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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Video Beaverhausen: "Carrie" The Remake

Stephen King's Carrie is American folklore at this point. It was an iconic Brian De Palma hit movie in 1976 that garnered Oscar nominations for Sissy Spacek in the title role and for Piper Laurie as her fanatical mother.  It was a 2002 tv-movie and a notorious Broadway musical. (I saw the musical's revival off-Broadway last year and still have the souvenir cap. ) I even saw an off-off-Broadway non-musical production featuring Sherry Vine as Carrie. (It was wonderful.)

When I spoke to Sherry at the Queens club, Icon, in December, she didn't have such great things to say about the latest screen version released here in time for Halloween. It was a box-office disappointment and the reviews and general buzz were, to put it politely, tepid.

Now available for streaming and download (including at, I must confess this newest Carrie, updated for the era of Internet and iPhones, impressed me. Chloe Grace Moretz made a very affecting Carrie White and Julianne Moore once again proved to be riveting in the role of monstrously sado-masochistic mom, Margaret.

Carrie resonates because it is a mythical menstrual bloodbath of a horror show and because it is rooted in the emotional realism of its characters and their relationships before all hell breaks loose in its bloody inferno of a climax. It was directed by Kimberly Pierce (Boys Don't Cry) who gives the film a very different feel from the De Palma-helmed classic. There is more sense of Carrie's growing awareness of her empowerment, more subtle emotional touches and, like Boys Don't Cry, as harrowing and ultimately horrifying as it is heartbreaking. In the original film, Tommy (Carrie's hunky prom date) is knocked unconscious by a swinging metal pale that contained pigs' blood. Carrie has gone into a trance-like state and begins her telekinetic rampage. In Pierce's version, Carrie bends down over Tommy, realizing he is dead before freaking out in a major way. That moment in the movie brought me to tears.

Nonetheless, the film's apocalyptic destruction sequence is unlikely to disappoint any viewers.

Wisely, the film bases its script by Roberto-Aguirre Sacasa (Glee) on the Larry Cohen treatment for the '76 film rather than returning to the novel for the most part. Julianne Moore's Margaret doesn't sell bibles door-to-door but rather runs a dry cleaning business. She is off the creepy-meter though Moore's performance is less strident than Piper Laurie's. Lines like "Ok, go to your closet!," "Take it off [Carrie's dress] and we'll burn it together and ask for forgiveness," "They're all going to laugh at you" and mentions of "dirty pillows" and that roadhouse whiskey are intact, as is her crucifixion by sharp kitchen utensils (direct from the Cohen script).

Judy Greer is wonderful as Carrie's supportive gym teacher, Ms Desjardin, who is this myth's earth-mother figure (as the character's name implies) and Carrie's surrogate good mother.

In sum, a great reinvention (rather than remake) of the De Palma film and the Stephen King novel, with its own style and distinct emotionally touching moments. Constructed in the manner of classic Greek tragedy, Carrie gives us the mimesis and catharsis that traditionally constitute satisfying drama along with plenty of shock value and thrills, and a little bit of camp. I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish.

For anyone who ever felt "different" or alienated or discriminated against in high school, this is your story. For all of you who were in with the in-crowd and the popular people, as the ad says: "God Won't Help You." Carrie is the patron saint of high school nerds .

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