When I first heard they were remaking “Carrie” I got mad. Really mad. The Great Hollywood Remake Machine was hard at work ready to ruin another wonderful film. And this time it wasn’t just any movie, it was “Carrie”, a film I hold so near and dear to my heart. Here is a story with a character that could have been me. I strongly identify with Carrie White having been bullied and an outsider in my younger years, wanting nothing more than to feel love and acceptance from the people around me. My family was wonderful, I am referring to my peers. And I knew without a doubt that they were going to fuck it up. Then I heard the rumor (and it may have been made up) that Lindsay Lohan was being considered for the title role. Just kill me now. We would have a version of the movie where Carrie, a 17 year old girl, who has had plastic surgery and appears to be in her 30s because of a meth addiction and a bad case of anorexia, finds out her telekinesis is purely a drug induced hallucination because she is in the detox room in rehab. Great! I actually think Miss Lohan is a very gifted actor but I was mad. Time went by and I tried to ignore that they were making a new version, although my hate for the movie was growing like some kind of weird cancer in my mind. Then one day in my news feed on Facebook I see a photo with the caption “Julianne Moore to play Margaret White.” At that moment the sun broke through the clouds.
I started hunting articles on the movie and soon was devouring each new detail with the delight of a child let loose in a candy store. Chloë Grace Moretz was cast as Carrie. This made me smile. I already loved her work in “Let Me In” and “Kick-Ass” and she seemed a wonderful choice. Then I find out Kimberly Peirce who gave us “Boys Don’t Cry” was set to direct and Lawrence D. Cohen who was a screenwriter on the original “Carrie” was on board to help pen this one as well. Peirce also had Brian DePalma’s blessing to work on the remake of his landmark film. Suddenly the hate was gone and I was in Heaven! The movie was slated to be released in March 2103. What a wonderful birthday treat that was going to be! Then in January or February the studio pushed the release out to October 2013. You could have knocked me over with a feather. This meant one of two things. Either the movie really sucked or the studio wanted some time to fine tune the movie rather than release a mediocre version that still needed some loving care. I believe it was the latter. They never gave a reason. October makes more sense with Halloween looming around the corner. “Carrie” is out and this version stands on its own.
It is impossible to watch this film and not compare it to DePalma’s masterpiece. In this article I will make comparisons. This new version mirrors the original very closely. This has angered some people. Many are claiming this to be a shot for shot remake. It is not. At times it will be deja vu watching this 3rd filmed version. The 2nd was a television movie that was immediately forgettable. I am glad the films (1976 & 2013) reflect one another. It means that they are telling the story that I love. It is faithful to the original movie while adding new material either from the novel or the filmmaker’s imaginations. So instead of bashing the film, lets instead, talk about what is right with this movie. * Keep in mind that what follows is written with the assumption that you have seen the original film and it contains spoilers. If you have not seen the original skip down to the last 2 paragraphs so nothing is ruined for you.
THE CAST. The movie stars three seasoned pros, Chloë Grace Moretz (Carrie), Julianne Moore (Margaret) and Judy Greer (Miss Desjardin) in a novel turn in a dramatic role that she nails, plus a dynamic a group of fresh young faces that are relatively unknown. Those actors respectively, Portia Doubleday (Christine Hargensen) , Gabriella Wilde (Susan Snell) and as their boyfriends accordingly, Alex Russell (Billy Nolan) and Ansel Elgort (Tommy Ross).
CARRIE AND MARGARET’S RELATIONSHIP. This film has toned down the epic battles between Margaret and Carrie vs. the original. The way Spacek and Laurie played it is legendary. Ms. Laurie played it with the belief that she was in a horror film satire and it turned out to be cinematic gold. The major difference here is how much love Margaret shows for her daughter, sometimes holding her hand, or giving her a mother’s kiss. Margaret’s motives and attitudes are much clearer than in the original film. Margaret, still very extreme in her religious beliefs makes no secret that she loves her little girl and wants to protect her from an evil world. In a new subplot Carrie has been home-schooled until the state stepped in and said she must attend regular school. Even in the final confrontation between mother and daughter the motives of Margaret are very clear which makes it seem a little less crazy and far more frightening. Margaret doesn’t just punish Carrie. The woman constantly scourges herself (to be more Christlike I suppose) in her doctrine. Julianne Moore’s Margaret is scary as hell. She walks around with an emotionless expression and I may be mistaken but I don’t think she blinks once, so you are never sure what she is thinking until she acts on it. Ms. Moore and Miss Moretz play beautifully off one another in a relationship that is all too believable. It is a mixture of love and fear on both sides. And Carrie is now able to speak her mind to her mother unlike in the original version where Carrie was mostly terrified of the woman she loved.
PORTIA DOUBLEDAY AS CHRISTINE HARGENSEN. In the original Nancy Allen gave a powerful performance as Chris, a mean girl who knew how to manipulate those around her and used her beauty and sexuality to get what she wanted. She came off as a spoiled brat. The new version of Chris comes off differently. She is a bit more realistic. Chris in this adaptation is given more depth. She is still a spoiled brat but now we see why. This version includes a scene omitted from the original where Chris’ attorney (according to the book) father comes to the principal’s office to get his daughter her prom tickets. She is Daddy’s Little Girl and has been indulged her whole life. She is narcissistic, the one look at her bedroom tells the whole story. She does not use her sexuality as a tool ( the blowjob scene is gone) and is not as vicious as Ms. Allen’s version. This is evident during the locker room scene. In the original Chris immediately taunts and shoves Carrie and the others chime in. This time Chris tries handing Carrie a tampon and tells her “Here Carrie, plug it up.” After a moment she realizes with malicious glee that Carrie has no clue what is going on and then the assault begins. This attack seems a little less mean than the one in the original although Chris uses her cell phone to record the incident. Unlike the original Chris is not presented as a completely heartless bitch this time around. The pig’s blood is not Chris’ idea, it is Billy’s. When they are putting the bucket of blood over the stage Chris looks at the decorated gym with some longing knowing she will not be dancing out there. She also reacts to Tommy’s death when the bucket hits him in the head. In 1976, Chris driving Billy’s car, sees Carrie in the road and tries to run her down, in 2013 she is scared and even tries texting her father to come get her. She just wants to get away. She tells Billy to run Carrie over when she realizes they are being stalked by the angry teen. The reaction is out of panic and fear. Miss Allen’s Chris will always be a fabulous villain but this one is pretty damn good too.
JUDY GREER AS MISS DESJARDIN. This is the most surprising bit of casting in the film. I love seeing a comedian cast in a dramatic role like Whoopi Goldberg in “The Color Purple” or Mike Meyers in “54” who nail it. Miss Greer is no exception in an exceptional performance as the kind hearted P. E. teacher. The original film cast Betty Buckley who delivers a powerhouse performance as Miss Collins (the name was changed in the original film. The new film uses the name from the novel) a tough authoritarian with a heart. Buckley is very no nonsense in her portrayal and comes off like a drill sergeant at times. She seems to have been teaching for a long time. Ms. Greer’s personification of the character is a bit more mellow and warm. She seems like someone who has been teaching for a while but hasn’t just started going through the motions. Miss Desjardin is youthful in attitude and treats her students like people (not kids) and sometimes friends. She is soft spoken and has a big heart and she is the kind of teacher kid’s love having. She is the adult when she has to be. If everyone is doing what they are supposed to then the world is a beautiful place. Watch for a brief clip of her dancing with a student at the prom. It is up there with watching Elaine dance on Seinfeld. You will crack a smile.
CARRIE LEARNING TO CONTROL HER TELEKINESIS. In the original film Carrie’s powers are displayed in moments of extreme physical and emotional stress. She reads up on it and knows that there are others like her but that is as far as DePalma takes it. When she lets loose at the prom it is like a wild animal. In the new version Carrie does study up on the subject and she also learns to control it. She doesn’t need a moment of stress to use it. When the climatic scene at the prom occurs Carrie is very much in control. She and she alone, will single out those that she believes deserve her wrath. She is still a killer but in a calculated way. She will decide who lives and who dies.
UPDATING THE STORY WITH THE USE OF MODERN TECHNOLOGY. Amazingly it has been 37 years since the original “Carrie” hit movie screens everywhere and times have changed. That being said so did the story in this time of the internet and smart phones. During the locker room incident Chris Hargensen films Carrie’s humiliation with her phone and later places it on YouTube so everyone can witness and laugh at the assault on Carrie who believes that she is dying because of her period. We get to see Carrie use the internet where she can see video of people using their telekinetic powers, Sissy could only read up on the subject. Text messages are also used as an effective tool. One from Tommy to Sue while he is at the prom with Carrie and one from Chris to Sue a few minutes later letting her know something bad is going to happen. There is also the use of a video screen at the prom to complete the humiliation of Carrie after she has been covered in blood. They play the video Chris took for everyone to see. In a funny touch we see that Carrie sews her prom dress at home on an old fashioned sewing machine that has a manual foot pump. I guess Margaret thinks technology is evil.
THE USE OF CGI. I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this one because the original was done so effectively without it. We are in a new day and age so why not give Carrie’s abilities some spectacular visuals. Although I believe a younger audience would completely enjoy the original, the use of these effects enhance the story telling. Let’s face it. The younger generation and even ourselves, have gotten used to seeing films that have so many CGI shots making things that at one time would have been very hard or impossible to do entirely possible. Personally I enjoyed the CGI because it would have been a waste to retell this story without it. I know that just because we have the ability doesn’t mean everything needs to be CGI but it was used in the correct way. It enhanced the story and gives the movie some dazzling images.
THE PROM. No one…. and I mean no one will ever capture the lyrical and dreamlike quality of this scene like DePalma did. He used beautiful tracking shots in which the characters interacted with one another, split screens and slow motion scenes with no dialogue that played out with choreography like an exquisite ballet overlaid with Pino Donnagio’s haunting and beautiful score. This movie doesn’t try to. The scene has been streamlined and I think takes up less screen time than the original. The scenes are straight-forward and to the point and when Carrie lashes out it is a visual treat different from that of the 76 version. As Carrie demonstrates the use of her power, gone is the wide eyed and terrifying stare of Sissy Spacek. Carrie enjoys her power in this scene and you can tell. She directs her power very intentionally and moves her body in an unsettling way that looks like a combination of a snake moving blended with some kind of dance. Carrie selects precisely who will die.
CHRIS AND BILLY’S DEATH. In the original movie Carrie is walking home covered in blood. Christine is driving Billy’s car and sees Carrie walking down the road and speeds up intending to run her over. Carrie hears the car coming and lashes out without much thought and the car flips and explodes effectively dispatching the two teens. It always pleases me to see a villain get what is coming to them, however, it just seemed too simple. I believe if you have a worthy villain they deserve a stunning death scene. The new movie corrects this one and the final face-off between Chris and Carrie is wonderful fun. Carrie first follows the car stalking Chris and Billy like a hunter. She uses her power to make the turn around and drive back towards her and what follows is gold. I will leave it at that. Go watch the movie and enjoy this.
THE TWINS. They don’t really do anything but they are beautiful and are odd in a strangely comedic fashion. I wish they had more screen time. Maybe this was an homage to “The Shining” or a throw-back to the sisters in the 1976 version.
*I am done. I really enjoyed the new movie. I can say I didn’t connect with Carrie in this film like I did with the original. I don’t know if it is because I am older or that Miss Moretz’s portrayal is considerably different than Sissy’s. This Carrie is a more self-assured. It could be many things. I do have a couple things I didn’t care for in the film. One is the casting of Gabriella Wilde as Susan Snell. She is very attractive but doesn’t have the acting range required for this character. The rest of the cast is very good so it is not a big deal. At the end of the movie you see Sue sitting before the White commission that is investigating the events of prom night. I wish a bit more of this has been in the movie instead of the scant few seconds it is on screen. The last shot in the movie was totally unnecessary. It looked like a quickly added cheap CGI shot you would see in a low grade horror film. Just because it is a horror movie you do not need that stupid last shot where you may think this isn’t the end of the story. Please no sequel this time! All in all it is a fun ride and that is the reason we go see movies. To be entertained. And I was. I walked into the movie worried that I would be disappointed. I was not. I am very critical of remakes and sequels and found this a fun fresh take on the story.
I want to share this with you. My husband and I were watching the movie and Carrie steps out on the porch to greet Tommy. She is looking radiant in her prom dress and my husband leaned over and said “This makes me sad.” Sad? I asked him why. He said “Because I don’t want her to go. I know what is going to happen” So even my husband who doesn’t care for horror movies (and after 10 years together you would think he’d love them by now) had fallen in love with Carrie White in the 1976 version and knew in 2013 it still wouldn’t end well for the poor girl. She weaves an incredible spell over all who see her because we have all know her or been like her at some point in our life. She is a horror movie bad girl and icon who almost wasn’t born. Stephen King threw out the original pages he had written and his wife Tabitha rescued “Carrie” from the garbage and encouraged him to keep writing. Now 3 movie versions plus a sequel and 2 versions of the Broadway musical have come out of this novel that almost wasn’t. Thank you Tabitha King. And now, I , who did not want to see this movie made, want you to go and enjoy. This is a good chance for moms and their teenage girls to go to a movie and have bonding time and conversation about the movie, (maybe over a late night burger at Ruby Tuesday ) whether the subject be bullying, mother-daughter relationships, religious beliefs, peer pressure or even Christine Hargensen, that bitch had it coming and it kicked-ass. The movie is rated “R” and contains harsh language, graphic violence, a very brief sex scene with no nudity and has some very intense moments. I give it a solid 8.5 out of 10
Until next time Embrace Your Inner Bad Girl because being bad feels so damn good!