The International Writers Magazine:DVD Review
directed by Brian De Palma, is the supernatural story of how one
girl takes revenge on the town that ostracised her. Based on the
1974 novel by Stephen King, and starring Sissy Spacek and Piper
Laurie, (who both earned Oscar nominations for their roles) there
is also an appearance from a much younger John Travolta, in one
of the worst cases of mis-casting I have ever seen.
The storyline is
fairly simple; Carrie, a sixteen year old girl, lives with her mother
who is obsessively religious. As a result the rest of the town does
not accept her, or Carrie, as one of them. While Carries mother
is fine with this, thinking the rest of the town to be sinners anyway,
Carrie, to quote the film, just wants to be a normal girl.
However, she is no normal girl. Carrie possesses the gift
of telekinesis, and this gift is brought to life whenever she is angry
or upset, which, due to the constant bullying of her mother and the
loathsome mocking of her peers. She eventually uses this to take her
ultimate revenge on those that belittled her.
As I mentioned earlier, this film is loosely based on the original novel
by Stephen King. I say loosely in a purely subjective manner, as, in
my opinion, apart from the general plot, there are very few similarities
between the film and the book and although Carrie is watchable,
it does not know what its trying to be. Theres not enough
blood to attract fans of violence and there arent enough scares
to attract horror fans. On top of this, there are parts of the film
that attempt comedy, possibly trying to emulate the horror/comedy success
of Jaws, but this also fails miserably. When the film is
looked at in comparison to the novel, there is an awful lot which could
have been improved. This may possibly have made the difference between
a mediocre film and an outstanding one.
There are a couple of areas in which De Palma made ugly mistakes, the
first being casting; none of the actors (bar Piper Laurie) seem to truly
bring the original characters to life, and the second being lack of
detail.The film doesnt seem to make sense.
The process of adapting a novel into a movie cannot be easy, and there
are two things that can go wrong: the film goes on for far too long,
losing the audiences interest (think Lord of the Rings),
or there is just not enough detail to make the film plausible. For Carrie,
the latter is definitely the case. At one hour and thirty-four minutes,
it is relatively short and I feel that De Palma has not utilized this
One of the biggest problems which I have with this film is the casting
and the use of characterisation. Spacek, as Carrie, puts in a remarkable
performance but she really isnt right as that character. Originally
cast to play Chris Hargenson, the student who humiliates Carrie at the
prom, Spacek would have been much better suited to this role, as she
is simply too pretty to be convincing as frumpy Carrie.
In order for the story to work, the audience has to not just empathize
with, but pity, Carrie. We are meant to feel repulsed by her, in the
same way the town is, but we are also meant to sympathise with her and
understand the years of torture which drive her to her final revenge.
Unfortunately, it seems De Palma has decided to concentrate solely on
encouraging the audience to sympathise with Carrie, mainly through a
number of over acted touching scenes with the gym teacher,
Miss Collins, played by Betty Buckley. However, this technique seems
to have backfired, as by the end of the film, my sympathy was firmly
with the rest of the town, not with Carrie. This was due to the fact
that we dont see enough of Carries background; we dont
get the whole story.
It is Chris Hargenson, played by Nancy Allen who covers Carrie in pigs
blood at the senior prom, thus creating the catalyst which drives Carrie
to avenge herself. Chris, along with her rebel boyfriend, Billy Nolan
(Travolta), meet a grisly end at the hands of Carrie, but the whole
thing seems rushed. We never get more than a 2D representation of the
characters, it is almost as if De Palma has come along and said right,
youre the nasty character, act nasty, and this is all very
well, but in order to feel anything towards a character we need some
indication that they are, after all, a vulnerable human underneath.
Overall, I feel that this film has not reached its full potential. It
has tried to remain faithful to the original novel, but it has left
out too many important details for the story to make sense. Although
there are some touching scenes between Carrie and her prom date, Tommy
Ross (played by William Katt), there are also some truly awful scenes,
when the film hints at aspects of comedy but fails to carry it off,
leaving the audience to think was I meant to find that funny?
I found this laughable, but, unfortunately, in completely the wrong
I think that with Carrie you either have to read
the book or watch the film, as without drawing comparisons against each
other, both are enjoyable. But, like so many big screen adaptations
of novels, the original story is generally superior, and this film just
does not do it justice. My advice: If you really want a good Stephen
King adaptation, try The Shining.
© Lucy Bailey Nov 2005
Lucy is a Creative Arts student at the University of Portsmouth
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