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!