Monday, April 30, 2012

They're All Gonna Laugh at You!

Sissy Spacek in Brian DePalma's 1976 version of "Carrie"

Uncle P is old. I was in high school when Brian DePalma adapted Stephen King's first novel into an incredibly well-acted movie, starring Sissy Spacek; Amy Irving; William Katt; John Travolta; Nancy Allen; PJ Soles; Betty Buckley and the incomparable Piper Laurie as Carrie's religious nut-job mother. I wasn't old enough to drive and none of my friends wanted to see it, so I somehow convinced my mother to drop me off at the Eric Twin in Fairless Hills on a Saturday afternoon, where the bored girl in the box-office almost sold me a ticket to the soft-core porn version of Tarzan, which was also playing there. But I was a die-hard horror fan (and a relatively naive kid), so I opted to see my first choice. I had read and loved King's novel (structured in the form of diary entries, newspaper articles and court transcripts, much like Stoker's Dracula) and really wanted to see the film version.

I had no idea how much I was going to love this movie. But love it, I did. Like so many movies, the details of the first time I saw Carrie are firmly entrenched in my memory as one of a few 'perfect' films of my youth. Sure, it had some silly moments (the tuxedo scene; Edie McClurg being at least 10 years too old to be a high-schooler; that damned spinning dance scene), but Spacek was absolutely brilliant. Laurie even more so (they both garnered Oscar nominations). And DePalma's use of split-screen during the prom had me losing my mind. Carrie's eerie candlelit arrival at home; the washing off of the pig's blood; the crucifixion of Paul re-enacted on Carrie's mother. All of it amazing and new and terrifying. I had never seen a movie quite like it. And then there was that ending! As Sue Snell (Irving) knelt to lay flowers on the decimated ground where Carrie's house once stood and that hand popped up through the rocks... I practically leapt from my seat in surprise. I waited outside the theater to picked up, breathless and so excited by what I had just seen -- only to be further unnerved by a fellow who, also waiting for a ride, wanted to tell me all about how the government was testing people just like Carrie to use as weapons in the cold war (the Berlin Wall still stood strong at the time). I nodded and tried not to be freaked out and was exceedingly relieved to see Mom pull up in the family's VW station wagon to pick me up.

I was so very disappointed by Bryan ("Pushing Daisies") Fuller's 2002 TV adaptation, which starred Angela Bettis (May; The Woman) and Patricia Clarkson (The Green Mile; Shutter Island). Bettis and Clarkson were fine, but Fuller's teleplay tried too hard to include everything in King's novel and the result was too long and too... messy. And the limits of television censorship crippled the film in the same way it did Mick Farris' versions of The Stand and The Shining.

MGM recently announced yet another remake, this time starring Chloe Grace Moritz (Kick Ass; Let Me In) in the title role and Julianne Moore (The Kids Are Alright) as Margaret White. This, of course, on the heels of an updated Off-Broadway revival of the infamously disastrous Broadway musical version. As much as I love both Moritz and Moore, I'm not sure that Boys Don't Cry and Stop-Loss director Kimberly Pierce is right for this project (though I think "Glee" and "Big Love" writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is as good a choice as any to write it). 

Regular readers know how I generally feel about remakes, but remakes have been around almost as long as movies themselves. While DePalma's original version of Carrie may have been perfect for audiences of the mid-seventies, who is to say that audiences 35 years later don't deserve their own version? With bullying so malignantly prevalent among today's youth, they just night need to be scared into stopping it. I just hope the makers of the new version don't give us reason to laugh at it.

More, anon.

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