It’s Stephen King’s debut novel versus its three movie adaptations, including Kimberly Peirce’s 2013 Carrie.
Published in 1974, Carrie established Stephen King’s career in literature. His genius storytelling techniques have been infinitely influential ever since the success of that first momentous piece of writing, concerning the oppressed teenager Carrieta White. Despite it being the author’s first (and shortest) published novel, the skill in the language and the way he is able to effortlessly manipulate his audience already establishes King as a mastermind of storytelling. It is astonishing as to how Carrie elevates above the horror genre into something new-fangled and entirely its own being, resulting in a story so powerful and endearing in its meaning that it’s generated all of three remakes from Hollywood.
Carrie is King’s first novel, but the way he’s able to manipulate his audience already establishes him as a master of storytelling
The book employs a variety of diverse components – it contains artificial documents, authentic fiction and another story hidden beneath the exterior, which cleverly makes up the tragic narrative of a girl who possesses the power of telekinesis (and who subsequently destroys her hometown of Chamberlain, Maine). With these clever literary devices, we are already made acquainted with the catastrophe that occurs at the hands of Carrieta White, but King’s cunning techniques lure the audience into the journey. King handles Carrie’s growing ability and rage with such subtlety that – although the readers are well aware of the tragedy that is foretold – when it actually happens, the reader is left dumbfounded and overcome with sorrow.
After the publication of Carrie, very little time was wasted until it was decided by Brian De Palma that Stephen King’s story of torment should not be kept solely for the bookworms, so in 1976 De Palma’s adaptation of Carrie graced the silver screen. De Palma’s version certainly brought King’s story of a repressed girl to life and it gave the novel even more recognition. Merit has to be given to De Palma for his impressive work.
But since the folk in the film industry are unable to refrain from adapting, rewriting and rebooting classics, it genuinely isn’t surprising that multiple adaptations of the book in question exist. A perfect example of a failed attempt at capturing the essence of King’s Carrie was released as a TV movie in 2002. This adaptation, directed by David Carson, turned out to be an unimaginative, fruitless piece of filmmaking that neglected to shed any new light on the novel. The only appealing thing in this film is Angela Bettis as Carrie, but even her performance falls flat when compared to Sissy Spaceck in Brian De Palma’s version.
Kimberly Peirce’s 2013 Carrie is nowhere near as terrible as the 2002 TV movie, but it can’t outdo Brian De Palma’s horror classic
On release now is yet another Hollywood adaptation of Carrie, this time featuring Chloe Grace Moretz as Carrie White and Julianne Moore as mother Margaret White. Director Kimberly Peirce’s rendering of Carrie is truer to the source material than the 1976 film and Peirce does make it her own by modernising it. Peirce and the writers recycle some of the dialogue and certain scenes, but at the same time place them in a modern context. One of the most appealing factors of Peirce’s Carrie is the introduction of cyber bullying to the story (the shower incident is this time recorded and uploaded to YouTube). However, though Peirce’s take on Carrie thankfully is nowhere near as terrible as the 2002 TV movie, it still fails to outdo De Palma’s horror classic.
There are various problems within Peirce’s Carrie. Unsuccessful at bettering both the book and the original film, Peirce’s take on the anguished teenager is supposed to be faithful to King’s character in the novel, paying particular attention to the utilisation of her powers, consequently bestowing Carrie with the qualities of a villain. With that being said, it is difficult to generate any empathy for Carrie during the destruction and carnage in the final scene, merely because of the fact that she only abolishes the people who have victimised her. The supposed oppressed girl converts into a malicious killer overcome with vengeance, rather than a girl who merely loses control.
The issue of the mother/daughter relationship is explored further in the remake. However, Julianne Moore’s performance as the wicked Margaret White is nowhere near as effective as Piper Laurie’s take in the 1976 version. Peirce is too fixated upon providing Margaret White with a deeper background than earlier adaptations, deeming her more as a self-harmer than the twisted and depraved character that she truly is.
Despite Kimberly Peirce’s best attempts to create her own interpretation of a classic, she fails to pull it off, making her Carrie come across somewhat tasteless – subtlety would have been the shrewder way to go. In spite of several adaptations, Stephen King’s Carrie has yet been impossible to surpass, though many have indeed tried. Brian De Palma’s 1976 masterpiece certainly comes very close, while the other two adaptations merely scrape the surface. With that being said, the winner of this face-off remains Stephen King’s ingenious and terrifying original tale of torment.
Featured image: MGM/Screen Gems
Inset images: United Artists; MGM/Screen Gems