Thursday, November 14, 2013

It Came From The Cineplex: Carrie (2013)

Carrie was written by Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and directed by Kimberly Pierce. It's based of course on the 1974 novel by Stephen King.

Oddly enough, Lawrence D. Cohen also wrote the screenplay for the 1976 version of the film and even wrote a 1988 Broadway musical (!) based on the story. Much of his career seems to revolve around making new versions of Carrie. In fact he just can't seem to separate himself from King, as he also wrote the screenplays for It and The Tommyknockers.

Aguirre-Sacasa is also no stranger to King's work either, as he adapted The Stand into comic book form in 2008.

For the record this is the third movie adaptation of the novel. There's the 1976 Brian De Palma directed version, a 2002 TV movie, and now this new film. I like the story well enough, but I have to wonder are there really that many treasures to be mined from such a simple tale?

This version is more of a remake of the De Palma movie than an adaptation of the book. Some parts of the film are shot for shot recreations of the original, and whole swaths of dialog are duplicated as well. I suppose this makes sense, since both screenplays were penned by the same writer. I can't confirm it, but it appears that Cohen may have just xeroxed the 1976 script and jotted "cell phone" and "youtube" in the margins. The only real changes from the original are the inclusion of social media and Margaret White's self-mutilation.

So I have to ask: Why bother? This is the third time around this particular block; by now you need to bring something new to the table and not just reshoot the same exact story with modern production values.

The film was originally set to release in March 2013 but was delayed to October 18 for some reason.

Most studio executives are afraid of their own shadows these days, so I'm surprised any had the nerve to green light this story in our brave new world of monthly school shootings and massacres. Think about it— it's a story of a student who's relentlessly bullied until she snaps and goes on a murderous revenge spree. Sounds like a lot of news stories about school shootings from the past few years, doesn't it? I'm assuming the studio heads were fooled by the fact that Carrie kills with telekinesis instead of by weidling an AK47. Congratulations, studio executives! You just told kids it's OK to kill their tormentors!

SPOILERS, IN CASE YOU HAVEN'T SEEN ANY OF THE PREVIOUS VERSIONS OF THIS TALE.

The Plot:
You ought to be quite familiar with it by now. Young Carrie White is a bullied and persecuted high school girl who lives with her overly religious mother Margaret. As Carrie enters puberty she realizes she possesses tremendous telekinetic powers. A sympathetic school mate wants to make amends to Carrie by asking her boyfriend to take her to the prom.

At the prom Carrie blossoms and seems to be accepted by her peers for the first time in her life. That is until a vengeful student pulls a sadistic prank on her, causing Carrie to lose her mind and go on a telekinetic rampage.

Pros:
• Julianne Moore did an awesome job as Margaret White. Her religious fanaticism and zealotry (not to mention her righteous self-mutilation) was absolutely terrifying.

I've noticed that many of Stephen King's stories have featured similar characters (like Mrs. Carmody in The Mist, for example), and the biblical knowledge he gives them seems much more extensive than what the average writer would know. I'm wondering if King's just done his research, or if one of his family members is a religious extremist like this?

• In a novel bit of casting, this time most of the high school characters actually look like teens. Contrast this to the 1976 version, in which most of the cast was played by actors pushing thirty (at least).

Of course using an older cast like the original film did meant they could feature nudity, which they couldn't do in the new version. Hey, you can't win 'em all.

• Carrie's rampage is much closer to the book this time. In the novel she leveled pretty much half the town as she made her way back home. Her swath of destruction still isn't as epic as it was in the novel, which is puzzling, as Hollywood generally loves blowing up things. Maybe they just didn't have the budget for a proper apocalypse.

But hey, we're getting there though. Maybe when they make the fourth version in a couple years we'll finally get a proper town-flattening.

• During Carrie's final moments, large rocks drop from the sky and smash her home, in a bit lifted straight from the novel. It's a nice touch, but they might have bothered to explain it to people who haven't read the book and are wondering what the hell's going on.

Cons:
• Many reviewers had a problem with Chloe Grace Moretz playing the plain Carrie. I tend to agree with them. Moretz is a fine young actress but is far too attractive for the part. Carrie is supposed to be an unremarkable looking wallflower who only blossoms when she dresses up for the prom. Sissy Spacek nailed the look perfectly in the original film. She had an odd, otherworldly quality but cleaned up real nice when she had to.

Amazingly, Stephen King suggested casting Lindsay Lohan for the role of Carrie (!). Hopefully he was just kidding.

• When Carrie's telekinetically toying with Chris and Billy in front of the filling station, the sign says gas is $4.70 a gallon. At first I wondered if the film was set slightly in the future. Nope! It was filmed in Canada, where gas is apparently a lot higher than here (because of the metric system? Cause they pay in loonies?).

You'd think someone on the production crew might have thought to change the price per gallon signs to something more American, but no.

• Although Carrie's rampage was closer to that in the book, they wimped out on the carnage at the prom though. There're a couple of scenes in the ruined gymnasium showing dozens of teen survivors. If I recall no one (or at least very few) made it out alive in the book or original film.

• Lastly I think that may be the absolute worst movie poster I've ever seen. Aside from the fact that it's just plain butt-ugly, it tells me absolutely nothing about the film. Not even the title! "You Will Know Her Name?" Maybe you will, but I sure as hell won't, judging from that poster.

I'm going to give this film my first ever double score. If you've never seen any of the previous versions of Carrie, this one's reasonably acceptable and I'd give it a B-. If you've seen the 1976 version though, skip this remake. There's nothing new to see here and I give it a C.

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