A Bloody Good Time 4.17.13: Comparing And Contrasting Carrie Posted by Joseph Lee on 04.17.2014
They're all going to laugh at you!
Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)
Welcome to A Bloody Good Time.
Out of all of the possible Stephen King stories, why has Carrie been done three different times and we're still waiting on a proper film version of IT? I guess you could say that the story is timeless no matter what the generation, but it's not King's best work. In fact it's his most "average" of all the stuff he's done. It's so unlike the sprawling epic horror tales that follows that it almost feels like someone else wrote it. Yet, it's 2014 and we have three versions of Carrie, and no one has even attempted The Dark Tower, Insomnia or The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Stephen King has works that have yet to be adapted as a theatrical films. Why are we wasting time re-working his older stuff for newer audiences? I mean, besides the anti-bullying craze.
The book itself is decent enough, as it's told in a unique manner and the story is again, easy to relate to for most people who have ever felt like an outcast. However, is it a story that needed to be told three different times? Probably not. This week's edition is to see which film version told that story the best. This includes the 1976 Brian de Palma movie, the 2013 remake and the often forgotten 2002 made-for-TV remake. I'm going to break each movie down and give my thoughts. Feel free to add your own in the comments!
#1: Carrie White - Sissy Spacek vs Angela Bettis vs Chloe Moretz
It's funny that the Carrie White in the novel is actually overweight and described as homely. None of these ladies are what I would call ugly. Sissy Spacek can be pretty at times and obviously had to ugly herself down for the role. Bettis isn't what I would call attractive, but I wouldn't call her unattractive either. She does have an odd look that makes her good for the role though. They didn't even try to make Chloe Moretz look like she could be unappealing to someone in her age group (anyone in her age group care to confirm or deny this?). I'm pretty sure she wore makeup through most of the movie. At least Bettis has her "oddball" May look going for her and Spacek can look plain enough to seem like she could go unnoticed. Moretz looks like a Hollywood actress on a Hollywood set. It also seems like a large number of people thought she was "too pretty" to play Carrie.
To be fair, none of the adaptations are really going for emphasis that she's unattractive as the book does. They tend to play up her religious mother and her anti-social behavior more than her homely nature. How do the respective actresses play that part?
Spacek knocks it out of the park. You genuinely feel sorry for her version of Carrie White, as she's simply shy and meek, but looks like she could be a good friend if the right person just decided to be nice to her. I'd like to think that if I knew a Carrie White in high school I would have been her friend, but I'm sure we all like to think better of ourselves in a hypothetical situation.
Bettis, meanwhile, seems like she would be perfect for the role for anyone who has seen May. However, instead of acting like May, she seems more like she's trying to act weird than someone who just is weird. Meanwhile, Moretz doesn't really do anything to show any weird personality quirks. She just acts like she's Chloe Moretz in a movie about Carrie. She's good, but we only know she's supposed to be Carrie because the movie tells us she is. I don't think she was miscast, but I think she could have done more with her role.
Winner: 1976 version
#2: Margaret White - Piper Laurie vs Patricia Clarkson vs Julianne Moore
Just as important to the story of Carrie, probably more so, is her mother Margaret. She's a religious wacko who treats Carrie like scum under the pretense of "God". She's basically the real villain of the story because she's what makes Carrie who she is and causes her to do what she does. Think about it...would a normal, well-adjusted Carrie with a loving mother go psycho and murder her classmates? Would she even be teased at all? It's definitely not as likely.
Let's just eliminate Patricia Clarkson right off the bat. I'm not sure what she was going for, but at no point does she seems like she's playing Margaret White. In my opinion, she's one of the worst aspects of the 2002 version. Her performance is, for lack of a better word boring. She brings nothing to the role and makes you question why they even bothered to bring her in when someone else could have done more with it.
That leaves us with Piper Laurie vs Julianne Moore. Laurie was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal. Moore, while surprisingly good, wasn't. At least you can give Moore credit for trying to make herself appear more plain (since she's normally stunning) to play Margaret. She doesn't quite get to the levels of lunacy that Laurie does, but I think her version is also a little more sympathetic, fleshing out the character some. In the end, I'll agree with the Academy here.
Winner: 1976 version
#3: The Bad Teens - Chris Hargensen, Billy Nolan, etc
These are of course, the teens who cause Carrie to snap in the end and the ones we end up rooting against because of the way they treated Carrie. Chris is the leader, gathering up her group of "mean girls" to torture someone that didn't do anything to her except exist. She is dating Billy Nolan, who is even worse than she is and treats her just as bad as she treats Carrie at times. Depending on the version, you also have Norma Watson (PJ Soles), Tina Blake (Katharine Isabelle) or a bunch of nameless people who don't get much screen time (the 2013 version).
Each film has its own strengths and weaknesses. In 1976 you had Nancy Allen and PJ Soles playing their parts to perfection. Allen in particular creates a dissonance as she's really hot but her personality really sucks. In the 2002 version, all I really remember is Isabelle because of how over-the-top she plays Tina. Emilie De Ravin, like Patricia Clarkson, is rather forgettable in her role.
The 2002 version does benefit from a more menacing Billy Nolan. John Travolta doesn't look like he could hurt anyone and the Billy in the 2013 version is basically a non-factor. It's a close call, but I think this time I'm going to give it to 2002. Isabelle chews the scenery and this version Billy Nolan is closer to the source material. 1976 and 2013 both had better versions of Chris, but 2002 had more memorable characters overall in the "bad teen" department.
Winner: 2002 version
#4: Carrie's Support Team - Tommy Ross, Sue Snell, Miss Desjardin
Believe it or not, not everyone is out to get Carrie. Miss Desjardin (Miss Collins in the '76 version) is the one teacher at the high school who is looking out for her well-being. Sue Snell shows some remorse for Carrie and tries to give her a normal high school experience, convincing her boyfriend Tommy Ross to take her to prom. Ross, to his credit, actually follows through and becomes good friends with Carrie very fast. It even hints in the book that he could see himself falling for her. Carrie also lets her real personality shine through at the prom and makes a couple of friends in the process...before everything goes to Hell.
The 1976 version has William Katt and his crazy hair. He seems annoyed with the entire concept but goes along with it and eventually enjoys himself. It also has Amy Irving as Sue Snell, and she does a terrific job. The only downside is Miss Collins, partially because they changed her name and partially because she's outshined by the 2013 version of her character. Yes, in this department, Miss Desjardin in the 2013 remake, played by Judy Greer, is my favorite version of the character. The Tommy Ross in the 2002 version is also decent, but the 2013 version is bland. The same goes for Sue Snell in 2002 and 2013. If those two versions had stronger characters, I could side with them. All the 2013 version has is Judy Greer and she's just one actress against three good performances from 1976.
Winner: 1976 version.
#5: The shower scene
An crucial sequence in Carrie is the shower scene. That's not only when Carrie first discovers her telekinesis, it's when we see just how cruel her classmates can be. Carrie, having a shower that she may be enjoying a little too much, discovers blood coming from her. Since her mother is a certified nut (that is the clinical term), Carrie was never told about menstruation. Like anyone would seeing blood coming from a place that blood shouldn't come from, she starts freaking out and assume she's bleeding to death. The girls, being completely terrible people, decide to throw tampons at her and laugh because they don't have an ounce of humanity.
The 2002 version is the most forgettable here, as I actually forgot that movie had a shower scene. The 2013 version, besides being kind of creepy since Moretz was fifteen or sixteen when it was shot (the camera likes to linger a little too much), adds in the new technology we have now, as her friends decide to record her first menstruation and post it on Youtube. How they get away with what is clearly a very serious crime is another story.
I guess it depends on which performance you like the best, as the 1976 and 2013 versions both have their strengths. I think Sissy plays it a little too over-the-top, actually. This would be the one scene in the movie where I feel bad for her, but she definitely seems to be over-selling it. She's bug-eyed and clawing at people. Sure, she's selling her total fear but it comes across as silly at times.
In another rare defeat, I'm going with the 2013 version. Moretz plays Carrie as rightfully scared given her circumstances, but also hurt by what her peers are doing to her. It's Spacek's worst scene in the 1976 version and in terms of acting, is probably Chloe's best in the 2013 version.
Winner: 2013 version
#6: The Prom
A sort of bookend to the shower scene, the prom is where Carrie's telekinesis comes out to play. She proceeds to murder most of her classmates and burn down the school. She also manages to kill Chris and Billy as they attempt to run her over in the road. In the book (and 2002 version), her rampage extends to the rest of the town before she makes it home to see her mother. I enjoyed the fact that the 2002 version attempts to show more than just the prom get destroyed (something that was teased in the 2013 trailer, but never really followed up on).
The 1976 version clearly wins here. It not only includes practical effects, but the superior direction of Brian de Palma. The other two films have terrible special effects. I thought the 2002 version was bad because it had made-for-TV CGi during Carrie's murder spree, but I actually think the 2013 film is worse. It's just wall to wall CGi, and Carrie even floats in the air at one point. I'm not entirely sure the blood on her is even practical at times. It looks like she's in the middle of a cartoon. Just because computers are available for something doesn't mean you have to use them. It's just lazy and they clearly decided to sacrifice any suspense for a bunch of set pieces.
Winner: The 1976 version
#7: The Ending
In the end, Carrie makes it home and her mother has decided to kill her. She is forced to murder her own mother to defend herself and then, either because she's fatally wounded or just because she is overcome with grief, she brings the entire house down on both of them. In the book this actually happens before she kills Chris and Billy. Carrie's life comes to a tragic end after the horrific circumstances that preceded it.
The 1976 version has Piper Laurie at her craziest attempting to slaughter her own daughter. Carrie kills her with knives and then the house burns down as her power goes crazy while she grieves. The 2013 version mimics it but also brings back the concept of rocks falling from the sky to wreck the house from the novel. Carrie also has a final meeting with Sue, something else that happened in the book.
The 2002 version is...just terrible. Carrie kills her mother like she does in the book (stopping her her heart) but then she fakes her death and moves to another town with the help of Sue. You see, the 2002 version was actually supposed to be the pilot for a TV series. It got terrible ratings and the series never happened. I can only imagine how awful a TV show about Carrie would have been. Would she be like The Incredible Hulk, moving from town to town as the beast inside her comes out when she gets too angry?
I'm going to give the nod to the 1976 version this time too, because the 2013 version again relies on computer effects to do things that could have been done practically, even if it does retain more elements from the book. The 1976 version also has the classic shock ending in which Carrie's hand appears out of her grave to give us one last scare. The 2013 version has a grave stone cracking. Spooky.
Winner: 1976 version
#8: The Movie
When it comes right down to it, who had the better movie? If you hadn't noticed by the number of victories I gave it, the 1976 version is still the superior tale of Carrie. It doesn't follow King's book to the letter, and suffers from a little bit of silliness every so often, but it's the strongest version of the tale thanks to the glaring shortcomings of its descendants. I'm sure we'll get another version in 10-15 years as this seems like a tale that Hollywood really likes to repeat. So to the surprise of no one, I'm saying the original Carrie is still the best.
Winner: 1976 version
The Rage: Carrie 2, by the way, is more or less a better remake. It's an updated tale set in the 1990s, with ties to the original but telling it's own story. I say that as someone who's not a huge fan of The Rage because of the fact it kills off Sue Snell for no reason and its very much a product of its time. But it's a better movie, in my humble opinion, than either the 2002 or 2013 versions. At least it tries to be it's own thing with the spirit of its source material.
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