I fell in love with Stephen King when I read Pet Semetary in high school. The story was good, but I loved the way he had such insights to his characters. I loved that the internal conflict was so much more complex and scarier than any monster that could be produced in his mind. When I write, I love to make my characters argue with themselves. It gives such insight to most themes that permeate the horror genre.
After all, horror is not about whether a story can produce something that is scary to its characters. Horror is about whether it can scare somebody else. ME. Show me something freaky on a screen, and I may jump. But it will be my imagination that takes over at 3:30 am that makes it scary.
That’s why I always will love Pet Semetary. King devoted an entire chapter to a father grieving his infant son’s death by imagining what life would have been for the family. He wrote a single line that still haunts me to this day: “It was like that night the hand came from under my bed and grabbed my foot.” That line takes over your imagination. Scary.
Unfortunately, Stephen King books do not translate well to the big screen. Internal conflicts and characters arguing inside their heads are usually pushed aside because Hollywood wants to scare us with CGI, plastic appendages that come to life, and death. They still haven’t learned why King is scary. They still think that stupid spider from the end of IT is, when in all reality, it was Pennywise’s horrible taunting.
I had low expectations of the new Carrie (2013). I was pleasantly surprised. I was scared.
Carrie (2013) is almost a scene for scene remake of the old film of the same name. We are introduced to a young Carrie White at school. Carrie is obviously a tortured child, and she doesn’t quite fit in with the other kids at all. However, Chloë Grace Moretz (who I loved as Hitgirl in Kick Ass) pulls her character off wonderfully. She brought emotion to the character of Carrie that I feel was left out of its previous portrayal. I always thought that Sissy Spacek came off too creepy as Carrie, and made her unlikable even to the audience.
We are treated to the shower scene a little too soon in the movie. It plays almost as a dream sequence. The characters all seem to be charactures of evil, and we’ve only glimpsed who they are/might be. There is absolutely no development beforehand. The one girl doesn’t even respond to Carrie wiping blood on her white shirt. She laughs it off and is not disgusted for an instant. They rushed this scene instead of letting it develop naturally. I felt let down, and prepared to buckle down with some popcorn as the movie whisked me through rotten fluff until we got to the special effects ending. However, because they updated the story, one of the girls filmed it with her camera phone.
Carrie’s mom shows up at school to pick her up after the incident. She shows up in a quiet, protective manner. She guides her daughter to the car, and they drive home together. In the driveway, Carrie begins to talk to her mother. Carrie never knew about menstruation because her mom told her it was the devil. (Note: I feel like Mrs. White could be good friends with Bobby Boucher’s mom in the Waterboy. In fact, I would read any book those two would collaborate on.) Carrie doesn’t want to go in the house (and for good reason). Once inside, Mrs. White begins hurting herself and then she begins abusing Carrie.
The scenes between Carrie and her mom are phenomenal. Both actresses play well off each other, and both emit real emotion from the script. These scenes are the truly scary parts of the movie as Mrs. White manages to hide both the abuse to herself and her daughter in plain sight of the town.
One of the mean girls (Sue) feels bad about her role in the shower incident, and attempts to make it up to Carrie by not going to prom. Also, she asks her too-good-to-be-true boyfriend to take Carrie instead and give her “one magical night” of being normal. (I have always hated this premise from the book to the movie and now to the remake. Why doesn’t she just say that she’s sorry? No. She has to have some of the same passive aggressive tendencies that Mrs. White possesses.) Of course, the head instigator in the shower Chris, shows absolutely no remorse. She is punished by being barred from prom after a series of public temper tantrums when called on her behavior. In fact, she posts the video online in the midst of these.
We all know what happens: Carrie discovers she has telekinesis abilities, and she practices using these. Dreamboat asks Carrie to the prom, and she says yes. Chris is angry and decides to get back at Carrie by rigging the prom queen vote and dumping a bucket of pig’s blood on her. Carrie goes insane, kills everybody, and finally stops the circle of abuse at her house.
The writers could have really taken the chance to update the story here. Carrie is portrayed as technologically illiterate despite going to school since sixth grade. I wonder if there is one child in school today that can’t use a computer even if they don’t have one at home. In fact, the only updates the writers did here was have the shower scene filmed, Chris threaten Sue by text that she was going to do something to Carrie, and (after the pig’s blood fell) somebody overtook the projection with the shower scene video.
Overall, though, I was very happy with Carrie (2013). It wasn’t the huge finale that did it for me though. No. It was the scenes between Carrie and her mom that gave me hope that somebody (someday) may get a Stephen King book right. It gets off on a bad foot, but recovers nicely. My only wish is that they would have found a way to update the 40 year old story a little more.