CARRIE: THE REBOOT, THE VERDICT
Carrie director Kimberly Peirce remakes a modern classic, writes Carla Meyer
THERE’S something about Carrie White, the awkward, telekinetic teenager from Stephen King’s 1974 novel Carrie, that keeps inspiring visual interpretations.
Brian De Palma’s 1976 film, which features Oscarnominated performances by Sissy Spacek as Carrie and Piper Laurie as her unhinged mother, seems a definitive work. But producers see more to mine.
Carrie: The Musical, which flopped on Broadway in 1988, was recently retooled for off-Broadway and Seattle runs. In 1999, Amy Irving played a grown-up version of Sue Snell – her nice-girl character from the 1976 film – in the movie sequel The Rage: Carrie 2. In 2002, Patricia Clarkson played Carrie’s mother in a TV adaptation.
The newest venture is the most serious post-De Palma Carrie. Serious because it was directed by acclaimed independent filmmaker Kimberly Peirce, who directed 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry and the less-seen but affecting 2008 Iraq war drama Stop-Loss.
Chloe Grace Moretz stars in the titular role with Julianne Moore as her mother, Margaret.
In crafting her film, Peirce worked from King’s book and from the De Palma film. Though her film stays true to both sources, it’s also set in the present day.
Peirce says she views King’s fractured coming-of-age tale as ‘‘timeless and timely’’, its themes of alienation and selfdiscovery lending themselves easily to today’s technologically advanced world.
Pierce entered the project assuming most people who will see this Carrie have not seen the De Palma film. Research screenings bore this out. But people who have seen the original will pick up Peirce’s homages to De Palma via slowmotion shots and the muscle car driven by teen hothead Billy (Alex Russell). The car evokes the one John Travolta drove when he played Billy in the 1976 movie.
With fundamentalist religion rising in visibility in the US since the first film’s release, Pierce believes presenting Margaret White as a wing-nut, the way she was in the original, would have carried more potential to offend.
‘‘You had to be very careful how you represented Margaret as a religious person in order to show due respect to religion and to characterise her accurately,’’ Peirce says.
‘‘That is why it is so great that King (in his novel) gave us permission to make it very specific. It was a very safe road because (Margaret) has created her own religion.
‘‘In our film, we added a new line where Carrie says, ‘That’s not even in the Bible’ (to her mother). Margaret has made it up. . . . She is in her own world.’’
New tools for tormenting: Carrie still wears figure-hiding, era-unspecific baggy clothes sewn by her seamstress mother. But her fellow teens wear more modern fashions, carry mobile phones and upload video to social media.
‘‘Life has radically changed . . . radically-radically in the last five,’’ Peirce says.
‘‘We have cellphones, we are always taking a picture, we are always recording video. We often times are experiencing something and are compelled to be recording it on some level. It’s just not enough to just experience it.’’
The mean behaviour directed toward Carrie in the novel and De Palma film becomes even more public in the new Carrie, when her schoolmate Chris (Portia Doubleday) uploads to social media some video footage of Carrie shot during a heartbreaking moment.
‘‘There’s now an understanding that kids torment other kids, and that tormenting is videotaped, and that tormenting can make it online,’’ says Peirce.
This understanding leads to inventive disciplinary methods. A teacher (Judy Greer) who has become aware of Chris’s nasty behaviour forbids the girl from attending the prom. When Chris threatens legal action, the teacher promises to expose Chris on the Today show as the source of the uploaded video. Chris backs down.
Students’ online cruelty toward other students can ‘‘make the teachers and the principals look bad but also can make the tormentors look bad’’, Peirce says.
Carrie opens today.
Chloe Grace Moretz (left) and Julianne Moore in a scene from horror thriller film Carrie.