It started with the Stephen King novel, Carrie in 1974. We all know the basic premise: teenage outcast Carrie White with a religious fanatic mother, gains telekinetic powers – hilarity ensues. Stephen King borrows the classic motif of the entire book being a series of reports, newspaper entries, and interviews of survivors to tell his story, in the same way Dracula and Frankenstein did this to create a sense of realism for their fantastic stories. I am surprised no film makers decided to use a documentary style story element, ala Blair Witch Project, but I could see idiot critics complaining it was copying Chronicle. The movie that followed tended to be faithful to the basic premise thought without the epistolary motif, but I noticed one interesting difference from this and every interpretation of Carrie: in the novel, Carrie is described as being overweight and pimply faced. This is never shown in any of the movies. A related aspect that I noticed that I am surprised movies never picked up on: when she first gains her powers, it takes a lot of effort for her to lift even small objects, so she constantly practices using her ability, and even builds up a sweat doing it. After much practice, she can lift very heavy objects, and she stops being described as overweight and pimply faced. I always assumed because using her powers was a great aerobic exercise and caused her to lose weight and got rid of her acne, and am amazed that superhero comic books never picked up on this. You want to know why the Flash is in great shape? You run 18 hours a day at super speed every day and see what happens.
The 1976 movie directed by Brian DePalma is amazing, and I suggest that people who have not seen it check it out especially during this Halloween season. Admittedly, what made it so wonderful was the performances of Piper Laurie as Carrie’s mother which is downright daft, and the amazing performance of Sissy Spacek as Carrie. Sissy Spacek does a great job of showing a vulnerable girl who suddenly comes of age because of these new found powers, and, when she shows anger at the cruel prank pulled on her, she just has this deathly stare that was hands down the scariest moment in the movie. Let me tell you, if I ever had my wife stare at me like that, I would crap my pants. Still, the final scare in the movie, which did not appear in the book, is definitely one of the best endings to a horror film ever. Also, the movie introduced us to John Travolta and William Katt (yeah, Greatest American Hero!)
Surprisingly, there was not a wave of Carrie movies after this for a long time, which I guess was because your main character did die in such a way that she could not be brought back and I doubt Sissy Spacek would ever want to be in a sequel, but this did have a definite effect on movies. There were rip off movies, like The Fury, and movies that borrowed from the premise, like Scanners. If you think about it, Carrie probably had an effect on the X-Men, though X-Men did precede Carrie, since you have to figure that all the X-Men would have been little versions of Carrie, if not for Professor X’s school to train them and give them a moral center.
I guess the 1988 movie, Friday the 13th Part VII: New Blood could be considered a sequel to Carrie, since it was about a teenage girl with telekinetic powers fighting Jason Voorhees. I definitely get the feeling that they wanted to make a Jason vs. Carrie movie but couldn’t get the rights. But, seriously, it should not be watched unless you are into the Jason movies, like monster mash ups, or like falling over unintentionally laughing a lot.
Also in 1988, Carrie: the Musical came out on Broadway, and is credited as the worst musical ever made. Still, one has to wonder: was it truly that bad, or ahead of its time? After all, there have been successful musicals made of Phantom of the Opera, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Little Shop of Horrors, and even Evil Dead, and David Conenberg just produced The Fly: the Opera. When you think about it that way, is Human Centipede: the Musical all that outlandish?
Still, a proper sequel didn’t come out until 1999, with The Rage: Carrie 2. In it, an orphaned outcast from the same town as Carrie, played by Emily Bergl, gains telekinetic powers. It is soon discovered that she is the half sister to Carrie White, and, again, hilarity ensues. The movie is a by the numbers sequel, pretty much copying the same direction as the first movie, but had one interesting visual effect: The main girl has a thorn tattoo around her wrist, and, when the inevitable cruel prank is pulled on her, it grows to go all over her body. The movie did not do well, and that could probably have been the last we heard of Carrie.
But, in 2002, a made-for-tv mini-series came out. In it, Angela Bettis played Carrie White, and it tried to be much more faithful to the novel. Instead of being a documentary, the story starts with different survivors telling the story at police headquarters, and, in this one, Carrie does end up destroying the entire town (something Brian DePalma couldn’t do because of budgetary concerns). Still, it does not have the same power as the first movie, as it plods along to warrent its 4 hour length. It is funny that, when Carrie starts causing chaos with her telekinesis, they CGIed the actresses’ eyes so that they would stay open the entire time this sequence happened, which is something Sissy Spacek did naturally. But, where Sissy Spacek looked preternaturnal, the actress here just looked… as though she kept her eyes open the entire time. The mini-series did deviate from the ending, in that the good girl character who tried to help Carrie finds Carrie dying and revives her, and the two of them go on a cross country trip. Were they thinking of doing sequels or a tv show, maybe where Carrie puts on a costume and fights crime, or becomes a super spy for the government, or uses her powers to pick up boys? We will never know, thank God. And, by saying that, I am not blaspheming our Lord and Savior, I am literally saying THANK YOU GOD!!!
Now, we have the re-make coming out on the 18th, and I can hope it is good. There is a good cast in it, with Julliane Moore playing Carrie’s mom who is good in most movies she does. And, Chloe Moretz playing Carrie White, who has proven she can play scary teenage girls in both Kick Ass and Let Me In. But, whether its good will be dependent on the script. If it is just a copy of the original movie, I really don’t see the point. It would be like Let Me In, which, though it was a fine movie, was an exact copy of the foreign film Let the Right One In from only a few years ago. I am not one of those movie snobs who is totally against remakes, but I would like them to look at the story in a unique way (like David Cronenberg’s The Fly, which focused on the tragic love story) or looks at the story from a more present day slant (like the first remake to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which showed the Body Snatchers not as a metaphor for the McCarthy era, but as a metaphor for rising consumerism). I think a Carrie remake could do that. After all, though it is a story with eternal themes, like being a teenage outcast, coming of age, bullying, and teenage outcasts wanting to get revenge on their bullies, there have been changes in our society that ought to be reflected in a remake. For example, how does Carrie White exist in a world with the internet, where bullying has become such a hot button issue, and where Columbine happened?
So, what is the lasting legacy of Carrie? Along with her being the iconic monster for the bullied teenage outcast who gets revenge, it is interesting that she is one of the few female monster icons out there, with only Bride of Frankenstein and Linda Blair’s demonically possessed child from Exorcist preceding her. Maybe it is because Stephen King pretty much twisted the main structure of the modern day horror movie around. Instead of there being a male monster finally fighting the last surviving good girl heroine, we have the good girl heroine becoming the monster. Also, there is that fact that she is somehow related to Walter White somehow.