Darke Reviews | Carrie – Old (1976) vs New (2013)


I had been waiting to watch this movie for a little over a year from the time I heard Chloe Grace Moretz would be playing the title role. Now since I began an old vs new review schtick recently I thought it just to do an OvN for Carrie – 1976 vs 2013. For fairly obvious reasons I had not seen the original when it came out, I was four days old; however I have watched it several times since and watched it again tonight so I could accurately compare it to the one I saw late last night. How do they compare? How does the new stand up to the classic Oscar nominated film? Lets break it down and much like last time I will use years to specify. This review WILL contain spoilers due to the fact its a remake!

Directing –

Kimberly Pierce (Boys Don’t Cry, Stop-Loss) brings a certain modernization to the new film, that was needed to tell the story for a modern audience. The performances she coaxes out of her cast and decisions made reflect a profound respect for Brian DePalma’s(Untouchables, Scarface) 1976 adaptation of Kings novel. She brings to 2013 a vast majority of the scenes and shots that dePalma did way back when. She is also wise enough to change it when needed and make her own choices that elevate the movie in many areas but hurt it in others. It’s hard to criticize dePalma’s work because of the classic nature of it, however there are a few things that he cut that Pierce didn’t. Other decisions that he made, such as using a full-powered hose and busting out PJ Soles eardrums during prom – not good. In a true match up 2013 uses more of the original script than 1976, but the overall performances and shots these directors chose are indicitive of their times and experience.

Lets talk script.

This is of course based on the Steven King novel of the same name released in 1974. It was the first of his stories to be adapted to film, the 1976 was adapted for the screen by Lawrence D Cohen. Cohen also adapted other works by King, such as It, Tommy Knockers, Nightmares and Dreamscapes and has a credit on the new film as well. 2013 has a writing credit also given to Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who has Glee to his credit. That’s it. I can’t really say what Roberto added as most of the 2013 movie is nearly line for line from the 1976. Obviously a few things have changed to bring it current, a beat here or there is altered but based on the overall story presented the 2013 IS the 1976 as it was intended to be.

The story

For the few of you who don’t know it, it’s that of Carrie White a homely teenage girl who is picked on and abused from all sides without sanctum or sanity. Most of the students and even a few teachers bully and torment her there, only for her to return home to a mother who is in short – an insane Christian fundamentalist. The poor girl has her first period in the showers in the school gym, surrounded by unforgiving classmates who throw feminine products at her chanting cruel things. Saved only by a teacher Ms Dejardin. During her outburst her telekinetic powers begin to manifest. The rest of the film is an exploration of her growth into her own identity while those around her would destroy her. She has few allies through it all, none who are actually saying anything to her directly. The story culminates with a Prom, Pigs Blood and Pain.

Sissy Spacek in 1976 achieved what almost no horror movie actress has in their role, an Academy award nomination. She had a look to the character which fits her nature. She is unassuming, forgettable, the classic wall flower. She never makes eye contact, she looks shrunken in on her own sense of self. She begins to find herself and sense of self as she studies her powers and is invited to prom. The transition for her is interesting and perhaps more subtle than Chloe’s in the 2013. Chloe is hands down the best thing of the new film, but also the worst. Spacek wasn’t pretty (by my standards) so when she performed Carrie it worked on a very specific level. Chloe cannot help but be pretty even when she tries not to be. I suppose though that it adds to the level of her performance as she expertly pulls off every other aspect of what it means to be Carrie. Her transition from girl, to woman, to monster is fascinating to behold. You are with her when she feels joy for the first time in her life. As she stands up to her mother and then when it finally comes burning down.

Before we talk about the other characters we need to discuss the differences between the breakdowns. Spacek goes to bye bye land. She is no longer home and no longer connected to reality when her eyes bulge and vengeance reigns. She is indiscriminate ending her foes and even her friends who she unable to comprehend anymore. Her walk home is that of a lost creature finding its natural habitat. Our 2013 Carrie is different. She’s decided to stop being prey and become a predator. She may have lost touch with reality on a different scale, but more importantly she lost touch with her morality as she deliberately targets her enemies and saves her one friend in the room. It’s important to note she actively does save a life. The rest, the rest just burn as she stalks her way home inflicting righteous suffering. There is actual bliss on her face as some of her enemies die. I think both performances are perfect in this aspect as both show the genie in the bottle being let out in different ways. I think, as a victim of bullying for 7 years of school, I prefer 2013 but that’s taste.

Supporting Cast

Margaret White, played by Piper Laurie in 1976 was a force of nature. She was down right insane and uncomfortable to be around and played perfectly by Laurie, which I believe also got her an Academy nod. Julianne Moore, in 2013, on the other hand is a different force of nature. She’s just as insane, but screams less and has a different level of uncomfortableness to her. You watch her self mutilate and have no touch with reality. Her speech to Carrie before the end of her conception is different in the 2013 and I think better for it’s lack of filth.

The Aggressors

I don’t need to go into too much detail here. They are vile in both films and deserve all that comes with it. The modern twist of filming the shower sequence and posting it online brings it home for the recent cases of cyberbullying and the effects of it. The 1976 cast included more names that had small careers in the 70s and early 80s and some grew into bigger ones. Some guy named John Travolta for example. I don’t think the new cast has such luck as none of them save Sue (below) had any real screen presence

The supporters

Sue Snell, Tommy Ross and Ms Dejardin. Much like I have said with others these characters are iconic to their times. They reflect it perfectly and also much like the aggressors the 1976 cast went on to bigger and better (William Katt and Amy Irving) and the 2013 cast will likely not with the exception of Sue, she might have something. She has a beauty that the camera loves and a bit of charisma that with the right directors could grow into actual acting. I found that the 2013 Dejardin was a little more empathetic to Carrie and showed her frustration with the school a little better.
Effects & Technical

While the fire sequences, lighting, film quality and camera work is better in the 2013 film I think much of that is a product of Hollywood evolution. The crucifixion in 2013 however took me right out of it as the CG was so painfully evident and when compared to the more practical looking flying knives from 76 just didn’t work. I will however defend the end of the film for its choice in the destruction of the house. It was in the original 76 to be done the same way and they couldn’t make it work and by 2013 they did. The same with the death sequences during the retribution, some of them just look better now, but again this is evolution not intent.
TL;DR (I know this was long)

This one is a flat out tie. Because the film plays so faithfully to the original, even going so far as to include several scenes the original cut I can’t say they are different films. They are the same movie filmed 37 years apart. If anything it’s a study in film making now and then.

What I can say is watching the new one, which I do recommend for those so inclined, I felt anticipation growing in my chest as the prom arrived and I was waiting for the bucket. That’s something few movies have done and its something to give credit for. I may add some comments below that are more about elements to the 2013 than a true comparison.

Overall – Both movies are incredibly successful in the translation of Kings story and are faithful to each other. I have to recommend the new one if you love the old. Appreciate all that they did in the making of when we live in an age where we wince at bad decisions in remakes.
Tomorrows review never stops with the whining, but will give you a choice it never had.