Earlier this week, I gave my take on the novel Carrie by Stephen King. While I had seen brief segments of the 1976 film adaptation starring Sissy Spacek in the lead role, I had not watched it in its entirety until just a week or so ago. I liked it and recommend it to all fans of the horror genre but for anyone interested in a better story, I’d have to say: read the book.
The movie, while sticking fairly close to King’s novel, missed the mark on many accounts. The piercing Psycho-esque music distracted from the story. I assume it was used in an effort to create suspense and scare its audience but instead was so loud and overbearing, it overshadowed events and details that should have been more prominent. The omitting of Carrie’s full path of terror in favor of death with her mother rather than in the city streets seemed unnecessary and anti-climactic. The only reason I can come up with for this tremendous blunder is that perhaps they simply didn’t have the money for it. For whatever reason, it’s a crying shame. Most of the story’s drama occurs in the last hour of Carrie’s life when she successfully destroys many of her town’s prosperous businesses, churches and even brings down its whole electrical grid. The film omits almost all of this in exchange for a quiet bath at home and a vicious encounter with her mother that inexplicably ends in their house caving in on the pair of them. This may be the first (and perhaps the last) time Hollywood took the less dramatic route. And the watering down of villainous characters Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen) and Billy Nolan (an impossibly young John Travolta) served to weaken their vindictive roles in Carrie’s demise. Chris’s pompous my-daddy-is-a-lawyer shtick is missing and Billy’s sadistic nature is lost entirely, reduced to a mere run-of-the-mill high school asshole.
That being said, it isn’t wholly without merit. Director Brian De Palma proved more than capable of creating characters more than the one-dimensional puppets we usually get in scary movies, characters his audience will actually care about. Sissy Spacek does an excellent job of playing the terrified, downtrodden whimpering puppy with her mother, the social outcast desperate for acceptance by her peers with her classmates (especially with her unfortunate prom date, Tommy Ross, played by William Katt wearing a hilariously glam-rock hairdo) and eventually, the vengeful super-human spilling over with rage at the end. Piper Laurie is adequately psychotic as Carrie’s obsessive, delusional and appallingly abusive mother and Betty Buckley gives Carrie’s gym teacher, Miss Collins, more depth and likeability than her literary counterpart.
But even the good performances and the decent direction couldn’t overcome the shortcomings when compared to King’s book. Where was the explanation of her telekinesis? This bit of background in the novel gave the story the semblance of credibility and realism that the movie lacks.
Soon, a new film adaptation will be in theaters, this time with Chloe Grace Moretz in the lead, Julianne Moore as her mother and acclaimed director Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry, Stop-Loss) behind the camera. I hope the details that made the book a horror classic will find their way into this version. Judging by the trailer linked below, I’d say with almost-certainty that the full extent of Carrie’s revenge will.