It’s weird to think of a time before Stephen King’s overwhelming influence on the horror genre, but in 1976 Brian De Palma was the first person to adapt King’s work. After Carrie achieved mainstream success, Hollywood recognized how marketable King’s writing could be and have since adapted his work over 100 times. Carrie alone had a sequel and two remakes.
The original Carrie without a doubt is one of the all-time classics of the horror genre. Everything about this film works and it takes you back to a time when mainstream movies were an art form, not an idea for the next cash cow. When I watch the original Carrie it’s hard to not constantly be reminded of the 2013 remake, a film that I doubt is horrible but certainly is unable to compete with the quality of the original. The year the remake came out I remember hearing a director mention how he believed the spirit behind the original Carrie came from a group who wanted to see something fucked up being played out on the big screen, while the remake’s spirit probably came from a studio that predicted the amount of income a remake of an iconic film would bring in. It’s hard to disagree with that opinion.
So much of Carrie is of its time which baffles me that someone thought this is a story that could be retold in 2013. For one thing, it’s hard to suspend disbelief to the point that a teenage girl in 2013 would be unaware of her period. Most teenagers tend to be well informed about sexuality due to the internet. It’s just not as believable as it was in 1976 when people could be naïve to sex, found sexuality to be so taboo and off subject, and were so obsessed with the concept of losing your virginity in a way that teenagers nowadays are far more informed and not shocked by.
The remake also seems to be in the spirit of the Psycho remake where little is changed to the point where you ask why even make it. One of the only additions is that the main bully uses a cell phone to record the “plug it up” moment and upload it onto YouTube, something that obviously couldn’t happen because uploading child pornography has never been something on can do on YouTube.
The way people are so passive about bullying Carrie White including teachers is also something that could only happen in a film from over forty years ago. If a teacher were to mock a student for considering a poem beautiful it’s very likely someone would record it and they’d be emptying out their desk by the end of the day. How the town ignores Carrie being under the car of a hysterical mentally ill woman wouldn’t go over in the way it’s easy to believe such a thing going over in the carefree era of the 70s.
And of course….the prom scene.
The only part I cared about watching from the remake is the prom scene. For the most part it’s exactly what I expected, a recreation of one of the most iconic scenes in film with CGI replacing practical effects. The prom scene in the original Carrie is one of the most enthralling and beautiful moments to witness. Once the lights go red and Sissy Spacek is wide eyes on the stage covered in blood, you’re completely swept up in the beauty of the perfect execution of the scene. The split screen showing the massacre as it begins is wonderful.
Some found the uncontrollable massacre to be an issue which leads to the remake only targeting “the bad people” and letting the “nice” gym teacher go. By far I prefer the original Carrie and her uncontrollable anger because it makes Carrie far more of a compelling and frightening character in the horror genre and not the Old Testament slasher villains that have become such a cliché that only punish the naughty people like they’re fucking Santa Claus. The original is by far a better PSA on bullying because it demonstrates how if you just stand by and let things happen, you’ll might suffer the same fate as the bullies.
I will give credit where credit is due, the one improvement in the remake’s prom scene is how the main bully is given a longer and more brutal death that fulfills revenge where the original somewhat lacked.
One of the many and endless reasons why the original will live on is due to Sissy Spacek’s dedication to the film. The woman went above and beyond in a way you only hear someone like Robert De Niro or Daniel Day Lewis going. On top of being up for a level of nudity perhaps only a handle of actresses would be comfortable with, Sissy isolated herself in a room surrounded by religious iconography and studied The Bible. During the course of shooting the prom scene she never showered the blood off to avoid ruining continuity. Perhaps the craziest of all dedications to Carrie is the fact that it’s Sissy Spacek’s hand that shoots up at the end from the grave. I can’t imagine any actress in this day and age being that dedicated to a role.
So far, no actress portraying Carrie has even come close to accomplishing what Sissy Spacek did. The least anybody could do regarding a remake is get an actress who is truer to Stephen King’s vision of Carrie, somewhat overweight and covered in acne. In 2013, instead of actually being true to the original work like the studio claimed to be attempting, they went with an actress who could easily be a model and I’m pretty sure has done professional modeling often.
The original Carrie is a must watch for horror fans and anybody who loves film. At one hour and forty minutes, this film feels far shorter due to the great pacing of the storytelling. No matter how many times it’s remade, nothing will compare or offer more than the original. The original Carrie is a great horror film and a powerful feminist film. I have to imagine part of Carrie’s success was due to how powerful it made women feeling watching a teenager girl beginning puberty and morphing into a far more confident person, standing up to her mother who wanted to keep her down. The way Carrie smashes a mirror in her bedroom practicing her telekinesis is certainly a parallel to female masturbation and the power a woman discovers when she makes herself orgasm for the first time.
I hope they continue to remake Carrie since it will only remind people how the perfection of the original can never be duplicated.
Side Note: I should also add how this film is iconic among gay viewers as well. The first thing I believe that appeals to the gay community is Piper Laurie’s campy performance. To this day Piper Laurie believes Carrie is a dark comedy and if you look at her role and the lines she was given it’s easy to see why. The lines she was given remind me of the ones Faye Dunaway was given as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest.
And of course, the prom scene. I really can’t think of anything that’s more of a gay fantasy than being all powerful and trapped in a room with those who tormented you. There is also nothing gayer than during your moment selecting the perfect lighting before all hell breaks loose.