Director: Kimberley Peirce
Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Juliane Moore, Judy Greer
The first published novel by Stephen King, from a story that he almost threw away, Carrie was written in the nature of a documentary, examining a child and town swept up in a disaster born of many small tragedies. Two years later, when it appeared as a film by Brian De Palma in 1976, Carrie was told as the story of teen follies and a horribly wronged girl, beaten almost into flatness by a fanatic mother.
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De Palma held back little, particularly in showing the mindless cruelties and infantile pleasures of high school, and if in Piper Laurie he had a Margaret White (the mother), who chewed up the screen with the strength of her manic fervour, in Sissy Spacek, he had a Carrie White, who had become so self-effacing as to be almost be an apparition. The girl who leads the assault on Carrie, Chris, isn’t cruel in De Palma’s hands as much as inebriated on the power of her youth.
Why Carrie now, 38 years later? That question is easy to answer. A story of an almost-Cinderella, teenage bullying, and even fanaticism resonates as well. What is more pertinent is what it says about our times: that a story lent lurid life by its first movie version has to be diluted to palatability for its 2014 audiences. In a landscape strewn with the minefield of all that’s politically incorrect, particularly in the context of a high school, this Carrie is staunched of the vitality that was its life blood. Despite the ramped-up prom nightmare.
Moretz is actually closer in age to the Carrie imagined by King than Spacek was. However, she is much too comely, despite the mousy hair, to convey the sense of creeping horror that Spacek emanated. However, Moretz still fares better, especially as the movie progresses, than the disappointingly mild Moore. Peirce starts her story of Carrie White with her birth scene, rather than the infamous shower one where Carrie has her first period, runs out screaming for help, with blood streaming down her legs, and is tormented by other girls (this time captured on phone, and posted on YouTube). In doing that, Peirce is not just establishing the circle of blood that marks Carrie’s life — a point emphasised through the film — she is also establishing that in keeping the child, Margaret showed the one emotion King and De Palma ignored. That somewhere deep down, she needed something to hold on to, as Jesus, despite her pleadings and prayers, kept slipping away. The love the two share is a striking change from the book and the 1979 film, and Margaret doesn’t really torture Carrie here so much as torture herself, and later get tortured in return.
In all other matters, Carrie, by a woman who gave us that other lost-girl film in Boys Don’t Cry, is a pointless, if passable, exercise.