In October, we will see the release of the remade Carrie, this time starring Chloë Grace Moretz in the titular role and Julianne Moore as her religious-zealot, overbearing, and abusive mother. I am cautiously optimistic about this upcoming film, as I feel both Moretz and Moore are singularly gifted actors who will likely bring something very interesting to the roles, never mind the special effects, which will almost certainly eclipse those in the last twenty to thirty minutes of the 1976 original.
Given the new film is coming out in the next few months, I decided, for the first time in many years, to re-watch Brian DePalma’s take on Stephen King’s first (well, first published) novel. I wasn’t disappointed. Despite the feathered hair and, in terms of today’s displays, rather lacklustre effects (even for the time, the effects are pretty cringe-worthy in places), it still holds up as a terrific supernatural thriller encased in a horrific tale of adolescent abuse, both at the hands of Carrie’s peers and her mother.
The story was originally inspired by a young girl King met during his stint as a high-school teacher in Maine in the 60s or early 70s. Shunned by her peers, and a victim of extreme poverty, the girl simply couldn’t win. Even after getting some new clothes, she experienced nothing but derision and abuse from her peers. “What if”, asked King to himself, this girl had the ability to move things with her mind? How would a person like this react to the abuse of other students and her mother? Not well, as it turns out.
Carrie holds a special place in my heart for having one of the most horrific and memorable scenes I have ever seen or read in a film or novel, and this is even before the story really gets moving: it’s the famous “Plug it up!” scene at the story’s start – Carrie White, having grown up in an intensely religious household, never knew about a woman’s period, and reacts accordingly when she starts bleeding between her legs in the shower after gym. Spearheaded by actress Nancy Allen (Robocop fans anywhere?) as the Head Bully, Chris, the girls in her class start laughing at Carrie and heap upon her a mountain of tampons and maxi-pads, all the time screaming “Plug it up! Plug it up!” Sissy Spacek is suitably terrified and is uncannily believable in the scene. One develops instant sympathy for this poor girl. This continues throughout the film as we watch Carrie go from one awful situation to another, and even at the promise of something good, we know it’s only going to get worse. Spacek, despite her older age (oh, if I do have one complaint about the film, it’s the very advanced age of most of the “prom-goers” at the film’s climax – best just to look at them as a matte painting and only pay attention to the main characters), is a very convincing teenager; I’ve seen girls like the one she portrays, and her performance is fantastic.
Piper Laurie also deserves special mention here, as Carrie’s monster of a mother. Despite Carrie’s displays of power at the end of the film, one never thinks of her as the antagonist; Margaret White is the film’s villain. Abusive, controlling, unstable, and ultimately murderous, Margaret is easily the most loathsome character in the film, and that includes Chris and Billy, the two behind the bucket of blood prank played on Carrie at the high-school prom. The viewer doesn’t have an ounce of sympathy for Margaret; she’s everything we hate, as she is the ultimate source of Carrie’s abuse.
Spacek and Laurie make this film, which is why I’m feeling good about the upcoming remake, as I really do feel Moretz and Moore will be just as effective, if different. I just hope they don’t sugar-coat it; this is a story about abuse and the cruelty of parents and adolescents to young, vulnerable people. It’s not a story for everyone, and nor is this a film for everyone; that said, it’s worth watching simply for these two women’s outstanding performances.