A young, abused and timid 17-year-old girl discovers she has telekinesis, and gets pushed to the limit on the night of her school's prom by a humiliating prank. This is Rumor Control, here are the facts and welcome back to the 31 Days of Halloween! I’ve gone on record that there are movies that can be remade, movies that should be remade and movies that shouldn’t even be considered to be remade. Of course Hollywood can’t help but get it’s greedy little fingers into movies that fall into the latter category and have thus remade Carrie… I just want to point out that this is the SECOND time that Carrie has been remade, it’s troubling enough to think that Carrie was remade once let along twice! The mere thought of the Carrie remake infuriates me due to the sheer laziness of everyone involved (excluding Julianne Moore who looks like she will do a fantastic job) the bulls**t the executives made as an excuse to remake Carrie (they did it because of improvements on effects and because bullying is now a major issue… News flash assholes, improved effects doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be better and bullying has always been a major issue!). There’s also the fact that everyone seems to try too hard, the trailers have given everything away and Kimberly Peirce, who seems like a very good and passionate director, has sold out in favor of an easy paycheck (“We’ve got to have… Moneeeeeeeey!”). Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s review the original classic and see why another remake was unnecessary.
There are a few great adaptations of King’s work: The Green Mile, Misery and The Dark Half are among these films. What makes them so good you ask? Why the all follow the stories of the books they were based on as closely and as loyally as they can and Carrie is no exception. Writer Lawrence D. Cohen has done a very good job of adapting the novel into a screenplay, having gathered every necessary detail while leaving out some of the more unimportant ones that would have had no impact on the story to begin with. Well OK, everything isn’t necessarily perfect. Cohen did drastically change the ending by bringing down the epic climax to a smaller scale while adding a new scene of gore. However I can condone Cohen for this since the filmmakers just didn’t have the appropriate budget to do what had to be done, though I still compliment them for doing a good job in the end with what little they had. Anyway, the story for Carrie is surprisingly enjoyable. I say surprisingly because a majority of the film comes off more as an effective teen drama rather than a horror film. The film starts off with Carrie White, a social outcast in her school, having her period for the first time while in the girls locker room shower. Not knowing what her period is and fearing that she’s dying, she screams and begs for help from the other girls only to be met with ridicule and abuse. De Palma does an excellent job in making such a terrifying scene here. There’s no mass amounts of blood, no frightening images and jump scares but rather the cruelty that the other girls show Carrie in a moment of terror and that to me is pretty scary. It’s a very realistic scene and it’s something that’s happened to all of us at one point in our lives and something that happens every moment of every day. One of the themes of Carrie is bullying and what it’s impacts are on the victim, the consequences of the tormentors and what happens to the victim when they’re finally pushed too far. The film gets this moral down perfectly and the scene in the shower not only sets up what will eventually happen in the end but it’s well-done, making me tighten with hate and rage while feeling extreme solicitous towards Carrie. From here on the film follows Carrie not only on the road to going to prom (after one of her tormentors, Sue Snell, being the only remorseful one tells her boyfriend to take Carrie to the prom) as well as learning how to use her newfound powers, which is another moment of social commentary that I applaud. You see, Carrie has trouble with her identity. Her mother is an extreme religious fanatic that punishes Carrie for meager things she finds sinful and treats womanhood as a sin thus something that must be avoided, pressuring and abusing Carrie to be more like her. Carrie also faces abuse from the girls in her school who all look and act alike. Carrie isn’t as pretty as they are and Carrie keeps to herself and dresses conservatively and thus she’s the target of the bullies since she doesn’t conform to their way of life. This is the basis of her powers, she has no control over any aspect of her life and the constant abuse made her powers grow and her late blooming puberty (her ascent into womanhood) activated her powers. This social commentary is effective while being sad and true as well. Moving on, the majority of the film where Carrie is preparing for the prom is very touching and endearing. It’s sweet to see her coming out of her shell and finally taking the momentous step of becoming social, an act that I can relate to and be envious of. Sadly, not everything can be good in the world of Carrie, one of the bullies, Chris Hargensen, vows vengeance against Carrie. Due to her own cruelty and laziness, Chris has been forbidden to go to prom and blames Carrie for her own mistakes. The film will periodically go between Carrie’s deserved happiness and Chris brewing her plan. These moments made me feel uncomfortable and indignant. They’re a jarring juxtaposition to the lighter side of the story involving Carrie and serve to remind us what’s going to happen in the end. The horror aspect of the story doesn’t kick in until well past the one hour mark and director Brian de Palma once again does an excellent job of bringing this scene to life. The prom rampage is a genuinely unnerving scene as Carrie takes her revenge against the people of her school. It’s this scene that shows the consequences of bullying, Carrie has now been pushed so far that she’s everyone laughing at her misery when in reality only one person is while everyone else looks on with shock and sympathy. But the damage has been dealt and Carrie can no longer see sympathy but mocking and goes on her rampage. Despite being toned down due to budget the finale is still very shocking and well made with de Palma having the gym virtually destroyed and torched, thirty year olds pretending to be teenagers viciously tossed around, captures the sheer desperation of these students as well as a few bloodless but still violent deaths. Overall the story for Carrie is mostly true to it’s source material. It serves mostly as a teen drama and a morality tale which easily held my attention and the finale is spectacular and made for good payoff.
The characters in Carrie are both good and bad, though the latter half is actually works in the film’s favor.
Carrie is a very sympathetic character. She’s quiet and keeps to herself but yet she’s still met with cruelty and viciousness from her peers. Once she learns about her powers and begins to use them she begins to go through drastic character development. She becomes more and more social and outgoing and now begins to stand up for herself against her overbearing and abusive mother. During the prom I felt joy for Carrie since she was finally so happy but at the same time an overwhelming sense of sadness. Of course we all know what’s going to happen and that’s what makes everything all the worse. I’m actually reminded of a moment from The Simpsons when Marge said that when she saw Carrie with Homer they left when Carrie was pronounced prom queen since she was so happy and wanted to remember the film as such. I wish I could do the same thing, just turn it off when she’s at the pinnacle of happiness but I can’t, because that’s not reality. Reality isn’t kind and caring, reality sucks. It’s a royal bitch that pushes you down and kicks you, laughing all the way, and that’s just the cold, sad truth about Carrie.
Margaret White, Carrie’s mother, is just a cold, evil human being. Her immense cruelty and abuse toward her own daughter is horrible and despicable. What makes her character all the more sickening is that she hides behind a mask of righteousness, seeing herself as good and pure. Oh she’s pure alright… Pure evil!
The character of Sue Snell is one of the few problems I have with Carrie. In the book she served a greater purpose other than being the only remorseful bully. She had offered to be Carrie’s friend and even has a tender moment with Carrie after the prom massacre. Sadly all she does in this film is set up her boyfriend Tommy with Carrie, other than that she serves no purpose. The only interesting thing I can think of her character is during the scene in the shower when Sue and the others mocked Carrie. When the gym teacher, Miss Collins, asks her what she is doing and Sue doesn’t even have an answer. She seems like she’s about to but then realizes that she doesn’t know why she’s tormenting Carrie, having gotten caught up in the moment rather than being outright cruel.
Miss Collins is a mixed bag of a character. On one hand her caring nature towards Carrie is touching, doing everything that she can to ensure that Carrie not only is never tortured again but that she can finally come out of her shell. I also love her harsh but fair attitude towards the bullies, making them have one hour detention every day for one week wherein they must exercise lest they be forbidden from going to prom. I love how the bullies get their just desserts this way and I love her caring nature. Sadly her caring nature is also one of her biggest problems. When she learns that Sue asked Tommy to take Carrie to prom she immediately, and rightfully so, thinks it’s a prank. She confronts Sue and Tommy but doesn’t believe Sue when she says that she feels sorry. Even when Sue tries to stop what happens at prom, Collins’ personality gets the best of her again and she throws Sue out, now being partially responsible for what happens in the end.
Lastly we have Chris… I can’t stand this miserable character! She leads the other girls in tormenting Carrie and when she’s justly punished she keeps exclaiming that “Carrie won’t get away with this!”. She never stops to see that what happened was her own undoing and never feels regret for what she’s done. She even rejects Collins’ fair deal of gym detention and now cannot go to prom, again something that’s her own fault she once again blames on Carrie (although at this point Collins does slap her across the face so that’s another awesome point awarded to Collins). Every moment I saw this miserable character I wanted to spit in disgust but again that’s the social commentary of the film and in the end the consequences of bullying come back to bite her!
The acting for Carrie is really good.
Sissy Spacek does a great job as Carrie. For starters the way she looks is perfect. Despite being an attractive woman Spacek manages to make herself look incredibly plain and average, which is what Carrie is supposed to be exactly. She also manages to get the character down perfectly acting very meek and quiet throughout and in moments of terror or anger she manages to come off as incredibly convincing. In the end Spacek also manages to be scary. During her rampage Spacek keeps her body stiff while having a blank but wide eyed look on her face. She moves slowly and doesn’t react to the violence around her and the only quick movement she makes are the small jerks of her head when she uses her powers. She’s very subtle here but still comes off as scary.
Piper Laurie was hilarious as Margaret White, and who could blame her? No joke but she actually thought Carrie was going to be a parody of the horror genre rather then a straight up horror film. Her over the top acting does work in her favor though as she manages to give a wonderfully enjoyable performance, devouring the scenery every chance she gets. However, like Spacek she does have her own moment of being scary. What does she do? She just stands idly by, almost blending in with the scenery at the end… That’s it. It’s very subtle but it’s scary because you don’t expect to see her and might not until the last second.
Lastly we have the effects… There really isn’t much. It’s a few simple things here and there but nothing extraordinary. I only bring this up because I want to criticize the pointlessness of the remake once again. The statement the exec made about “improved effects” is a bullshit claim since Carrie doesn’t really need any big effects since this film wasn’t intended to be an effect extravaganza! What little we get is pretty good but again not anything to write home about, the smallness and subtlety of everything works in the film’s favor and it doesn’t need anything bigger to get terror out of it’s audience.
In the end Carrie is a really good movie that got just about everything from the book down perfectly. The story is good, with what little horror there is it still manages to be captivating, the social commentary is effective, the characters are well made and the acting is strong. It’s obvious to see why this film is still so popular with old and young audiences alike to this day and if you want my suggestion just go out and rent the original classic this Halloween rather then wasting your hard earned money on seeing a lazy rehash.
Verdict: Full Price
That was Rumor Control and those were the facts!