Once again we must ask ourselves the old question, why does anyone think it’s a good idea to re-make a movie that was damn near perfect the first time around? (We might well ask it of Kimberly Pierce and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who have prepared a third helping—fourth, if you count the 1988 musical, one of the great flops of all time with just five performances and eight million dollars lost—of this Stephen King story, due to be released in October 2013.) I can understand the revival of a musical or a play, which vanishes except in memory the moment the final curtain descends. But a film, that’s forever, you can run one right after the other, and compare them. If you do that with this one, it will come off as distinctly inferior to the Brian De Palma, Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie version. Though I will agree that some of the things here are not all that bad.
In some ways this is more faithful to the King novel … but that’s not always a good thing. Sometimes a novel needs to be altered here and there because a film and a novel are not the same things, and can have very different needs as stories. So, I was startled to see Carrie as a young girl, eight or so, talking to a neighbor lady about her breasts, being caught by her horror of a mother (Patricia Clarkson, with more quiet menace than screeching rage), and returned to their spooky old house, only to have it bombarded by fireballs from the sky … until I was reminded that that scene was in the book. Other scenes are recreated almost exactly from the original, like the little boy on his bike trying to scare her and being hurtled into the bushes for his trouble. Be thankful she only broke your arm, you little creep. The menstruation scene is very similar, within the nudity limits of a TV remake. And in the book (as in the 2013 remake, according to the trailer) Carrie did practically destroy the town after the bloodbath at the prom, as she does here.
All the minor parts are performed about as well in both versions. Where this one is inferior is, sad to say, the role of Carrie’s mum, where Patricia Clarkson just cannot equal the brilliant evil insanity of Piper Laurie.
So what about Carrie herself? I have to hand it to Angela Bettis for taking on a role where she had to know she was going to be compared unfavorably to Sissy Spacek’s masterful portrayal … and I think she did a damn good job. Where I expected to be thinking, well, nice try, babe … more often I was thinking, gee, that works, too. Her painful shyness, her frightened trembling as the anger demon was unleashed inside her until it explodes outward, her transformation from little church mouse to good-looking prom queen to the face of death itself, all these were first-rate. I’d still give the edge to Spacek, but Bettis gave her all, and it was good. The special effects in the gym inferno are good—and of course they will be better in the 2013 version. But the biggest weakness of this film is the pacing, which was at times ponderous. Overall: Carrie 1976, A+, Carrie 2002, B. If Carrie 2013 rates as high as a B I’ll be pleasantly surprised.