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Thursday, August 03, 2017

Bad Movie Month gets Carrie-d away with The Worst of Stephen King

Welcome to Bad Movie Month, where every August we salute some of those cinematic stinkers that fester at multiplexes around this time of year.

Our theme this year is The Worst of Stephen King, an author who I truly admire yet he would be the first to admit that many of the Hollywood renditions of his work are far from ideal.

Since my sister's birthday is coming up this weekend, part of my gift to her is choosing a particular film that she loathes to be included in these dubious festivities. With that in mind, we begin with the 2013 remake of Carrie, a film experience that we sadly shared.

I am disappointed that this was the version my sister got to see, as the original film made quite an impact on me back in the day. Without getting too autobiographical, let's just say that it wasn't hard for me to identify with a tale about a female outsider fighting back against her bullying classmates.

That film was my first exposure to Stephen King and while it wasn't the first book of his that I read(that honor goes to Christine), that first impression went a long way indeed towards getting me to give his books a try.

Prior to 2013, there was a small screen remake that was meant to launch a TV series(which didn't get picked up), a sequel called Carrie 2: The Rage and even a Broadway musical that was recently revived. Those renditions clearly showed the pop culture impact of the story but the main difference between those and this particular remake is that I actually had hope that this one would work.

For one, the iconic lead roles played by Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie(both of whom earned Oscar nominations for their performances) in 1976 were given to Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore, a rather talented pair and a female director,Kimberly Peirce, was hired.

Sounds good, doesn't it, to have a trio of exceptional ladies like this to breath new life into this female fear fest? Well, that just wasn't enough to guarantee a worthwhile remake as studio interference and screenplay rewrites shackled the story big time.

Before we get into that, I do have comment on Moore's version of Margaret White, the religious zealot of a mother who helps to drive her daughter over the edge. While Piper Laurie's over the top take on the role can be parody worthy, it was very effective and showed the dominance of the character as King originally wrote her.

Julianne Moore, on the other hand, takes a more subtle approach and while she's somewhat scary, at times she doesn't seem to be than much of a threat to Carrie, who is a bit more forceful in standing up to her in this version. Less may be more but not for a major role like this:

Moretz does a bit better,using her body language to convey much of Carrie's social awkwardness, Yet, her overall performance is not as convincing as it could be.

Some of that may be due,in my opinion, to the lackluster supporting cast and I say this without any intent to shift the blame from Moretz. She doesn't connect well with Julianne Moore on screen either but it doesn't help that the majority of the cast is seriously forgettable. Especially the teen actors, most of which come across as either generic Mean Girls or male extras from a CW series:

A major flaw,however, is the script, which was written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa yet so reliant on the Lawrence D. Cohen screenplay from '76 that the writing credits had to be shared by both.

While it reproduces many of the key moments from that earlier film,it also removes the flavor that director Brian DePalma gave to those sequences, not to mention making pointless changes. Why have this story take place in modern day, for example, with social media included? Clearly, Carrie has no access to the internet outside of the school library so that makes little importance to her emotional struggles or her daily torments.

 Sure, they worked in at the prom but wasn't being dowsed with pig's blood enough of a shocker without a YouTube video playing for additional agony points?  Speaking of the prom, that sequence is the high point of the story and it's impact in this version is severely diluted. Part of the problem is due to the evolving nature of Carrie's powers as showcased throughout the story.

In the original film, her abilities were shown gradually, from that blown out light bulb in the girl's shower to an ashtray being knocked over in the vice principal's office, then the mirror at home cracking and when facing down her mother over prom, slamming every window in the house shut all at once.

That slow yet steady build-up helped to increase the fear factor as Carrie unleashed her full potential at prom. This movie, however, has Carrie burning out a bulb at first but then taking out a water fountain, smashing a bathroom mirror at school(which no one seems to notice!) and before being taken to the prom, sealing her mother's mouth up before shoving her into the dreaded closet as well as searing the lock shut!

Therefore, her rampage at the prom is not as surprising and frankly comes off as something more out of an X-Men movie than a horror film:

In addition to that, there were numerous scenes cut, such as an opening with a younger Carrie causing rocks to rain down on her house, something that is called back to during the finale yet makes no sense without that prior intro!

It would have made a better opener that the one they used, which has Margaret White giving birth alone and deciding at the last minute not to stab her newborn with scissors, which is not in the book and also takes away any surprise that Carrie is in danger from her blade happy mom.

The ending scene, with a gravestone that cracks while a rock song is playing, is incredibly tone deaf to say the least. The studio seem to want it both ways, a new Carrie with all of the best stuff from the original crammed into it. Well, that never works out well as the folks who did the shot-for-shot remake of Psycho(which came out long before this movie) could've told you.

 It's a shame because you could remake this story with the right approach, say have it take place in the past with an adult Sue Snell recounting that tragedy for a documentary? Then again, perhaps it's best to leave well alone and let poor Carrie rest in peace.  Tune in next week, when we go Midwestern madness with Children of the Corn, a holy horror indeed:

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