Synopsis: Carrie White may have been unfashionable and unpopular, but she had a gift. Carrie could make things move by concentrating on them. A candle would fall. A door would lock. This was her power and her sin. Then, an act of kindness, as spontaneous as the vicious taunts of her classmates, offered Carrie a chance to be normal and go to her senior prom. But another act–of ferocious cruelty–turned her gift into a weapon of horror and destruction that her classmates would never forget. (Via Amazon)
Brian: My relationship with Carrie goes back a long time. I have no memory how I got a hold of it, but the first Stephen King book I ever read was Carrie, back when I was in the fifth grade. We had to read a book and give a book report to the class, and I reported on Carrie, much to the dismay of my teacher. I remember her pulling me aside and asking me if I could read more ‘appropriate’ books for the class. So what did I read next? Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. I fell in love with King’s work at an early age, and it’s been a life-long love affair. Just last night, I received his newest book, Doctor Sleep, as a birthday present. I’ve read almost all of his novels in the last eighteen years, but it all started with Carrie.
Shaunta: I fell in love with Stephen King early, too. I was a freshman in high school when I read Carrie. I identified with the misfit girl who felt powerless, so some how manifested her own terrible powers. The King book that had the biggest impact on me was The Stand, which I received as a 13th birthday gift from my dad and read cover-to-cover twice in a row–but Carrie has always held a special place in my heart. Maybe because I read it during a time when I felt the least understood, the least heard, and the most different from other girls my age.
Brian: I read the book again in high school, and of course adore the 70’s film starring Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, and directed by Brian De Palma, but I haven’t thought about Carrie very much in the last decade or so. Therefore, it was a thrill this month to read the book again, and see the new remake which updates the story into a modern day setting. What I re-discovered about King’s novel is just how unusually he tells the story. While there are elements of a young adult novel in his debut, the story is not told in first-person from Carrie’s perspective. Only fifty to sixty percent of the book tells Carrie’s story at the time her tragic tale takes place; the other part of the book is told through newspaper clippings, magazine articles, letters, interviews, and more. There are scenes of testimony, where characters who witnessed the prom scene massacre get grilled on what they saw. There are detailed articles about the aftermath. There’s even an eerie letter that ends the novel that I had completely forgotten about. There’s a calmness and quiet intensity to the way King spins this tale that really resonates with the reader, and I think I love it more now than I did back when I was younger.
Shaunta: I love the 1970s Carrie film so much, that I went into this ‘reimagining’ with very low expectations. Chloe Grace Moretz is just too pretty to be Carrie. I didn’t think I’d be able to believe her as being totally disenfranchised. And I was right. I wasn’t. Moretz did a good job with parts of being Carrie. Her super-shyness was palpable. And I was drawn to the way she both despised and needed her mother. But overall–she didn’t work in the character for me. The one character who I thought did a great job was Gabriella Wilde as Sue Snell. Sue was portrayed here as more sympathetic than she was in the original movie, and that worked for me. It highlighted the out-of-control aspect of the final scenes of the movie.
Brian: While I love Chloe Graze Moretz and Julianne Moore, I was definitely more excited to read the book again, than to see the new remake. Most of the horror remakes of the last decade have been poor at best, and offensively awful at worst. The remakes of Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street were so terrible, for example, that I needed a drink afterward just to calm me down. The new Carrie remake is not one of the worst horror remakes of late, but it’s not particularly good, either. The 70’s original is so iconic that for this new one to work, director Kimberly Peirce needed to give the material a wholly new take. Surprisingly, she deviates from the original only rarely. There are scenes in this remake that are almost word for word of the dialogue of the original movie, which was not a good choice. Moretz is fine in the lead role, but she’s way too pretty to pull off this character. One of the biggest weaknesses of the movie, shockingly enough, is Moore, who tries her best to make Margaret White her own, but she’s not offered enough screen time to create anything that’s anything more than a carbon copy of Laurie’s brilliant take on the character. It’s not all a waste, though. The one sequence of the film that works well is the prom night massacre, which is more subtle and effective than the split-screen madness in DePalma’s original. I also liked some of the actors, particularly Ansel Elgort as Tommy Ross (yum!), and Gabriella Wilde, as Sue Snell. But overall, this is a major missed opportunity, especially for a director like Peirce who I thought would do better with this rich material.
Shaunta: I actually really liked Julianne Moore as Carrie’s crazy mother. She was scary and did a good job playing deranged. She didn’t disappear into the role for me–so it was kind of like Carrie White’s mother was a deranged Julianne Moore–but it still worked for me. There’s a scene where she’s giving Sue Snell’s mother Sue’s prom dress at the dry cleaner shop where she works that was so intense for me. She wasn’t Piper Laurie though, and maybe no one else will do in that role. I think this is a movie that was so good in the original that there is no chance for a redo to ever stand up to it. The 1970s version of Carrie is still relevant, still amazing–there’s just no need for it to be reimagined.
Brian: In the end, I’m thrilled to have read Carrie again. It’s one of my childhood favorites—sorry, Mrs. Frodahl—and it still holds up after all these years. As for the movie adaptations (I didn’t even go into the wretched 2002 TV remake), stick with DePalma’s original, which is still by and far the best. Happy Halloween, everyone!