From Page to Projector: ‘Carrie’

carrieThis October saw the rebirth of a horror classic: “Carrie,” the story of a teenage girl with telekinetic powers who gets pushed to the brink by bullying on prom night to unleash her fury on her hometown. Stephen King wrote the book in 1974, the first of many horror novels King would pen throughout his illustrious career. In 1976, a film version directed by Brian De Palma and starring Sissy Spacek as Carrie White hit theaters. A few other adaptations have come out since then, including a musical and a sequel, showcasing America’s affection for the chilling tale of revenge and despair.

Between King’s novel and De Palma’s movie, this most recent rendition had a lot to live up to. It serves mostly as a remake of the film, as it followed most of what the 1976 film altered from the book. Both movies stick close to the novel’s plot: Carrie White, raised by a single mother who is extremely and aggressively religious, discovers after a horrific bullying incident in the girls’ locker room that she can move things with her mind. Sue Snell, one of the girls who took part in the bullying, tries to atone by getting her boyfriend, Tommy Ross, to ask social outcast Carrie to the forthcoming senior prom. Another of the girls, Chris Hargenson, learns of this and plots to enact her vengeance on Carrie for getting her in trouble. With help from her boyfriend, Billy Nolan, she makes sure Carrie and Tommy are named prom queen and king, then dumps a bucket of pig’s blood on her. Enraged, Carrie goes on a rampage, setting the school on fire before making her way own to kill her mother, who mortally wounds Carrie because of her belief that she’s a spawn of the devil.

The 2013 movie includes a few extra tidbits from the book that the original movie left out. After Carrie kills her mother, Sue finds her and stays with her while she dies. It takes place at the White house instead of some random spot on the outskirts of town, but it still gives the audience one last glimpse at Carrie’s humanity and her tragedy from another’s eyes. Carrie also points out that Sue was pregnant with Tommy’s child, something that’s hinted at in the book. After she psychically tosses Sue from the house, Carrie uses a rain of stones to bring it down around her, harkening back to when she did the same thing after an incident when she was 3. Sue even ends the movie by speaking to what can be assumed is the White Commission, which was formed in the book after the events of prom night to investigate telekinetic activity.

The current version has a few key traits in its favor. Julianne Moore is terrific as Mrs. White. She adds a level of madness that wasn’t quite there in the original film. The way she constantly deals with stress by scratching and cutting herself unnerves the audience every time she’s on screen. The actors who play Tommy and Billy are also a step up. Ansel Elgort (Tommy) seems to be genuinely enjoying himself with Carrie at the prom than his 1976 counterpart, while Alex Russell (Billy) pulls off the car-obsessed bad boy more than John Travolta, who was making his film debut in “Carrie.” The modernization of Carrie’s bullying is well-handled, too, with Chris creating a fake Internet profile for Carrie and a recording of the locker room incident spreading through the school through everyone’s phones.

Missing from both film versions, however, is the way King chose to tell his story. Interlaced between the usual narrative that bounces from character to character are clips from books, reports and news and magazine articles from the world of Carrie. Some of them are scientific papers explaining telekinesis to the readers, some are snippets of stories telling of the aftermath of the prom night massacre, and some are more detailed reports into Carrie’s and her family’s past. From the outset, readers know Carrie has psychic powers and that she will go on to kill a lot of people at high school, as well as her mother. The movies play the narrative straight, telling the story from chronological beginning to end.

The movies also downplay the destruction Carrie leaves behind. The movies stick to the horror and high school and home, but the rest of the town is largely unscathed. The book shows Carrie making her way slowly through the town on her way home, setting fires on her way to and from a church to pray. Even the way Carrie finishes her mother is toned down in the movies. While it’s still brutal and painful in the movie versions, with Carrie psychically pummeling her mom with any number of sharp objects around the kitchen in self-defense before bringing the house down around her in grief, Carrie is much more cruel in the book. She reaches out to her mother’s heart and smothers it with her mind, taking away some of the innocence of the movie tries to give her before her end.

All three versions are worth the time, though the book tells the most fascinating, complete and heart-breaking story. The new movie does enough to warrant the remake, but the original is the better watch for its originality and the stronger horror elements.

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3 Responses to From Page to Projector: ‘Carrie’

  1. Jordan says:

    Having read the original screenplay by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, I can safely say that the original script didn’t follow the same structure as the 1976 film. I will admit there were a few homages here and there, but it was a whole new take on the story. Before the film was delayed in January 2013, there was a lot of positive feedback from those who attended the first test screenings in December 2012. A number of people confirmed that the original cut was longer and a lot different than the theatrical cut.

    I remember watching a video on YouTube where two guys reviewed the film (without giving away spoilers) based on what they saw at the test screenings. They confirmed that the film was a lot different to Brian De Palma’s film and was more closer to the Stephen King novel. I personally believe that the studios interfered with the editing of the film. The theatrical cut wasn’t what Kimberly Peirce wanted to release in theatres. It’s like they re-cut the film and gave us a remake of Brian De Palma’s film. I knew it wasn’t Kimberly’s voice in the movie — it was the studios.

    A friend of mine, who is a filmmaker, gave their two cents as to what might have happened…

    The original cut was all ready to go in March, then the studios looked at the release date and thought they could make more money on “Carrie” during the Halloween season. So they demanded re-shoots and multiple re-edits to make it more Horror. It would explain why Lawrence D. Cohen (the writer of the 1976 film) was credited after the film was delayed — they re-shot a lot of scenes from the 1976 screenplay. The downside to the re-shoots and multiple re-edits is that a lot of scenes would have to be dropped or trimmed to fit the required running time by the studios. The shorter the film, the more viewing sessions the film has.

    Based on fan speculation, test audience feedback, and certain confirmed details concerning the film — the deleted and/or extended scenes include:

    -The original opening was a flashback of Carrie as a little girl spying through a fence on a female neighbor who is sunbathing. The young woman notices Carrie and starts to make conversation with her. Carrie tells her that she can see her “dirty pillows” and the neighbor explains to her that it is normal for women to develop breasts when they get older. That’s when Margaret White appears and snatches up Carrie, screaming and yelling at the neighbor. She calls the young lady a whore, telling her to stay away from her child, and Carrie gets upset and begins to cry. Suddenly, it starts hailing. Pellets of ice come down on top of Carrie’s home while Margaret runs into the house trying to console her daughter. The neighbor just stares in disbelief as the hail rains down on the White residence, and only the White residence.

    -The White Commission [The film had integrated several courtroom scenes with witnesses giving testimonies of their experiences with Carrie White leading to the prom incident, essentially structuring the film as a series of flashbacks and recollections. The neighbor from the alternate opening scene is shown at first, now an adult woman, recounting her experience. There is also a scene featuring a TK Specialist discussing telekinesis and saying something to the effect of Carrie being one of many people who may be born with this genetic anomaly. It’s been said that the White Commission scenes revealed too many prom survivors which the filmmaker’s felt spoiled the climax]

    -There was ‘found footage’ that played a role in the film. That’s why you see Freddy ‘Beak’ Holt carrying his camera around and filming everything.

    -There were scenes detailing more in depth character development.

    -There were scenes involving school life, social media and bullying.

    -There were scenes involving Facebook, the e-mail sent from Chris to Donna Kellogg. “So I’m out of prom and my [censored] father says he won’t give them what they deserve.”

    -”Wipe that smile off your face.” – Chris to Carrie at the pool.

    -The locker room scene [Extended] – Chris turning the cell-phone toward herself and the mean girls.

    -Chris and Tina kiss [Extended]

    -Tommy and Sue’s backseat sex scene [Extended]

    -Billy’s wild ride [The “blowjob scene” – similar to the 1976 version]

    -An interaction between Chris and Carrie outside the dress shop.

    -The confrontation between Sue and the mean girls

    -Carrie levitates Margaret [Extended]

    -Drive to the pig farm [Extended]

    -After Tommy leaves the table to get some drinks, Carrie and Miss Desjardin have a friendly and meaningful conversation.

    -Carrie and Tommy kiss.

    -Billy kisses Chris.

    -Margaret claws her way out of the closet and goes over to the sink where she retrieves a butcher knife and cuts herself.

    -Sue tries to call Tommy from outside the school to warn him that something bad is about to happen. He rejects the call.

    -The prom scene as a whole, which was said to be longer and more violent than the theatrical version.

    -Tina on fire [Extended]

    -A scene or shot which reveals George Dawson’s and his girlfriend’s fate.

    -There were some really creepy stuff that was unfortunately cut during post-production, like some “dancing” dead students. My source is not completely certain about this detail or its placement within the film. But it was either in a deleted scene where Carrie snaps the limbs of prom-goers or during the electrocution scene which was supposed to be more graphic and longer. In the novel, it was described as a “crazy puppet dance”.

    -The scene of Carrie levitating outside of the burning school was actually re-shot. In the original version of that scene, Carrie was standing on the centre of the lawn, waiting for the remaining surviving students to come out of the burning school before killing them one by one with her telekinetic powers.

    -After Carrie leaves the school, she begins to destroy part of the town by causing explosions and bringing down power lines as she follows Billy and Chris. You can see the first few seconds of the town destruction from the aerial view. If you look closely behind Carrie, you can see that several cars are in flames.

    -When Sue is outside the school with Miss Desjardin, she sees Tommy’s body being carried out on a stretcher. Miss Desjardin tells Sue that she’s sorry and Sue walks away with determination to find Carrie.

    -Margaret’s original death scene – possibly similar to the book version which depicts a heart attack caused by Carrie’s power.

    -The multiple endings

    1) The first ending is very similar to the ending of the 1976 film but without the final twist: Sue Snell actually gets killed when Carrie pulls her into the ground.

    2) The second ending is an exact replica of the original film where Snell gets pulled into the ground by Carrie but wakes up in her bed to find it’s just a dream.

    3) The third ending is after Carrie saves Sue by pushing her out of the house, which collapses from the falling stones. There’s a bird’s eye view of the wreckage of what used to be Carrie’s home before we get a quick CGI zoom through a pit of debris, to a close-up of a now bloodied Carrie snapping her eyes open.

    4) The fourth ending is of Sue making a final speech to the court where she says the line heard in the teaser trailer about Carrie being just a girl, not a monster. This is spoken over scenes of Sue and her family visiting the cemetery. Sue goes to Carrie’s grave, which shows the headstone tagged up and vandalized. She leaves her flowers and just walks away. Nothing scary, just a very somber closing shot of the headstone.

    5) The fifth ending is after Carrie’s house is destroyed by the falling stones, the movie flashes forward to several months later. We see Sue in the hospital surrounded by doctors and nurses, ready to give birth. They’re trying to calm her down but Sue begins to struggle, saying she feels something is wrong. Suddenly, a very bloody hand (covered in afterbirth) erupts from between Sue’s legs, reaching up and gripping her arm. She screams in terror and we see that she is having a nightmare, being held down by her parents while the camera pans over to a wall where we are shown a large crucifix hanging in her room.

    6) The sixth ending is described as a “morning after voice over” by Sue Snell as we see the town coping with what happened.

    7) The seventh ending shows the town the morning after Carrie’s attack filled with news crews, reporters, and cops talking about the whole thing. What’s bizarre about this scene is that Carrie’s destruction of the city is being described as “a conspiracy.” Apparently the town is “trying to cover up what really happened.”

    There is an online petition for a Director’s Cut to be released, but, let’s face it, the studios won’t release one. The petition has gained over 6,000+ signatures (I think?), so I’m curious to see how that will turn out.

  2. Dan Rorabaugh says:

    That’s very interesting. I always hate to hear studio interference stories — they rarely ever end well. The way your friend says the movie was to be framed is kind of how I wished it would have been framed, with the actual White Commission and looking back on the events. Maybe in 30 years’ time the studios will decide to give it yet another reboot and try it that way.

    • Jordan says:

      The remake had a lot of potential, but I guess the studios were only interested in making a quick buck. A lot of people seem to blame the filmmakers for the finished product, but they don’t consider the possibility of studio interference. It’s a shame the studios didn’t consider releasing a Director’s Cut on DVD and Blu-ray. So much footage gone to waste…

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