[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 18 – Carrie (2013)

Director: Kimberly Peirce

Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Portia Doubleday, Alex Russell, Gabriella Wilde

Screenplay: Lawrence D. Cohen, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

100 mins. Rated R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content.

 

Many people know the love I have for the novel Carrie. There have been three adaptations of the classic novel (the original film even had a sequel), most recently in 2013, directed by Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry, Stop-Loss). That’s the one we are talking about today.

Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz, Let Me In, November Criminals) is a troubled girl with a difficult life at home. Her mother Margaret (Julianne Moore, The Hours, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) is a religious fanatic who believes the very birth of her daughter to be one of the most sinful acts in her life. At school, Carrie is not popular. When she experiences her first period, she is tortured and ridiculed by her female classmates, led by Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday, Youth in Revolt, TV’s Mr. Robot). Many of the girls later feel terrible about their actions, including Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde, The Three Musketeers, TV’s Poldark), who devises a plan to make things right with Carrie. Chris, though, devises a plan of her own, that will push Carrie to the breaking point. What the girls don’t know is that Carrie White has an amazing gift, one that she cannot control. This gift has incredible and horrifying potential that will forever alter all their lives.

This is a film that brings to life a classic argument among film criticism. The crew, including director Peirce, claim that this incarnation of Carrie is a re-imaging of the classic Stephen King novel. Unfortunately, this film is very little more than a scene-by-scene remake of the original film. It even uses the original screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen with added updates and a few tweaks by Riverdale creator Robert Aguirre-Sacasa. It just feels hollowly made. It’s difficult to blame the studio for interfering (the film was notoriously heavily re-edited after poor test screenings, cutting somewhere around 45 minutes from the finished product) because of just how much the movie feels like a retread of the original.

Moretz and Moore are terrifically cast as daughter and mother White. Peirce fills the rest of her cast with the hottest young stars of 2013, including Ansel Elgort in his first film roll as Tommy Ross, Sue Snell’s boyfriend. Elgort does a pretty nice job as Ross as well.

The film is well shot and features some truly impressive camerawork. What muddles the final product is the atrocious CGI (it didn’t look very good in 2013 either). Some of it is truly cheap-looking. The movie didn’t need some of the more stylish CGI, so I don’t understand the need to use it, especially in the last third of the film.

Carrie is fine, but it beckons to be compared to Brian De Palma’s superior film from decades back. It features some fine performance work but there are some technical issues with marr the film’s watchability. It’s too bad, because there are shades of incredible here, but it just feels too similar, and in that way, unnecessary.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 1 – It (1990)

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Cast: Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, Richard Masur, Annette O’Toole, Tim Reid, John Ritter, Richard Thomas, Tim Curry

Screenplay: Tommy Lee Wallace, Lawrence D. Cohen

192 mins. Rated TV-14.

 

Ah, another October is here. And so we begin the 31 Days of Horror…come along with me.

The 2017 film It is based on the novel by Stephen King, but twenty-seven years ago, there was a miniseries movie event also based on the novel. A very popular and memorable miniseries, one wonders if it holds up.

It’s 1990, and there’s been another child murder in Derry, Maine. Mike Hanlon (Tim Reid, By the Grace of Bob, TV’s Sister, Sister) arrives on the scene, and he’s now fully aware that It is back. He reaches out to his friends from childhood, some he hasn’t spoken to in 30 years, to see if he can get them to come back to Derry. Richie Tozier (Harry Anderson, A Matter of Faith, TV’s Night Court) has become a successful comedian, but when he speaks to Mike, he knows he must go home. Eddie Kaspbrak (Dennis Christopher, Django Unchained, Queen of the Lot) hasn’t changed much in 30 years, still living with his mother, but he feels compelled to go back to Derry. Beverly Marsh (Annette O’Toole, We Go On, TV’s Smallville) has become a big player in fashion, but her childhood pain has taken a new form in partner and lover Tom. Ben Hanscom (John Ritter, Sling Blade, TV’s Three Company) has lost the weight as well as his self-respect, but his love for Beverly drives him back. Bill Denbrough (Richard Thomas, Anesthesia, TV’s The Waltons) may be a successful novelist, but his regret for the death of his brother Georgie has followed him all his life. Stan Uris (Richard Masur, The Thing, Don’t Think Twice) isn’t sure he’s ready to face It again. The Loser’s Club must all go back to Derry, together, in order to finally put a stop to It, a creature that has inhabited Derry for hundreds of years, often taking the form of a dancing clown named Pennywise (Tim Curry, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Axel: The Biggest Little Hero).

The novel this miniseries is based on is a massive tome, and to fit all of it into a three-hour-runtime is a huge feat, but director Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Vampires: Los Muertos) manages to hit the most important notes on his way to the finish line, but the troubles of a television miniseries movie in the 90s didn’t allow the meat of the novel to be shown. The performances are as good as the script, which again, hits all the plot beats but doesn’t give enough time to any of the characters to really flesh them out. It’s a nice experience if you’ve read the novel, but it just doesn’t give enough to viewers.

Tim Curry’s work as Pennywise is exemplary, however, and is the biggest reason this film has stayed so popular over so many years. His playfulness as Pennywise turns on a dime to become menacing and frightful, and it just works so well. It’s a shame, though, that he just doesn’t have a lot to do in the film.

There’s a lot of talk about both incarnations of It and how the adults are/will be portrayed, and what I don’t get is how much time in the miniseries is given to the adults. For a large amount of the book, the adults are relegated to second-tier status and framing devices to allow for the youth stories to be told. That’s why I don’t understand why the adults get roughly 60% of the screen time in this film. Sure, they are important, but the kids are much more so to the character and plot of the film.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong in It, but the movie is kind of plain. It just isn’t scary. Tim Curry’s terrific performance just can’t save the film, and it just wasn’t going to work as a television presentation. Having seen the 2017 film, I can tell you that it does work as a film (I cannot speak to the 1997 Indian adaptation Woh, but that’s for another time), but on TV, It loses all of its teeth.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Tommy Lee Wallace’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch, click here.

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Stephen King Day] Carrie (1976)

carrie1976a
Director: Brian DePalma
Cast: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, John Travolta
Screenplay: Lawrence D. Cohen
98 mins. Rated R.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actress in a Leading Role [Sissy Spacek]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actress in a Supporting Role [Piper Laurie]

 

Because today is Stephen King’s Birthday today, I thought we would pick at King’s film adaptations today in an attempt to find the ones worthy of his stamp.

carrie1976b

Upon finishing the unpublished manuscript that would become Carrie, Stephen King promptly threw it away. It was his wife who pulled it from the wastebasket, read it, and pushed him to finish it, and its a good thing she did. Stephen King may not have had the type of following he has today without the breakout novel Carrie, and director Brian DePalma (Scarface, Passion), who put the book to film along with screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen (It, The Tommyknockers), can also thank the book for pushing his career even further. So how does it stack up 40 years later?

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek, TV’s Bloodline, The Straight Story) is just about the most unpopular girl in high school, due in no small part to her awkwardness and her mother’s religious fanatascism. When Carrie gets her first period, the other girls mock and torture her, reducing her to a shaken puddle of fear. Sue Snell (Amy Irving, Hide and Seek, Tuck Everlasting) wants to make it up to Carrie and give her the prom she never would have gotten. Chris Hargensen, however, has other plans in mind for Carrie White, but nobody expects what will happen next.

I’m going to reiterate what the Academy believed: Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie (The Hustler, Hesher) deserved recognition for their work here. Firstly, Spacek’s in-depth portrayal of Carrie White, a girl suffering from the tyranny of her mother’s delusions, a girl perhaps not as pretty as the other girls in school, is incredible. Spacek went full method actress in the role, and memorized passages of the Bible while keeping her distance from the other actresses. She took the opportunity to do all her own stunts as often as possible (the few stunts there were). Laurie, too, initally believed the film to be a dark comedy and, upon learning otherwise, kept the same over-the-top approach to Margaret White, dealing an unbelievably complex and troubled woman protecting her daughter from the sins of the world.

Brian DePalma’s tone for the film rides of the line of teen drama and suspense while exuding horrific moments of shock that ratchet the tension up with each passing display of Carrie’s unique power. His decision to play with multiple angles for the film’s climactic sequences was brilliant, displaying an unnerving eruption of death and destruction. The screenplay from Cohen assists in always keeping the audience guessing, though it does spend a lot more time than it needs to in Act 2 building the story.

carrie1976c

It is due to the fact that everyone involved was at the top of their game that make this horror film what it is: an undeniable masterpiece of terror. With King at the source, DePalma behind the camera, and the amazing cast in front that elevates Carrie above the average genre piece.

4.5/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Brian DePalma’s Mission: Impossible, click here.

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