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October 19, 2013

Carrie (2013)

Well, Halloween is getting closer every day, and I just began the “Homework Week” at university (an “Autumn Break” of sorts used by the students so they can work on the school projects and other home work). You know what? Screw it. I'm gonna review some horror movies this week. Think of it as a bonus that has been planned all along (and enjoy this little pun; there won't be a lot of jokes in this article.)

So, how to begin about Carrie? Well, if you know, even a little, Stephen King's oeuvre, you know he began his career as a horror writer in the seventies, with this little book called Carrie. This was a horrifying story back then, and it still is now. The book was so horrifying that it is banned from a lot of schools in the United States. I, for one, haven't read the book, but I went to watch the film this afternoon.

Again, if you know Stephen King's works, you certainly know the story. Carrie White (played here by Chloe Grace Moretz) is a shy young girl who was raised by her Christian fanatic of a mother Margaret (played by Julianne Moore). While she was showering after gym class, she discovers her first period, and is terrified (of course, her mother never told her about this, as this is a taboo matter in Christianity). Therefore, all the other girls use that opportunity to make fun of her, ridicule her, toss tampons at her. The alpha bitch even records the whole thing on her cellphone, and later puts it on Internet.

Carrie's mother does not take the news too well, as you probably guessed. Luckily for Carrie, she can count on the help of her gym teacher Rita Desjardins (Judy Greer), who tries to help by punishing the girls who were responsible for all this. This doesn't please the girl group's alpha bitch, Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday), who keeps refusing her punishments, and rallies the other girls to her cause. One of the girls in the group, Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde), feels guilty for participating and aims to help Carrie instead.

At the same time, Carrie slowly discovers her telekinetic powers. I guess that was “in the blood”. No, really; seems it started at the same time as her first period, and later in the film Carrie states that her grandmother also had those abilities. Anyway, at first those manifestations of her powers are smaller, such as that moment when she cracks the door of her mother's praying room, the one she forces Carrie in at every moment that she seems to be sinning. (The mother also inflicts physical pain to herself every time she thinks a sin is approaching her, EVEN IF IT IS PRIDE because someone complimented her on her work.)

Carrie gathers some books about telekinesis and miracles, and studies that power of hers. Around that time, the captain of the school's football team, Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort), invites her to the prom. This was actually asked to him by Sue, who genuinely wants Carrie to have a good time and be happy. Did I mention that Chris has been forbidden from going to the prom because of her acts? Oh, but don't worry, she's got her revenge covered. With her jackass boyfriend and his pals, they break into a farm, kill a pig and collect its blood. Their infamous scheme begins.

Carrie goes to the prom with Tommy. Everything goes well, Carrie spends a wonderful evening. And then, Tommy and she are chosen as the King and Queen of the prom. This was the second part in Chris's plan, her friends remove most voting bulletins from the boxes and replace them with fake ones on which Carrie and Tommy are voted for that position. Carrie and Tommy get on the stage...

...And the rest is history. The pig blood is dropped on Carrie, and Chris's friends also put the video of Carrie being bullied by the girls in the showers onto the big screens of the auditorium. The steel bucket falls on Tommy's head, killing him... and the shy, nice young girl fucking SNAPS. Chris and her criminal boyfriend escape before Carrie begins her rampage. Carrie kills off dozens of students, using everything in the room to her advantage, blocking the doors, and only sparing Mrs. Desjardins. Sue, who heard about the prank because Chris texted her about it, tried to tell Carrie before Chris could pull it through, but she arrived a little too late.

After this roaring rampage of revenge inside the auditorium, Carrie heads out and finds Chris and her asshole boyfriend trying an escape. They try to ram into her, but she kills the boyfriend before raising the car off the ground and tossing it into a gas station – which she blows up.

She gets home, cleans herself from the pig blood, and tries to get reassured with her mother, but Mrgaret tries to kill her daughter, successfully stabbing her once in the back, and Carrie responds by killing her mother with her telekinetic powers, using every sharp object in the room to impale her. The ending differs from the original movie here: In the original book, Carrie just accepts that Sue was trying to help her all along and dies. Here, not only does Carrie throws her out of the house with her powers, she also uses them to destroy her house, using a shower of rocks to slowly break it, little by little, until it's completely gone.

Of course, Hollywood horror couldn't help it, the film ends on a jump scare; after Sue puts a flower near Carrie's grave, once she's gone it cracks and pieces of it fall off, indicating that Carrie might still be...

Aside from that absolutely unnecessary jump scare at the end, the film is handled brilliantly. King's story was poignant, as very few works directly addressed bullying back then – it was such a rare thing to discuss at the time. Nowadays, with students committing suicides because of bullying, there is more awareness of this problem. However, the movie takes it a step further, by adding cyberbullying to the mix; indeed, the alpha bitch Chris records her bullying of Carrie on the cellphone and puts it on Internet, and that record is used in the prank at the end. If there's one thing Hollywood has been blamed for in the recent years, it's for all those movie adaptations that modernized a story by adding “hip dialogue” and crappy pop culture references. We've had some major stinkers because of this. However, in this version of Carrie, it actually adds a new depth to the whole story, it is part of the plot instead of just being in the script “for the Hell of it”. It's even more of a plot point than that, actually: In the first third of the film, when Chris tries to lie her way out of detention, the gym teacher says that Chris might have a video of the event in her phone, and therefore she would have proof that she actually did that horrible thing she's trying to deny. It's very smart. Of course, Chris refuses to show them the contents of her phone.

As for the other horrifying aspects of the movie? Well, most times (that I know of) that King approached religious fanaticism in his works, he did it very well. I know about the mother in Carrie, and also about the illuminated woman from The Mist (I recommend you watch the movie adaptation of that one too). Margaret White is crazy, injuring herself whenever she thinks she's going to fall prey to a sin – I repeat, EVEN PRIDE – and locking Carrie in a room whenever “might” also become a sinner. I swear, if you have even the slightest bit of sympathy for that mother at the end of the second third of the film, it will all be gone by the end.

Same for any hints of sympathy you would feel for Chris. Not only does she bully Carrie, she tries to get out of any punishment for it. She also goes the extra mile to make of Carrie's life a Hell, and damn does she succeeds. And we know the results. You can't help but feel that she's the lesser evil of two, as her boyfriend is the archetype of a “bad boy” pushed to the extreme, ready to be a criminal when needed. Maybe that's where she got her cruelty from. Whatever, Portia Doubleday gives a troubling performance as that evil girl who, I swear, you'll want to shoot not even halfway through the film. I think I flipped the bird at the screen whenever she acted like the bitch she was, and I must have done that a dozen times at least.

The scares? They were excellent. During Carrie's rampage, I was really scared. It was scary. Then again, I always liked psychological horror, and I have to say this. Look at the situation in Carrie. She snaps because she has been bullied too much, and kills a lot of students with her powers. The closest we got to such a situation was any and all shootings that happened in a school in the past twenty years. And truth be told, I've been bullied in the past. I might not know how bad exactly bullying between girls is, but it must be just as awful as the bullying between boys. Had I ended up in her situation, with everything she's been through and with her powers... If I had been Carrie, I WOULD HAVE REACTED THE EXACT SAME WAY. And I think that's the very scary psychological aspect of the movie: You can't help but feel that you would have done the same. And it's scary. It's pushing directly into this aspect of ourselves that we don't want to see.

Last, what can I say? Another strength of Carrie, no matter if it's the book, the first adaptation or this new adaptation, is this: The first two thirds present to us a likable character, a shy young girl that you can't help but side with, a sweet person you feel sorry for. The last third DEMOLISHES that perception, destroying Carrie's preceding self in our minds just as hard as she destroyed everything around her.

My major point of criticism is that the jump scare at the end was really unneeded. Carrie has died. Let her go. Carrie should NOT get a sequel, not the way it was done in this adaptation. Let it die, Hollywood. Leave it dead. Leave HER dead. Please, I'm begging you.

Definitely a movie you must watch. Should you go watch it in theaters? ...Well, that's up to you. If you can't take blood and gore on a giant screen, wait for the DVD. If you can't stomach gore, avoid this film entirely. However, if you liked the novel, and you are a fan of this kind of movie, I say give it a watch someday. Maybe not in theaters. Just watch it at some point in your life, and see for yourself if that adaptation works for you.