Carrie – A Bloody Unnecessary Remake

By Ezra Stead

Carrie, USA, 2013

Directed by Kimberly Peirce

Carrie is a reasonably entertaining but ultimately forgettable teen horror movie.To justify its own existence, a remake of a classic film doesn’t necessarily have to be better than the original, but it is crucial that it be different in some substantial way. For example, though I prefer the original French film Love Crime in many ways, Brian De Palma’s Passion more than justifies its existence by adding a third-act fever dream to the original source material, as well as being strikingly unique in several other ways. Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear is another good example of a filmmaker taking a markedly different approach to an already great film, in this case by adding psychological and moral complexity to what was originally a very cut-and-dried good versus evil story. In the horror genre, John Carpenter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s The Fly update classic B-movies to horrifying effect, to my mind managing to surpass the original films in quality and memorability.

CarrieThough I would like to evaluate Kimberly Peirce’s new film version of Carrie on its own merits, without comparing it to De Palm’s 1976 adaptation, it is just too similar, and everything good the new Carrie does with the material, De Palma’s film already did better. This is evident from the very beginning, in the famous shower scene in which Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz) gets her first menstrual period and, not knowing what is happening and believing that she is bleeding to death, is mercilessly taunted and humiliated by her classmates. In De Palma’s film, the horror of this moment is forefronted, with the performances and shooting style heightened to a surreal, nightmarish pitch. The vulnerability of Sissy Spacek’s performance in particular sells the moment, and it is a truly disturbing scene to watch. Peirce, conversely, shoots the sequence in a relatively flat, ordinary way, and though the content is still rather shocking, it lacks the emotional power of the original. 

A big part of this emotional lack, which continues throughout the film, is the terribly wrongheaded casting of Moretz in the lead role. It’s not that her performance is bad, just unconvincing. As a very pretty, presumably well-adjusted young woman who has been appearing in major films since she was eight years old, it is difficult to believe Moretz has ever been bullied with the severity experienced by Carrie White. She is the right age for the role, but that’s about it, while Sissy Spacek (who was 27 when the original film was released) made Carrie utterly haunting and believable. She had a weirdness, an otherworldliness, about her that made it easy to believe she could be the product of an abusive home life with a crazy religious zealot for a mother. Julianne Moore fares better in that role, though she too lacks the borderline campy but still terrifying zest brought to it by Piper Laurie in the original film.

Of course, there is another original source to which it is impossible not to compare this film – Stephen King’s 1974 novel – and this comparison makes Peirce’s film even more frustrating due to the squandered opportunity to do something really new with the adaptation. The book is structured as a traditional novel intercut with fictional journalism from sources such as a fake nonfiction book about the Prom Night incident, testimony from the “White Commission,” and interviews with the survivors. A much more interesting approach to the material that could have really set this film apart from De Palma’s would have been to adapt this faithfully, making the film a sort of mock docudrama, or perhaps even adapting it as a found footage film like The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield. Peirce updates the story to include modern cyberbullying techniques (the shower incident is recorded on one of the bullies’ iPhones and uploaded to Vimeo), so why not go this extra mile and do something new?

Another thing that neither film has captured from the original novel is the sheer breadth of Carrie’s destructive power. In both films, the impression is that Carrie’s rage extends only to her high school and her own home, which leaves a still impressive body count of at least a hundred people in its path. However, in the book, Carrie wrecks the entire downtown area, leaving nearly 500 dead. There is also a pervasive theme of survivors and victims alike just knowing, on an almost subconscious level, that it is Carrie White perpetrating the destruction. Her name simply appears in their heads, and this is Carrie’s way of getting true revenge which, as Poe would attest, doesn’t count unless the victims know who is exacting the revenge. Adding these elements could have also made Peirce’s film stand apart from the long shadow of De Palma’s and left a really distinct, haunting impression. Instead, we are left with a reasonably entertaining but ultimately forgettable teen horror movie, which pales in comparison to De Palma’s stylish, harrowing original adaptation, as well as King’s excellent, at times overwhelmingly sad novel.

Ezra Stead is the Head Editor for MoviesIDidn’tGet.com. Ezra is also a screenwriter, actor, filmmaker, rapper, and aspiring stand-up comic who has been previously published in print and online, as well as writing, directing and acting in numerous short films and two features. A Minneapolis native, Ezra currently lives in New York City.

For more information, please contact EzraStead@MoviesIDidntGet.com.


2 Comments

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    class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-35151">
    Jordan

    Having read the original screenplay by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, I can safely say that the original script didn’t follow the same structure as the 1976 film. I will admit there were a few homages here and there, but it was a whole new take on the story. Before the film was delayed in January 2013, there was a lot of positive feedback from those who attended the first test screenings in December 2012. A number of people confirmed that the original cut was longer and a lot different than the theatrical cut.

    I remember watching a video on YouTube where two guys reviewed the film (without giving away spoilers) based on what they saw at the test screenings. They confirmed that the film was a lot different to Brian De Palma’s film and was more closer to the Stephen King novel. I personally believe that the studios interfered with the editing of the film. The theatrical cut wasn’t what Kimberly Peirce wanted to release in theatres. It’s like they re-cut the film and gave us a remake of Brian De Palma’s film. I knew it wasn’t Kimberly’s voice in the movie — it was the studios.

    A friend of mine, who is a filmmaker, gave their two cents as to what might have happened…

    The original cut was all ready to go in March, then the studios looked at the release date and thought they could make more money on “Carrie” during the Halloween season. So they demanded re-shoots and multiple re-edits to make it more Horror. It would explain why Lawrence D. Cohen (the writer of the 1976 film) was credited after the film was delayed — they re-shot a lot of scenes from the 1976 screenplay. The downside to the re-shoots and multiple re-edits is that a lot of scenes would have to be dropped or trimmed to fit the required running time by the studios. The shorter the film, the more viewing sessions the film has.

    Based on fan speculation, test audience feedback, and certain confirmed details concerning the film — the deleted and/or extended scenes include:

    -The original opening was a flashback of Carrie as a little girl spying through a fence on a female neighbor who is sunbathing. The young woman notices Carrie and starts to make conversation with her. Carrie tells her that she can see her “dirty pillows” and the neighbor explains to her that it is normal for women to develop breasts when they get older. That’s when Margaret White appears and snatches up Carrie, screaming and yelling at the neighbor. She calls the young lady a whore, telling her to stay away from her child, and Carrie gets upset and begins to cry. Suddenly, it starts hailing. Pellets of ice come down on top of Carrie’s home while Margaret runs into the house trying to console her daughter. The neighbor just stares in disbelief as the hail rains down on the White residence, and only the White residence.

    -The White Commission [The film had integrated several courtroom scenes with witnesses giving testimonies of their experiences with Carrie White leading to the prom incident, essentially structuring the film as a series of flashbacks and recollections. The neighbor from the alternate opening scene is shown at first, now an adult woman, recounting her experience. There is also a scene featuring a TK Specialist discussing telekinesis and saying something to the effect of Carrie being one of many people who may be born with this genetic anomaly. It’s been said that the White Commission scenes revealed too many prom survivors which the filmmaker’s felt spoiled the climax]

    -There was ‘found footage’ that played a role in the film. That’s why you see Freddy ‘Beak’ Holt carrying his camera around and filming everything.

    -There were scenes detailing more in depth character development.

    -There were scenes involving school life, social media and bullying.

    -There were scenes involving Facebook, the e-mail sent from Chris to Donna Kellogg. “So I’m out of prom and my [censored] father says he won’t give them what they deserve.”

    -”Wipe that smile off your face.” – Chris to Carrie at the pool.

    -The locker room scene [Extended] – Chris turning the cell-phone toward herself and the mean girls.

    -Chris and Tina kiss [Extended]

    -Tommy and Sue’s backseat sex scene [Extended]

    -Billy’s wild ride [The “blowjob scene” – similar to the 1976 version]

    -An interaction between Chris and Carrie outside the dress shop.

    -The confrontation between Sue and the mean girls

    -Carrie levitates Margaret [Extended]

    -Drive to the pig farm [Extended]

    -After Tommy leaves the table to get some drinks, Carrie and Miss Desjardin have a friendly and meaningful conversation.

    -Carrie and Tommy kiss.

    -Billy kisses Chris.

    -Margaret claws her way out of the closet and goes over to the sink where she retrieves a butcher knife and cuts herself.

    -Sue tries to call Tommy from outside the school to warn him that something bad is about to happen. He rejects the call.

    -The prom scene as a whole, which was said to be longer and more violent than the theatrical version.

    -Tina on fire [Extended]

    -A scene or shot which reveals George Dawson’s and his girlfriend’s fate.

    -There were some really creepy stuff that was unfortunately cut during post-production, like some “dancing” dead students. My source is not completely certain about this detail or its placement within the film. But it was either in a deleted scene where Carrie snaps the limbs of prom-goers or during the electrocution scene which was supposed to be more graphic and longer. In the novel, it was described as a “crazy puppet dance”.

    -The scene of Carrie levitating outside of the burning school was actually re-shot. In the original version of that scene, Carrie was standing on the centre of the lawn, waiting for the remaining surviving students to come out of the burning school before killing them one by one with her telekinetic powers.

    -After Carrie leaves the school, she begins to destroy part of the town by causing explosions and bringing down power lines as she follows Billy and Chris. You can see the first few seconds of the town destruction from the aerial view. If you look closely behind Carrie, you can see that several cars are in flames.

    -When Sue is outside the school with Miss Desjardin, she sees Tommy’s body being carried out on a stretcher. Miss Desjardin tells Sue that she’s sorry and Sue walks away with determination to find Carrie.

    -Margaret’s original death scene – possibly similar to the book version which depicts a heart attack caused by Carrie’s power.

    -The multiple endings

    1) The first ending is very similar to the ending of the 1976 film but without the final twist: Sue Snell actually gets killed when Carrie pulls her into the ground.

    2) The second ending is an exact replica of the original film where Snell gets pulled into the ground by Carrie but wakes up in her bed to find it’s just a dream.

    3) The third ending is after Carrie saves Sue by pushing her out of the house, which collapses from the falling stones. There’s a bird’s eye view of the wreckage of what used to be Carrie’s home before we get a quick CGI zoom through a pit of debris, to a close-up of a now bloodied Carrie snapping her eyes open.

    4) The fourth ending is of Sue making a final speech to the court where she says the line heard in the teaser trailer about Carrie being just a girl, not a monster. This is spoken over scenes of Sue and her family visiting the cemetery. Sue goes to Carrie’s grave, which shows the headstone tagged up and vandalized. She leaves her flowers and just walks away. Nothing scary, just a very somber closing shot of the headstone.

    5) The fifth ending is after Carrie’s house is destroyed by the falling stones, the movie flashes forward to several months later. We see Sue in the hospital surrounded by doctors and nurses, ready to give birth. They’re trying to calm her down but Sue begins to struggle, saying she feels something is wrong. Suddenly, a very bloody hand (covered in afterbirth) erupts from between Sue’s legs, reaching up and gripping her arm. She screams in terror and we see that she is having a nightmare, being held down by her parents while the camera pans over to a wall where we are shown a large crucifix hanging in her room.

    6) The sixth ending is described as a “morning after voice over” by Sue Snell as we see the town coping with what happened.

    7) The seventh ending shows the town the morning after Carrie’s attack filled with news crews, reporters, and cops talking about the whole thing. What’s bizarre about this scene is that Carrie’s destruction of the city is being described as “a conspiracy.” Apparently the town is “trying to cover up what really happened.”

    There is an online petition for a Director’s Cut to be released, but, let’s face it, the studios won’t release one. The petition has gained over 6,000+ signatures (I think?), so I’m curious to see how that will turn out.

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    class="comment byuser comment-author-ezra-stead bypostauthor odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-60560">
    Ezra Stead

    Wow, that’s a shame. It sounds like Peirce’s original vision would have actually been great. Thanks a lot for your input.

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