When director Kimberly Peirce announced her plans to re-imagine Carrie, fans of the 1976 Brian De Palma film called foul. How dare she remake a horror movie as iconic as this terrifying tale of a bullied teen girl turned telekinetic mass-murderer? And who could possibly hope to fill the shoes of Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, actresses who each earned Academy Award nominations for their harrowing portrayals of the dysfunctional yet devout mother-daughter team Carrie and Margaret White?
But Peirce and her cast--which boasts Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore in these tricky roles-- insisted their movie would be pulling its influences more from original Stephen King book than the De Palma movie it inspired. Now that Peirce's version has hit theaters, we put her promise to the test, comparing the latest Carrie movie to King's tragedy-filled novel.
I was surprised by how much of the film is pulled straight from the book, from dialogue scenes between kind-hearted queen bee Sue Snell and her beloved boyfriend Tommy Ross, to Margaret's gruesome belief that her pregnancy was actually a cancer, and the extension of Carrie's carnage beyond that blood-drenched prom. However, Peirce still took several noteworthy liberties from the original text. And we'll break them down below.
There are many spoilers for the Carrie book and film below. If you wish to remain surprised, read no further.
While King's book was set in 1979, this Carrie is set in a modern-day small town, perhaps to help set it apart from its 1970s movie predecessor. For the most part, this leap of thirty-four years makes for superficial differences, like pop culture references to Tim Tebow and Dancing with the Stars, or Carrie researching her abilities by using the internet to search for info on "magic powers" and telekinesis. But with the rise of cell phones and easy access to the web, Carrie's main tormenter Chris Hargensen has a new weapon at her disposal: cyber bullying.
In this movie version, Chris doesn't only taunt Carrie in the locker room showers, she posts this "Plug it up!" catastrophe on Youtube, where everyone else can easily see it and join in on the mockery of "Crazy Carrie." Upping the ante on this torment, the vid is later played on a big screen at prom to humiliate Carrie further post pig blood shower.
Gone are the flashbacks and outsider interpretations. Beginning with Carrie's grim birth, then leaping forward to the traumatic day of her first period, prom, and thereafter, Peirce's movie is told in a straightforward manner. King's novel is non-linear, switching between a present tone and looking back as it is divided into omniscient storyteller sections, newspaper clippings that report death tolls, witness testimony, and two fictional books, one written by a proponent of telekinesis, the other, a memoir penned by survivor Sue Snell. Peirce does away with all of this save for a short scene in which Sue testifies before a stern commission, "You want an explanation? Carrie had some sort of power. But she was just like me…but we pushed her. And you can only push someone so far before they break."
Carrie and Margaret are slimmer and prettier. In his version, King is blunt about Carrie's appearance, calling her plain, pimpled, and fat with "bovine" reactions. He later amends this slightly, through the perspective of Tommy Ross, writing, "She was far from repulsive. Her face was rather round than oval, and the eyes were so dark that they seem to cast shadows beneath them like bruises. Her hair was dark ash blonde, slightly wiry, pulled back in a bun that was not becoming to her. The lips were full, almost lush, the teeth naturally white. Her body for the most part was indeterminate." For her part, Margaret is described even less kindly: "Margaret had a face like the ass-end of a truck and a body to match." While Peirce tries to play down Moretz and Moore's good looks with slapdash braids, homely wardrobe and make-up that makes them look gaunt, both are still miles away from matching King's concept for their characters.