Carrie (2002)


A correspondent sent me an email saying, “I’m really looking forward to your review of the Carrie remake.” He didn’t say which one…

I never saw this when it first aired. I don’t know what I was doing in 2002. Having a life, probably. But even if I had been watching TV as religiously as I did when I had no life, I would’ve skipped right over Carrie (2002). I skipped over most of Stephen King’s made-for-TV output. Never watched his remake of The Shinning. Or The Tommyknockers. Don’t care, and besides, neither one of those books are adaptable on a TV budget. Hell, I couldn’t even get through The Stand until after I read the book and could use morbid curiosity to power me on through. It was the last Stephen King made-for-TV movie I cared about and I can barely watch that thing any more, Tim Curry or no Tim Curry….Oh, Jesus – a brilliant thought just occurred. Some anime production house – Studios Gibli, or Gonzo, or…no… Gianax! Gianax should totally remake IT as a season-long cartoon miniseries and cast Mark Hamill as English Language Pennywise. I’ll let professional otaku debate who should be Japanese Pennywise, but we all know Skywalker does a great Evil Clown voice! It’s so great, he’s started worrying about being typecast. C’mon – it’d be awesome! Can I get to the universe where that exists…please?

No. Okay, fine. Nothing against made-for-TV films on the whole, but Carrie (2002) comes from that schizophrenic period before TV became what it is today: The Last Bastion of Good Drama Made by and for Adults with Sticks Up Their Asses. Back at the turn of the Willennium, filmmakers disdained TV for a very simple reason: it fucking sucked! The pay was shit, the hours were long, the oversight from on high was constant and in the end you’d be lucky to get enough residual checks in the mail to pay your light bill. But most people weren’t very lucky. Fuck’s sake, 2002 was the year Fox killed your beloved Firefly. Need I say more about the industrial landscape?

That aside, anything with Stephen King’s name on it would at least get made, so a Carrie remake got made and the multiverse is poorer for it. I know what they were trying to do: make as faithful an adaptation of the source book as budget and time allowed. And they succeeded – by which I mean they totally failed, because all they did was expose why Brian De Palma’s Carrie was so good, and why its source material – in spite of everything it led to – is pretty damn weak.

Carrie-The-Book is very much a young man’s novel, written by a desperate, angry dude with more ideas than dramatic sense who’d gotten very used to, and very good at, short stories – the shorter the better, since at the time he was selling them primarily to titty magazines. Carrie‘s one of King’s shortest books, even with the dozens of epistolary asides throw in, making it unique among his work and quite enjoyable to the fourteen-year-old version of me who first read it. Turns out all those asides were last minute additions, made solely to pad the page count and make people think of the Warren Comission. Google it if you don’t recognize the name. Or don’t – just know it was fresh on everyone’s minds in the mid-70s.

In other words, Carrie-the-book is jam packed with cheap filler. King’s admitted as much now that he can look back at his first book from the perspective of someone who’s written fifty – most of them much better than Carrie. (Hell, I think Roadwork – which King wrote years before and never published until years later and under another name – is better than Carrie, but the King and I would probably disagree on that.) This remake only serves to show just how much fat De Palma and Larry Cohen trimmed off this story, and how much stronger it was for that. For one thing, in its original form, Carrie 2002 was over three hours hours long. Thank Gan I ignored it, because the two hours and twelve minutes on this disc already feel like a fucking eternity, even without the commericals.

It’s the worst possible kind of remake: hitting all the same dramatic points as the original, only more slowly, with less talented actors, and worst special effects. As I mentioned, Carrie 76 is already absurdly faithful to its source. The only thing worth adding might – and I say might – be Carrie’s climactic post-prom rampage through her home town, which they didn’t have the money to film in mid ’70s because it was the mid ’70s and no one had any money. We get that, eventually, but to get there, you have to suffer through the most uncanny two hours I’ve ever seen outside a Pedro Amadorvar film. The epistolary asides are replaced by cut-aways to post-prom police interrogations that do nothing but kill the pace. Every single detail – from acting to casting to basic shot composition – is just wrong. Carrie’s defiant instead of reserved, trying for Typical Outcast Teen when she should be trying for Lifelong Abuse Victim. Mom’s subtle instead of a raving lunatic – the only subtle thing around, meaning she sticks out like a loose nail. Effects are obvious and intrusive instead of sparing and effective. (My sister would rightly call this thing “CG-tastic.”) And none of the supporting cast can act! They remind me of me, they’re so bad! It’s fuckin’ hilarious. This is Bizzaro World Carrie. A Carrie from a wacky parallel dimension that someone got itself broadcast on our NBC! It’s superficially even more faithful than Brain De Palma’s, right up until the end, which we’ll talk about later, but that faithfulness is an evil lie, meant to lure you into a trap made from disappointment.

Once you survive the crushing boredom and get to the climactic rampage all you want to do is sit back and go, “Yeah, you fuck that small town up, Carrie!” But you can’t because…well, just look at this. Christ…now I all I want to do is watch Man of Steel again, see the destruction of Small Town America done right. [Yeah, you fuck that IHOP up, Clark.]

Making matters worse – as if anything could – this movie turns out to be a backdoor pilot…Yeah. Someone, somewhere, thought they could get a series out of this, no matter how much they deny it now that we can wave their shit ratings in their face. And before you laugh, I’ll remind you of something I’d forgotten: they made a series out of The Dead Zone – a book with one of the most definitive endings in Stephen King’s bibliography. And it ran for six years.

Can I say anything good about it? At all…? Well, New Tommy is believably lame. [41:45 – “We should have a rule – if they do something in a Freddy Prince Junior movie, we’re not allowed to do it in real life!”] Meaning he’s about the only believable thing in here. This time, they actually filmed the scene where Principal Morty lays the smack down on Chris’ lawyer dad, showing those fuckers from The Rage: Carrie 2 the proper way to deal with someone’s jumped-up Important Daddy. [37:38 – “Oh, and Mr. Hargenson, the minute you file for damages on the grounds of verbal and physical abuse, I will cross-file against your daughter on those same ground behalf of Carrie White and the other 19 students in this folder. Parent-Teacher Night is the first Tuesday of even-numbered months. Hope you stop by.”] New Carrie gets the occasional good line. [54:44 – “She practically talked me into getting botox last summer.” “Maybe she thought you needed it.” Ooooh, snap.] New Sue’s okay, for a live-action version of Jodie Landon, and her scenes with New Carrie are pretty okay, too. But acting is reacting, so put the two of them together with anyone else and watch the problems mount…

The real problem being, the few good parts in this movie are floating atop a sea of shit. Same problem Carrie 2 had three years earlier – it’s the same story, told by people without even a fraction of the talent Brian De Palma manged to dredge up from the dregs of the ’70s. So the big question becomes, which is worse: this, or The Rage: Carrie 2? To that I say…Tak! Tak ah lah! EN TOW! Pirin Moh! OS DAM, you bastards!


11 thoughts on “Carrie (2002)”

    1. Yes, you may laugh, because that’s about the size of it. Starting in Florida, no less. I guess Nu Sue jumped on Highway 1 as soon as they let her out of the bacon shack. Because Number 1 Witnesses to massive, rural American tragedies are totally allowed to go on long road trips…it’s just that most of them end on the sets of daytime talk shows or the nighttime talking head “news.” But not so for Nu Carrie – she decided to go the Hard Traveling Heroes route. If they’d gotten their series, I would’ve spent the whole time waiting for Nu Carrie meet Hal Jordan and Ollie Queen going the other way. Far as I’m concerned, we didn’t just dodge a bullet here, we dodged an ICBM.

  1. Since I may never get another chance to bring this up: If you think those visuals are bad, watch the CGI money shot from the Langoliers.

    1. Oh, believe me, I have. Saw it when it first aired, in fact, and totally forgot to mention it during the “King Things I Actually Bothered to Watch” rundown. As usual, I got distracted by It and my fantasy of a Gianax-led It remake. Since we’re remaking everything, hoping to mine every last penny nostalgia can trick from the pockets of thirty-somethings, we might as well turn them over to professionals.

      But don’t worry, Brother Onion: you’ll get another chance.

  2. Okay, really? They thought they could make a series out of this?! With the “wouldn’t pass the grade for community theater” acting, the special effects of an Asylum production and the directoral flourish of a shot-on-shitteo movie… somebody thought that would make a series?! I’m, surprised this went to air AT ALL. I know quality control is at best a joke in the Land of Free and The Home of the Brave, but I didn’t think producers and TV CEOs had that low of an opinion on the taste of the American public.

    1. Never underestimate how much TV executives underestimate the average person. Especially in 2002, during the Last Great Gasp of Big Ticket, Stephen King-based, made-for-TV miniseries. They’d do another Salem’s Lot in 2004, and throw the pearl that is Desperation before ABC’s herd of swine two years after that…but for the most part, King’s focus seemed to shift around this period. I remember Kingdom Hospital being a Big Deal because it, at least, was an original work done specifically for television, with all the compromises that entails built into the project from Day One. We also saw a resurgence in “real” King-based movies (Dreamcatcher, Secret Window…eventually The Mist) and, checking the IMDb, I notice he started letting hungry, young filmmakers make festival-filling shorts out of his short stories…something I wish he’d done back in the 80s, instead of selling Night Shift off piecemeal to whomever.

      Of course, I ignored most of this at the time because I had a Dark Tower series to finish reading.

  3. Well, the first time I saw this movie was a few weeks ago after Christmas… and I have to say…. this is a pretty damn good remake of the original film from 1976

  4. I think you should round out your Carrie collection by reviewing the 2014 movie. Yes, you’re reviewing the same damn movie three times and looking for minute differences but what do you exist for save as a proxy for fans to abuse and insist on analyzing. Also, the acting is SIGNIFICANTLY better.


      1. I can’t wait. I just watched the movie with my wife and did my own review.

        While nothing will stand up to the original, having watched this one, I’m stunned at how much the 2002 gets wrong. The emotional chords just come off as all wrong. The 2013 is different from the 1976 and definitely inferior but it wasn’t a complete failure and remembered the audiences sympathies are to be with our budding telekinetic butcher. Here, the town-massacre (which I think the 1976 and 2013 movies were wise to remove) comes off as especially injustified as Carrie was to be crazy with rage.

        Here, she’s dissonantly calm–in addition to horrid special effects.

        1. I don’t know…doing Carrie without the destruction of Chamberlain is like doing Return of the King without the Battle of the Black Gate…but we’ll see…

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