in this remake is great. Chloe Moretz, Julianne Moore, and Judy Greer are the big names in this movie, which is good because they’re in the biggest roles. Everyone else is a somewhat unknown, and I like that. Moretz is a good actress, but I can’t help but feel we’ve got a Rachel Leigh Cook in She’s All That “remove the glasses and she’s suddenly hot” formula going on with her portrayal of Carrie White. Did anyone else feel this way? Not that pretty girls can’t be bullied, but a super gorgeous actress playing the “weird girl” is always hard to believe. Moore, on the other hand, clearly had a good hair and makeup artist because she looked haggard (and she’s normally so beautiful). God, she gave me the creeps with her body-harming, deeply religious Margaret White. And Greer is always a good addition to any movie. She plays Moore’s counterpart, gym teacher Ms. Desjardin, who helps Carrie through her teenage crises. Sadly, while the cast was good, the movie, itself, was just…meh.
Nevertheless, in a time of cyber bullying, this movie is a good tool for discussion. When Carrie has her period freakout in the girls’ locker room, mean girl Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) not only starts the tampon throwing; she also records Carrie’s horror on her phone and subsequently posts it online to further embarrass Carrie. Although Chris tries to get her father to come into the principal’s office and fight her suspension (which, holy shit, was this accurate of the parents vs. teachers issues in today’s schools), Chris is ultimately suspended and not allowed to go to the prom.
On the other side of the bullying, we have Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde), who’s friends with Chris but realizes how cruel she and the other girls had been in throwing tampons at Carrie. Sue truly is a hero in this story because she not only admits that what she did was wrong, but she goes out of her way to make up for what she did to Carrie by asking her boyfriend, Tommy (Ansel Elgort), to take Carrie to the prom. Seeing the juxtaposition of these two “bullies” is never more clear than when Carrie kills Chris and spares Sue. Which, by the way, leads into a really hot topic about the violent prom scene…
In the original film, everyone in the gym at the prom dies. In Kimberly Peirce’s adaptation, however, Carrie only kills the people who wronged her, slightly maiming others in the process. Why is that? If we’ve learned anything in the last decade from teen gun violence, it’s that teen shooters don’t target those who wronged them; in fact, they typically go after innocents. By making this conscious choice to only have Carrie kill those who bullied her, it seems as though Peirce completely forgot that the whole “puberty” message is that teens can’t control their bodies, and therefore, their emotions. Chloe Moretz’s Carrie murdered (and this sounds weird to say) rationally by only killing her bullies, whereas Sissy Spacek’s Carrie realistically went after everyone. I’m really confused here because, to me, it almost seems like Peirce’s adaptation justified the violence rather than showing its true horrors.
But the biggest problem I had with this movie was actually its use of CGI. The original Carrie didn’t have that technology, so everything felt so much more realistic. In this movie, when Carrie goes all telekinetic murder on people’s asses, it’s almost too cheesy. The whipping electrical cords, the crumbling road, the levitating weapons—these graphics looked extremely low-budget, which took away from the movie’s horror. People always ask why I favor the 1970s and early ’80s horror films to the current horror films. Yeah, it usually comes down to CGI.
Overall, Carrie is yet another unnecessary remake. It’s well-acted, sure, but the CGI, the choices with the prom scene violence, and the hot young actress playing the “weird girl” all took away from the movie’s credibility. What’s odd about this movie to me is that, while director Kimberly Peirce might have gotten the female puberty aspects down better than 1976 director Brian De Palma (because she clearly understands those issues from her own experiences), I feel like De Palma did a better job at capturing the actual horror of a high school mass murder.
For my radio review of Carrie on “Pat & JT in the Morning,” visit this link (starts around the 30:27 mark).