This week we talked about the movie 1976 Horror film Carrie (you can see the video of the discussion below). We took a look at the Spielberg/De Palma collaboration not only as a classic in the Horror genre but also as a snapshot of what was common/acceptable in movies almost 4 decades ago. But we also happened to draw this movie while the Carrie 2013 remake is out in theaters, so this really turned into a discussion of Carrie as a franchise. Below are some quick Highs and lows from the three films:
This is the movie that started it all. The story is of a shy girl who was sheltered from the world by a fearful, delusional mother and the damage done to her by this upbringing. Carrie is an outcast, shunned by the social groups in her high school as a pariah. Not only does she not have the social skills needed to integrate in her environment after only recently being allowed to attend a public school, Carrie is unprepared to deal with the changes her body is going through as she becomes a young woman. After traumatically having her first menstruation in a locker room full of her classmates and panicking, these girls mercilessly mock her chanting the refrain – “Plug it up.”
As it turns out, her impending womanhood combined with the stresses that she is forced to endure both in school and at home bring on another new aspect of her life – the power of telekinesis. At realizing this and telling her mother, Carrie’s new found abilities are attributed to the devils hand by her mother and we see the psychological torture her mother puts her through by locking her in a closet under the stairs and telling her to pray.
If this wasn’t traumatic enough, Sue – one of the girls who mocked her in the locker room, attempts to make things right by having her boyfriend – captain of the football team and class hunk – ask Carrie to the prom. Carrie suspects that the invitation is a further attempt to mock her and resists, but the boys charm ultimately wins her over. Unfortunately Chris – one of the less repentant girls who mocked her in the locker room and has been punished for it sees this as an opportunity to seek revenge on Sue and plans to once again humiliate Carrie – this time in front of everyone attending the prom.
This cocktail of social and psychological angst, misplaced altruism, vengeance and newly found telekinetic abilities explodes into the climax of the movie when Carrie, doused in pigs blood as a call back to her unfortunate menstruation incident snaps. Using her unprecedented abilities, Carrie lashes out at everyone she perceives as laughing at her (which is essentially everyone in the school) killing many of those present and burning the school to the ground. On her return home she finds her mother in an attempt to “Save her” tries to kill her and ends up getting killed herself in the process.
Sissy Spacek knocks this performance out of the park as the powerfully deranged Carrie and in the process created one of the most iconic horror scenes in the history of the genre in the burning of the gym. We don’t feel bad for those that she goes after for this is a tragedy of their own design – or so it seems. The truth is most the Carrie’s victims had nothing to do with the experiences the drove her to perpetrate this massacre. They were simply innocents caught in the crossfire.
The Rage: Carrie 2
This film is pure shite. Its 23 years later and Spielberg makes the mistake of entrusting this follow up story to director Katt Shea. Who is Katt Shea you ask? Me too, because I had no freaking idea who she was. It turns out Katt Shea is responsible for bringing such masterpieces to the screen as Stripped to Kill, Dance of the Damned and Streets. Still not clear on who she is? Neither am I. I had never heard of these films before looking her up on IMDB. The ONLY movie I’ve ever heard of that this director seems to be responsible for is the 1992 film Poison Ivy. Shea takes the original story and attempts to pin a yarn that – to me at least – seemed really implausible.
The main character in this film is Rachel Lang, who is less of an outcast than she is a rebellious teen who refuses to conform. Also stricken with a delusional mother who is institutionalized while she is very young, Rachel’s telekinetic powers seem to have been with her all along. Rachel however, adopts an “ignore it and it will go away” attitude towards her powers. Oh and by the way – she also happens to be Carrie White’s half sister. WTF? So the mysterious father of Carrie White has a thing for fucked up religious women? Just how many crazy telekinetic kids are running around this town anyway? And shortly after the incident with Carrie White and the apparent urban legend she has become, women are still hopping in the sack with this guy? It’s just a stupid premise and a poorly executed movie. Also filling this movie with relative unknowns and B-list television actors wasn’t the greatest idea.
The one shining moment in this movie – The arrow that goes through the back of the skull of one of the antagonists, through the front door and through Amy Irving’s character Sue’s forehead. In killing off Sue they ensure that this well intentioned idiot will not be fucking with anyone else’s life and setting more unstable telekinetics loose on the streets of this small town. I hope you are proud of yourself Sue – you did it again.
Of the three films, this one is the biggest surprise. Remaining faithful to the original movies story and intent this film serves as a wonderful homage to the original film. The writing was well done; the casting was for the most part incredible and the direction of this film by Kimberly Pierce was top notch! In general I am pretty critical of remakes, especially when scenes are done shot for shot and line for line. The story, barring a few minor elements is exactly the same. Much to my amazement – for this movie it really, really worked! AS much as it pains me to say this I enjoyed this movie more than I did the original.
The stand out performance in this movie is Julianne Moore by far. Her performance as the bible thumping overbearing mother was one of the creepiest things I’ve seen her do. She had me cringing in my seat every time she was given screen time. Another great casting choice comes in the form of Judy Greer as the gym teacher Ms. Desjardin. Casting actors and actresses that make the characters feel like fully fleshed out people went a long way to making this film as enjoyable as it was. Unfortunately there was a single huge misstep and that was the casting of Chloë Grace Moretz in the role of Carrie.
Don’t get me wrong, I think she is a talented actress and in all the scenes that required her to be a vulnerable teen aged girl she was completely believable and an asset to the film. But when it came to playing the rage filled Carrie, Moretz simply wasn’t up to the task. I don’t blame her for this failure though; this was a casting problem pure and simple. When Sissy Spacek played Carrie she was a seasoned 27 year old actress. Chloë at the tender age of 16 just didn’t have what it takes to become the monster that Carrie needed to be.
That one casting choice was not the only mistake made in this movie. What was the best part of the original Carrie film was by far the worst part of the re-make: The Prom Scene. The over the top gore and special effects combined with the strange and almost disconnected look of Moretz’s face made the scene come of campy and almost cartoony. The choice to make Carrie levitate over the gym while waving her arms around in a slow motion goth dance fashion put the finishing touches on what would be a tragedy in an otherwise well made film. Once the character was back to being a vulnerable teen aged girl, all of the performance issues seemed to have vanished. If I had to choose an actress I thought was appropriate for the roll of both the vulnerable girl and the raging monster within, I probably would have went with someone like Dakota Fanning who has proven she has the creepiness factor to pull off a character like this.
All in all I liked both to the Carrie films and wish I could erase the experience of The Rage from my mind. I think if you are going to remake a classic film, this is the way to do it.