Welcome to Reboot Court, where we drag an upcoming film remake in front of the judge — that would be me — and determine whether or not a do-over is a good idea. Court is now in session …
The original film: Carrie (d. Brian De Palma, 1976)
The story: Based on Stephen King’s very first published novel, Carrie tracks the problematic adolescence of one Carrie White (Sissy Spacek), a shy wallflower who’s relentlessly bullied and abused by her high-school classmates. Things aren’t much better at home, where she lives with her nutjob religious fanatic of a mother (Piper Laurie). So nothing much ever seems to go Carrie’s way … oh, unless you count the whole burgeoning telekinesis thing. (The more Carrie suffers, the stranger the shit is that goes on around her.) Things finally boil over when a cruel practical joke is played on Carrie at her school’s prom. The end result is not pretty.
Existing permutations: Well, there was The Rage: Carrie 2, a dubious 1999 direct-to-video release that no one remembers but me, and that’s only because it was filmed in South Carolina not far from where I was living at the time. There was also a TV movie called Carrie from 2002 that was part remake/part sequel and was intended to be the pilot for a ongoing series that never came to fruition.
Proposed incarnation: This is a full-on remake with a new Carrie White (Kick-Ass‘s Chloe Moretz), a new crazy mother (Julianne Moore) and a new bunch of asshole teenagers.
Argument for: A Total Recall remake is coming only 22 years after Arnie and Paul Verhoeven released their version. Spider-Man’s origin just got retold a mere 10 years after Sam Raimi first did it. At least in Carrie‘s case, the remake will come a whopping 37 years after the original film’s release. That’s enough time passed to make the legitimate argument that this story should be repurposed for a new generation. I mean, have you seen how out-of-date John Travolta’s hair is in the original?! Carrie is largely considered a classic of the genre, yet while I do enjoy it, I wouldn’t stand it next to the giants of ’70s horror. It’s not The Omen. It’s not The Exorcist. It’s not Dawn of the Dead. It’s not Phantasm. (No — you shut your mouth. Phantasm is awesome.) Two of those superior films have been remade already, so why not Carrie too? Everyone remembers the “hand coming out of the ground” scene that closes the original movie. It’s a great jump scare. It also feels incredibly tacked on and pointless. A remake will give the new team the chance to come up with something a little more organic to the film. Also, Judy Greer is in the reboot. I love Judy Greer!
Argument against: Remaking well-regarded ’70s horror classics is usually a recipe for disaster. (Dawn of the Dead ’04 being the exception that proves the rule.) Just the way film looked then — dirty and dark — seemed to only accommodate the genre. And the bloody practical effects would feel so real they’d make your stomach churn. Now everything’s shiny and digital and CGI’d, and I think horror often suffers for it. At this point, I remain unconvinced that Moretz, who’s growing into a conventionally attractive woman and has lived off roles where she bursts with overconfidence, is right for the part of Carrie. Nothing about her calls to mind the word “wallflower.” But she’s young and I haven’t seen her in a lot, so I’ll give her the chance to prove me wrong. Even still, it was a career-defining role for Spacek and will be especially difficult to top. One of the reasons Dawn ’04 worked so well was that it was a completely new take on the “stuck in the mall during a zombie apocalypse” concept. Carrie, however, is such a simple, straight-forward story that the new film’s going to have a tough time differentiating itself in any significant way. Yet to try could be disastrous. So … kind of tricky. The menstruation-in-the-shower scene that opens the original? One of the most uncomfortable things ever put on film. Good luck trying to one-up it, especially considering the new version is certain to be toned down.
The verdict: There’s talent involved here. Moore is almost always worth watching. And Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Peirce — who’s worked very little since that movie — is an interesting choice to helm a new Carrie. (A female director was definitely the way to go, at any rate.) So, okay, what the hell? It’s been 37 years — let’s do it. I’m really not expecting the new Carrie to be anywhere near as good as the original, but enough time has passed that a solid, updated take on this story could effectively stand on its own.