Carrie, Carrie, Carrie

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Stephen King’s “Carrie” has  been adapted three times now, and while I’m a long-time fan of DePalma’s 1976 version, the newest addition by Kimberly Peirce is pretty damn good too. Really, the only horrible misstep is David Carson’s 2002 made-for-television version, which whole-heartedly SUCKS.


Carrie (1976), as directed by Brian DePalma, is a fucking gorgeous masterpiece. The screenplay, adapted by Lawrence P. Cohen, takes a lot of the best elements from King’s story, but it’s the directing and the performances that really make this version the best. Spacek was 27 when this was filmed, but there is no way you would know that while watching her shrink into herself as 16-year-old Carietta White. Piper Laurie’s near-hysteria in every scene as Carrie’s mom, Margaret, is AWESOME, Amy Irving is perfect as popular girl Sue Snell,  and Nancy Allen totally nails is as the entitled mean girl, Chris Hargensen.

DePalma’s signature camera moves only make everything better: the prom devastation — and Spacek’s eye-popping performance — are enhanced by his split-screen madness, and the perfectly screechy score by Pino Donaggio is just brilliant. The prom scene is AMAZING, with blood, flames, and screaming everywhere. It’s gorgeous!  And that ending … MYGOD that ending. The crucifixion of Margaret White followed the implosion of the White’s house and Sue’s terrifying dream. It’s all just so damn beautiful. You might laugh a bit at the distinct 70’s look of this one (in particular, William Katt’s hair and powder blue prom tux), but it is a perfect adaptation of King’s work.

Carrie 2002

In contrast, the made-for-TV  Carrie (2002), is just terrible. Intended to be a Pilot for a Carrie television show (WAIT. WHAT.), this adaptation is directed by David Carson with a screenplay by Brian Fuller (WAIT. WHAT.). This version frames the action — what little there is — with police department interrogations of Sue Snell (played by Kandyse McClure), MISS Desjardin (Rena Sofer), and various other Prom-goers in order to find out what actually happened the night of the Pig Blood dumping.

Bad girl Chris Hargensen is played by Emile de Raven and she does okay, but comes across as more pouty than mean — and missing the gleeful mania of Allen in DePalma’s film. The script is awful, but some of the biggest disappointments here are the two leads, which is pretty shocking, since I normally LOVE these two: Angela Bettis as Carrie, and Patricia Clarkson as Margaret. Bettis, who is amazing as the title character in Lucky McKee’s May, plays Carrie White a little too timidly, and when she “flexes,” her mind, she looks like she’s having a seizure. And Clarkson — well, she tries — just not hard enough for me to care about her performance. She’s just “eh” in this movie … like all the passion of acting has been drained out of her.

Also, the Prom scene is a disaster, with a multi-camera angle switch when the blood pours down on Carrie, and some pretty hokey F/X. Carson & Fuller swapped the crucifixion bit in DePalma’s for the original heart stopping death of Margaret just like in the book, which doesn’t play quite as dramatically. And of course, the biggest error in this one (and there are a ton) is letting Carietta White live at the end — with the idea being, I guess, that Sue & Carrie run away and have “telekinetic adventures” in different parts of the world during the series. I AM SO GLAD that didn’t actually happen!

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The latest adaptation, Carrie (2013), directed by Kimberly Peirce, is a much better update. Peirce and her screenwriters chose to add in a few more scenes from King’s book, and match their story arc pretty closely to DePalma’s. But the updates are spot-on, making the story accessible to a larger audience (OMG, that makes me sound SO OLD. but I it’s true — I feel like teens are going to identify with this one more than an adaptation made in 1976), and the casting is perfect.

Chloe Moretz, 15-years-old at the time of filming, rocks Carrie so hard! Watching Moretz’s in full destructo-Carrie mode  is so great! The head tilt, the vacant eyes, the FURY. I love her as Carrie. And Julianne Moore, though she chooses to play Margaret White a little quieter than Piper Laurie, is just as effectively creepy. Plus, Newcomer Ansel Egort made me take notice of Tommy in a way I hadn’t before — not even in DePalma’s — because he is SO charming, and so “aw, shucks” cute that you love him, and Portia Doubleday as Chris Hargensen is … HOLYSHIT. She’s just so good, you guys. The prom scene is just as thrilling to watch in this one as it is in the ’76 film, and Margaret’s death in the book is here, but made a little more exciting with some added elements.

There’s just one tiny scene at the end with Sue and Carrie that I think maybe wasn’t necessary, but I appreciated more once the director told me why she put in there. Is the ending as good as DePalma’s? No, I don’t think so  … but overall, I just think Peirce did a  fine job making something that doesn’t shit all over the story, and I  think there’s room to love both the 1976 and 2013 versions. They’re the same’ish, but the Directors left enough of their mark on each to make them both worth watching.

Final recommendation: Rent DePalma’s first, then go see Peirce’s . And there’s absolutely NO REASON for you to ever see Carson’s … unless you really, really, really really want to punish yourself.

{You can find my full review of Carrie 2013 on, and my interview with Director Kimberly Peirce is there too. I’ve also written about Brian DePalma’s Carrie in the past on I Love Splatter} 

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