The Revenge of 'Carrie' - What We Want from the 2013 Horror Remake
by Tyler Wantuch
November 21, 2012
In 2013, MGM and Screen Gems are set to release a remake of the beloved horror classic Carrie with Chloe Moretz taking the place of Sissy Spacek. This has some fans of the original film and Stephen King novel asking "why?" Brian De Palma's original 1976 film captured the telekinetic teen story completely and artfully. Its 90-minute run time almost feels too long to cover the tiny plot line, yet the film holds our attention from start to finish. He does not dawdle, instead De Palma moves swiftly from one iconic scene to the next. The film is thick with themes of innocence, guilt, blood, and sexuality all of which play into the ethos of the story, blanket the screen and allow the film to rise above the usual King adaptation. Read on!
Re-envisioning this powerful story may be near impossible due to the emotional experience most viewers received, but when has that ever stopped Hollywood? The studio is trying to protect the film by making it clear that they are not remaking the 1976 film, but rather creating a new adaptation of the original work. Trying not to compare such an iconic film may be a futile task when the remake (watch the trailer here) hits theaters on March 13th, 2013. In order to give the remake a chance to live up to the ridiculous standards from the predecessor, a few things will need to be in place. Beware of spoilers ahead for anyone who has not seen the original 1976 film or read King's novel.
First and foremost, the heart of this coming of age tale is guilt. De Palma painted a claustrophobic nightmare that buries nearly every character with this burden. From the sweet Sue Snell (Amy Irving) to the obvious Carrie White (Spacek) each character is fighting a losing battle with the emotion. The guilt guides all of our characters throughout the film moving the plot under different guises of anger, pity or fear. For our troubled main characters the guilt will mount and unleash in horrific manners; a paranormal psychic ability and a desire to kill your own child. De Palma gives full court press to the idea forcing even minor characters to carry small moments of guilt.
For instance, Sue's mother feels guilty for her daughter's actions and donates ten dollars to Margaret White (Piper Laurie) and the uncaring principal feels a pang of guilt for calling her Cassie repeatedly. The do-good gym teacher, Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) feels so responsible for the shower incident she tries desperately throughout the film to make things right. Her method, perfectly enough, is to spread more guilt onto the gym class through punishment. The only character able to escape De Palma's nightmare is the angel Tommy Rose (William Katt). A reprieve only rewarded with death. Even our two villains Chris Hargensen and Billy Nolan (Nancy Allen And John Travolta) -whose guilt may not be as apparent- is repressed by their selfish teenager mindsets. If the remake misses the importance of this theme, the film will be set up for failure before it can even get rolling.
Of all things, the next crucial aspect is nudity. Carrie exists at a critical point in a young woman's life, the moment she moves from innocent child into a sexual being. De Palma captures this entire essence in a few minutes of screen time. Post a gym volleyball game, we see a crowded locker room filled with nude and partially nude young women. They play and dress at half speed. The viewers are well aware of their age and find themselves in an unusual predicament. Minus the nudity, there is nothing sexual about their play, yet due to their age we struggle to come to terms with viewing high school kids in the buff. They are old enough to be sexual but not old enough for our thoughts to be acceptable. De Palma understands this and pushes the idea even further by having us watch Carrie as she caresses herself, washing her body. The scene hints towards pornographic.
With this, the internal setting of Carrie herself has been set up through the use of a powerful imagery; a male's fantasy of what happens in the locker room; a glossy, steamy vision of innocence and sexuality that will be soon tainted by the following events. This three minute sequence encases the film completely. Innocence, repression and misunderstanding play out in a haunting fashion. For plot reasons, the remake must include this scene and the nudity, but it must be handled in balance. Too much sexuality and the film moves into the land of bad gratuitous boob land. Too much innocence and Carrie's sexuality could be undermined. Puberty is the reason her abilities come to fruition and for this reason the subject must be handled carefully.
Next on the list the slaughtering of the pig by Chris and Billy, which is crucial to the story. This scene, although important to the plot for what kind of blood will be dropped on them, holds a special meaning to our villainous duo. The vicious prank is masterminded by Chris but once her plan is unfolding she discovers she cannot bear to kill an innocent pig. This small moment depicts Chris's feelings towards Carrie, she is able to publicly embarrass a classmate, but when it comes to killing the pig she's too squeamish to do it.
Aside from adding a gruesome moment to the film, the scene encompasses a wrinkle to Chris's viewpoint. Her anger towards Carrie can drive her to do devilish things, but not murder. It underscores the viciousness of the prank. Chris wants to embarrass her for revenges sake, but doesn't want to hurt her physically. A feeling that Carrie will not reciprocate later in the film. This scene has always struck me as a true horror moment. It will be interesting to see whether or not the remake includes the slaying or if it will find its way on the cutting room floor.
The quintessential relationship in the film is the one between Carrie and her mother. As the film comes to a close we have a fight between the two where Carrie at first asks for forgiveness for going against her word by going to prom, essentially confirming the mother was right all along for trusting her classmates. But like any good horror movie, the mother is in no shape to accept her apology. She has already decided that Carrie must be possessed by the devil and proceeds to stab her in the shoulder. This is the moment where Carrie does the unthinkable in her mind and commits matricide, crucifying her mother with household knives. This fight sequence can be handled as they wish, but the implosion of the house into a single point represents the utter defeatist attitude carried by Carrie. The weight of her guilt collapses in on the embodiment of her existence, her now dead mother and their squalid house. No bells and whistles needed. De Palma sucked the house in a few seconds in a pseudo-surprise.
The unexpected demise was needed to conclude the very existence of Carrie. If her destruction becomes larger than life, sucking in neighboring houses or even affecting outside characters it will be a complete miss on what the ending stands for. The guilt caused from the destructive relationship between mother and child is so heavy to bear, that it collapses in on itself. This demise will need to be scrapped because it is original and not connected to the novel in any way. So instead we must look further towards the end, as to what sort of tricks could be up the remakes sleeve.
De Palma again broke away from the novel to end his masterpiece. In lieu of a real meeting between Sue and Carrie post prom night we have a dream sequence; one in which Sue returns to the hole that was once Carrie's house only to have a zombie Carrie grab her leg. Then she awakes and we are left to wonder if it was only in Sue's nightmare. This ending resurrects Carrie into a monster that could lurk inside our dreams well after the incident. Giving her an immortality of sorts. While King's original ending instead offers a letter from another teenager experiencing similar telekinetic powers, De Palma's ending fit into the realm of thinking of horror at the time which could give rise to the likes of Freddie Krueger. King's ending is that of the classic monsters, hinting towards a possible epidemic of super powered teenagers.
Nowadays in the 2010s, neither ending seem to fit the current horror genre. As always our monsters must continue to live on past the film, but such gimmicks as dreams or new "Carries" across the country will not work. In 2002, a made for TV version was created and ended with Carrie surviving, allowing her to carry on a TV series that never came to fruition. Is Carrie's survival necessary in today's horror? Or would it make more sense to stay strictly to King's word? These are questions that not only need to be answered, but also crucial to give us insight as to how the producers view the film. Is it a closed piece of art or is it a setup for the modern franchise?
MGM and Screen Gems have re-opened a holy grail of the horror genre and are seemingly willing to give it the full treatment. A powerful Julianne Moore plays Margaret White while director Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry) is at the helm with phenomenal young actress Chloe Moretz taking on the title role. The screenwriter Robert Aguirre-Sacasa has mainly done television work ("Glee" and "Big Love") and hopefully brings some fresh blood to the dated ways of thinking about horror. The documentary feel of the book and the destruction of the city, which are missing in De Palma's adaptation, are a couple of ideas from the original novel that could be used again. However a strong focus on destruction, nudity and violence could wash out the subtlety of the original film's legacy, turning this into yet another ho-hum horror film that happens to have a famous title. We'll have to wait and see how it turns out next March.