Carrie at 40


So Carrie is turning forty, in print at least, as a movie she’s thirty-eight….or one, or even twelve if you count the TV movie.  Now, I’ve never really read any Stephen King books or watched many of the movies, because he’s a horror writer and horror scares me but I had seen Carrie.  It was one of those movies that for the longest time I had never seen all the way through in the proper order.  I remember watching it first on late night television (actually on City Tv’s Late Great Movies) years and years ago, and to be honest I think I probably fell asleep.  It was LATE Great movies after all.  I remember catching the last half of the movie on television Hallowe’en night probably about five years ago but still had never seen it all the way through.  A friend of mine had told me that he been invited to do a book review for the fortieth anniversary of the novel’s release and suggested that a review of the movies would be interesting too.  Well since I review movies I thought “why not”?

I didn’t watch the 2002 TV movie but I did watch both the original 1976 Brian De Palma film and the 2013 Kimberly Peirce version.  Naturally I thought the original was better, but perhaps this is the movie that helps me to realize that all remakes aren’t all bad.  Though the two films didn’t really differ too greatly, the remake was a nice update and made a lot more sense than the 1998 Psycho remake did (a shot for shot remake seemed to be just a waste of everybody’s time and money).  The great advances in special effects since 1976 however, help justify the making of the “new” Carrie.  The original film does look a little dated, and this retelling does make the material look more acceptable to modern audiences, so I think people will be more accepting of the original film and give it a chance because of the new version.

It’s hard to define what a classic is, but King’s story does hit on classic notes.  Bullying, acceptance and the unknowns of growing up are all things that have been relevant (and still are) to teens since time began. Carrie White is a high school senior who lives with her mother, a deeply religious woman who disapproves of her daughter interacting with anyone, particularly with her classmates.  After a social embarrassment at school some of the girls bully the shy outcast even more which results in a detention from their Phys. Ed. teacher Miss Collins and possible exclusion from the prom.  At the centre of the Carrie’s tormentors are Chris Hargensen and Sue Snell, and when faced with having to face the consequences of their actions one girl seeks revenge and the other seeks redemption.   Sue gets her boyfriend, the dreamy Tommy Ross to ask Carrie to the prom.  Chris’ boyfriend, Billy Nolan, helps setup a prank that will further humiliate Carrie.  As all these stories unfold, Carrie herself begins to change; she starts to come out of her shell a little, she further develops her friendship with her teacher, starts to stand up to her mother a little and starts to exhibit telekinetic powers, which will have disastrous consequences that culminate at the prom.  We all know what happens at the prom.

So, what really are the differences?  Time for some comparisons which are really just my opinions, but first the special features on the original 1976 DVD spell out several differences between the book and that film for us:

Deleted from the film:

  • background info on the characters, including Carrie as  a little girl creating a rain of stones out of rage
  • her mother wanting to kill her infant daughter when she realizes what she can do
  • the relationship between Chris Hargensen and her rich and powerful father  (he threatens the principal of the school after Chris was kicked out of the prom.)
  • investigation with Sue Snell’s testimonies and the overall journalistic structure of the book
  • Carrie’s powers were toned down for the film – for  example in the book she destroys the entire town
  • Carrie kills Chris and Billy in the car after she has murdered her mom
  • the psychic connection between Carrie and Sue at the end of the book
  • an epilogue suggesting another toddler born like Carrie with telekinetic powers
  • in the book Carrie causes 409 deaths with 49 still missing

Added for the film :

  • several new characters including Sue’s mother and other teenagers
  • the death of Miss Collins: she survives but resigns in the book
  • the death of Margaret White: in the book Carrie causes her mom to have a heart attack
  • Sue’s nightmare at the end

So, what did I prefer about each film?

  • I think I preferred Sissy Spacek’s Carrie White, she really got the early awkwardness of the character, with her posture, her hair in the eyes, everything; and probably a lot of credit goes to director De Palma for this.  And when she went nuts at the end, her eyes looked incredibly creepy!  Just perfect actually.
  • Chloë Grace Moretz also does a fantastic job, but I think her Carrie seemed to be unaccepted in a different way.  The biggest casting problem with both films is that both women are attractive and Moretz’ transformation into prom queen seems almost a little too easy.  It was almost like the case of the “ugly girl” who takes off her glasses and suddenly is wearing makeup (without actually applying any) and looks beautiful.  It would have been interesting to see one of the films casting an unknown or heavily made up actress that looked a little more “dumpy” for lack of a better term.
  • Sissy Spacek was 27 when she played the teenage Carrie, and most of the other actors playing “teenagers” were in their mid twenties as well, I think that helps them to give a better performance because they remember what it was like to have gone through those awkward teenage years, whereas most of the actors in the 2013 Carrie haven’t finished going through that period yet themselves.
  • The music at the prom scene was very Psycho-esque and seemed to be a very big homage to Bernard Herrmann.
  • There was more humour in the original film.  Brian De Palma (like Hitchcock many years before him) gets it, you need to balance out the suspense and “horror” with a bit of comedy.
  • I think Peirce really dropped the ball by omitting some of the more natural, humourous pieces of the story.  Miss Collins telling Carrie about her own prom experience (1976 version) really emphasizes the growth of their relationship.  Of course in that version Carrie ends up killing her teacher with a basketball backboard…. ah well, at least Judy Greer survived (which is more accurate to the novel)
  • The 2013 ending is apparently more true to the book and I think that is all due to technology.  We now have green screens and computer graphics so we can do things they couldn’t do 38 years ago.  Knives will digitally fly across the room and stab your mother, books will levitate in front of your eyes, and people will fly across a fiery room rather than just being attacked by a fire hose.
  • The 1976 version had a bit more suspense for me, though I may have just missed something.  I felt that Sue’s intentions were unclear in De Palma’s film and you didn’t know if she was really trying to make amends with Carrie by setting her up with Tommy for the prom.  In the 2013 version it was a lot more obvious that she did feel bad about what she had done to Carrie.
  • In 2013 Billy seems to be a real jerk and also comes up with the idea for the pig’s blood prank.  In 1976 it was clear that Chris was in charge in their relationship and Billy blindly followed whatever she dictated.  In 1976 Chris had the idea for the pig’s blood prank after finding out Sue was not going to prom and sending Tommy to go with Carrie.  (at least that’s how I remember it, it has been a few weeks since I watched them both!)
  • Carrie’s power manifested itself more quickly in 2013 than in 1976 and it was a little more visible.  Originally Carrie’s powers manifested when she was angry or threatened, in 2013 she’s practising by floating books around her room.  I actually had a bit of a problem with her using her powers in this way, if you recall the scene in the principal’s office in each film.  In 1976 Carrie gets angry and causes an ashtray to fall off the desk and shatter.  That could have been knocked off or bumped when the principal wasn’t looking, but in 2013 the glass water cooler bottle explodes.  The water cooler was several feet away from anyone in the room, are you telling me that neither of the two adults in the room would be at all suspicious of that happening?  I think that was just a poor choice by the director and the creation of a plot hole for cynics and skeptics like myself pick up on.  I’ll believe in an angry telekinetic sixteen year old girl, but not that a water bottle can explode without anyone questioning it.
  • thanks to special effects Carrie’s attacks are more violent, more bloody and just bigger and better.
  • Piper Laurie was a much better Mrs. White than Julianne Moore.  In 2013 she seems just a little more crazy and more over the top than 1976, and not as much of a religious “fanatic”.  The scene in the dry cleaners (2013) where she stuck her leg with a pin while talking to Sue’s mother really didn’t seem necessary.
  • I don’t think they include the “they’re all going to laugh at you” warning line that Mrs. White gave Carrie before she went to the prom in the 2013 version.  I think that’s a big oversight as the line did feature heavily into Carrie’s delusion that the crowd was laughing at her after the blood dropped on her.
  • In 2013 it looked like they used nearly the exact same layout and even set dressings as in the original 1976 house.
  • The 2013 film did bring in several things from the book that weren’t in the 1976 film.  The “rain of stones” brought on by an enraged Carrie was planned for the original but the effects necessary were deemed too expensive and impractical to achieve a good result.  A scene with a young Carrie talking to her suntanning neighbour about her “dirty pillows” or breasts, was shot for the remake but only included as a deleted scene, and it does end with a courtroom hearing scene.
  • Both films were really well done and the remake really does no harm (mainly because it doesn’t change much) but does improve on several minor things.  Even De Palma has said that his use of split screen camera work and that is really the only fault I had with his version.

I think the core of the story (besides a good thrill) was bullying, and it’s interesting how the book was really ahead of its time.  Bullying has really become a noticeable problem and a public issue of late, and Stephen King was dealing with it forty years ago.  It used to be the bullying stopped when you got home school, but now with cyber-bullying it can keep haunting kids long after, as was shown in the 2013 film.  Being set in modern times it was only natural that someone would film Carrie’s humiliation with their cell phone and then the video would be posted online.  King was ahead of the curve though as in his original story Carrie’s bullying didn’t stop when she got home either, it just changed sources.  Her mother was just as much a bully to her as the kids at school, and Carrie took her revenge on all the bullies in her life.  I think that audiences will always cheer for Carrie to get her revenge.


Bottom Line: you know I’ll probably get around to reading this one now.

Bottom Line 2: if that’s what prom is really like, I’m glad I never went to one…


Posted on 14-04-05, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I don’t like the movie


  2. gutenbergsson

    Tommy Ross?


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