Carrie on as usual
Long time no read, yeah? Sorry, hi, good to be back. Let’s get right into it…
Around about a year ago I talked about the then upcoming remake of Carrie. At the time we all knew very little about it, and the things we did know were very encouraging; it included an up-and-coming actress with a heretofore impressive résumé, a proven actress with golden credentials, and a character-savy female director with relatable life experiences. To me these three puzzle pieces made for a perfect trifecta of oestrogen that could only help to enrich and liven up this bitchy tale of female-on-female malice.
So, a year has now passed and the movie is no longer upcoming…it has come!
Sorry, I mean Carrie has arrived and is currently playing in cinemas. So how did it turn out?
Well, I have to say…it was disappointingly ordinary. Every plot turn, twist, or even twitch of the original Brian DePalma classic was carbon copied and lazily glossed for a modern audience. Everything, and I mean everything, was the same. The same characters, the same acting (more or less), the same scenes, the same setting, and even many of the same camera angles seemed to be patently cut n’ pasted from the 1976 film. Even the individual deaths were merely reenacted and given some extra “crunch”. I have to to say that as a fan of this project from its announcement to its release…I was disappointed. It isn’t terrible, but it is terribly unnecessary.
But it got me thinking; what would a good, perhaps even great, adaptation of Carrie look like? I shouldn’t just be sitting here and shitting on Kimberly Peirce and Brian DePalma’s attempts. I should be presenting my own suggestions! So, the question is:
Both films have pros and cons. The 1976 version is very artistic and stylish, but dates horribly. The 2013 version has no new original content or aesthetic but looks sleek, crisp, and modern. Where do we start, somewhere in between? No, we start with the actress…
This is clearly something that Brian DePalma understood when he cast the bug-eyed bony Sissy Spacek in the central role. I don’t, as it happens, think that Sissy Spacek is outright ugly. It just doesn’t take much imagination to envision her being bullied at school. Chloe Moretz on the other hand? So long as she looks like a supermodel – no!
I don’t think it would take much to turn her into an outcast, however. She may be gorgeous, but her face still has character. She’s a girl with some exaggerated features and “uneven edges” if you will. With enough courage on the inside and makeup on the outside, she could disfigure her way to the bottom of the barrel and truly become Carrie. You should live and breathe the life of a shunned shy little girl, Chloe! Begin with the skin and work your way in!
I mean, they could at least have given her an unflattering hairstyle of some sort.
Even those don’t do the job. Were it up to me I’d make it some sort of curly-fraggle looking thing. Something patchy, something gross, something she hides behind.
Then, I’d make her pale as a slice of white bread. No tanning bed for you Ms. Moretz! Use makeup to darken the space beneath her eyes as well. Make her look like she hasn’t slept for a year. This girl spends hours a day locked in a closet, how could she resemble anything but a mole? She should be used to burying herself behind glasses, hair, and clothing. Perhaps a modernised Carrie could look something like this:
It’s just an initial idea, but a start none the less. I’m afraid that if you cast someone as pretty as Chloe Grace Moretz, you have to work overtime to make her believably plain. That’s just how it is.
In addition, working her into an ugly duckling makes it all the more delightful for an audience when she cleans up into a beautiful swan – and then is draped over into a vengeful demon…which brings me nicely to my next point…
I think Moretz did a perfectly decent job of “Carrie going apeshit at prom”, but she was given very little to do. It’s not so much her fault as it is the crew’s. I wish the writers and director had taken onboard the last 37 years of horror genre development and actually amplified the film’s one truly bombastic sequence into something that could leave a horror-savy audience impressed. Were it me behind the lens, I’d like to think that I would pull off a three-way combination of the Final Destination franchise, the Evil Dead remake, and The Dark Knight‘s car chase sequence.
Imagine, if you will, a moment of pure outrage where all your high grievances are finally able to be channeled into actual death and destruction. What would you do? How cruel and unusual could you become? Death by earth, wind, and fire isn’t enough anymore, Kimberly! Be creative! Be intense! This film is already R-rated, you may as well earn that label. Up the tension, up the gore, and up the shock value!
I love Julianne Moore and, again, think she did a perfectly fine job as Margaret; Carrie’s wacko religious mother. Yet, it was exactly the performance we all expect from such a character. Margaret is the secondary (although some might say central) villain of the piece. Whilst I found myself concerned for her mental health and wishing I could call the local clinic to report her behaviour, I was never really scared of her.
Since the original Carrie, we’ve seen the rise of the Westboro Baptist Church, and in particular Shirley Phelps-Roper – the real life Margaret White. These people properly scare me! Perhaps it’s because they’re not fictional, but I would have liked to see a bit of that Phelps dedicated craziness inspire Julianne’s performance. Maybe she could have married in a bit of Annie Wilkes‘ unpredictability and Nurse Ratched‘s ridged authority.
Most importantly; Margaret White is a villain, so treat her like one. Her presence in a room should be felt like a sudden drop in temperature. The less she says the better, and the more impactful her words become. Her grip on Carrie should be palpable from the outset. Keep her in the shadows. Make her a watchdog, a disapproving puppeteer hunching in the corner, with more behind the eyes than we dare to dissect. However, when she bursts make it violent and striking. Show us that Carrie is indeed her mothers daughter!
The single greatest sin this remake committed was to have no flavour of its own. It looked like every other film, felt like every other story, and sounded like every other shriek-fest. If someone’s going to remake something as iconic as Carrie, they better bring their own mise-en-scène to the project. Imagine for a moment if Stanley Kubrick had adapted the book.
Picture the ultra wide shots, the long takes, the slow zooms, the eerie stares, and the challenging creepy music. Alright, maybe that wouldn’t have been the best choice for Carrie. What about something more action packed? What about a director with some kinetic energy to his name, some gusto, some…flare?
J. J. Abrams, perhaps?
Hmm, maybe not. Although the Spielberg inspired 80’s vibe he resurrected for Super 8 would fit the original Stephen King setting nicely.
Maybe something more perfected, more fine-tuned and artily crafted. Perhaps if it was helmed by a director with a nostalgic, warm, dreamy tone…
…like David Fincher?
Actually, no, I’m not sure I want Carrie to be all yellow. Nor do I want her to burn my eyeballs out with lens flares or make me squint into the distance in order to see her.
The point I’m trying to make is that Kimberly Pierce had a golden opportunity here to craft Carrie in her own way. To put her own stamp on the material and serve it with reverence. I was so excited to see what she would do with it, and let down when I saw that she did next to nothing. Broad filmmaking of the laziest kind is what we got, not something to be celebrated in my opinion.
The original Stephen King novel, Carrie, has a very different structure from its screen adaptations. It’s told through a collection of first person narrative, third person omniscient narritive, newspaper clippings, police reports, and witness accounts. The tale jumps forward and backward in time, often repeating the same chapters multiple times from different viewpoints. Gradually, the events of “The Black Prom” are pieced together in front of you to form one complete tragic tale. By doing this, King shows the divide between Carrie’s hidden abusive home life and the limited perspective her classmates have of her to be a glaring catalyst in the depressing sequence of acts and accidents that lead to the death of nearly everyone involved, including the titular character. It leaves us with a hopeless and disempowering sense of fate, reinforcing the knowledge in us that we are merely viewers and cannot possibly reach in to save Carrie from her fatal destiny.
So why can the films not follow this example? Both Carrie films have been told in the most typical “A to B” fashion, leaving them as not much more than modern Cinderella stories. Try a new tactic! Maybe tell a story within a story, or have a character narrate, or have Carrie narrate, or follow an investigation in the aftermath. I’m not saying you have to go all “found footage” with it or replace giant chunks of the plot, but a little structural reinvention would be nice.
Personally, I would like to see the story reiterated like a haunting legend. After all, this is the supernatural equivalent of a school shooting. Why not treat it like a real historical event?
Well, that’s about all I can be bothered to suggest. I’m hoping to see another take on Carrie in my lifetime, hopefully helmed by someone with something new to say.
– Rant Over!