Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review: Carrie (2002)

Review: Carrie (2002)
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(Originally posted here)

Having seen this film a long time ago, I remember it having a slew of problems. The production values, the bland directing, the changed ending, the acting from most of the actors not named Angela Bettis, et cetera. But after re-watching it, it also has a few more that I just noticed. One thing that I didn't recall the last time I saw the film was just how bloated it felt. Despite running more than half an hour longer than the original (132 minutes versus 98 for the original), it omitted a lot of important character development scenes in favor of a lot of useless padding that did nothing to drive the plot. The scene in the car that showed how abusive Billy and Chris' relationship was, or the scene of Margaret proselytizing to Sue's mom, or the scenes between Carrie and the gym teacher? All gone. Hell, the gym teacher felt like a superfluous character here, included just because she was in the book. The seemingly sympathetic authority figure who still laughs with the rest of them is nowhere to be found. The amazing detention scene, the one that made me fall in love with her in the original, got rolled into a much blander version of the scene where she rips into the girls.

The film's bloat is definitely not the fault of the fact that they decided to include the destruction of the town -- by the time the film reaches that point, it's already surpassed the runtime of the original. Did we really need to see the scene of Carrie freaking out in class and breaking her desk, or the one where Chris and Carrie meet? Did those scenes do anything? Just how did they think it would be a good idea to release this film with so. Much. Filler? I can't believe that this was written by Bryan Fuller, the same guy who went on to create WonderfallsDead Like MePushing Daisies, and the first season of Heroes (a.k.a. the good season); I wouldn't be surprised if his contribution ended with the first draft. Something tells me it was NBC's programming guys (this film was made for TV as a potential pilot for a Carrie TV series) that mandated such a long runtime, hoping to fill three hours of prime time (the DVD release doesn't even edit out the act breaks for commercials!). In fact, that would explain a lot of this film's problems; it would've worked a lot better as the pilot for a TV show than as a feature film standing on its own. As it stands, it feels like an incomplete story.

Before I forget the destruction-filled climax, I'd like to say that it botches that too. It's definitely more action-packed than Carrie's rampage in the original film, but it's far less involving, and not simply because of the low-quality special effects. It's simply a montage of Carrie blowing shit up and flipping cars over with her mind, without any reason for us to be invested in it after she's through with the prom. It felt like explosions for explosions' sake, like Michael Bay on a SyFy original movie budget. At the very least we could've had scenes of Sue's fight to survive in the burning, ruined town. Like the scene from the book where she's trying to avoid getting electrocuted by the downed power lines. Give it a proper disaster movie feel. And wasn't this supposed to be a closer adaptation of the book than the original? I've read somewhere that Brian DePalma's decision to cut the destruction of the town from his film, in addition to budget constraints, was because he felt that home and school are a teenager's entire life, the sources of all of his or her experiences, and that the town was something only really experienced in adult life. There'd be far less context for having Carrie blow up the entire town than her school and her house. (The fact that so many disaffected teenagers choose to shoot up their schools rather than, say, the mall bears that out.) With that in mind, the extended rampage scene feels all kinds of superfluous, like so much of the film.

Also, I remember liking Patricia Clarkson's performance as Margaret a lot more than I did when I re-watched the film. She was competent in the role, don't get me wrong, but she didn't scare me the way that Piper Laurie did in the original, didn't give off her manic energy. Margaret's supposed to be a woman who's slightly off her rocker, and is chiefly responsible for who Carrie has grown up to be. Carrie is supposed to be afraid of her, and the point where she stands up to her is meant to be the point of no return. I did not get that from Clarkson's performance. Same thing for many of the other supporting cast members; they're all very forgettable.

The film's worst flaw, though, is that the director does not seem to get the concept of suspense. There is little tension in the film, replaced almost entirely with quick cuts, jump scares and special effects. Flaws with the script or with the acting can be covered up if the movie itself is scary, but instead, the film takes no time to build up such things, instead throwing them straight in the viewer's face and telegraphing them from a mile away. Look, we don't need to be told that something is meant to frighten us with a non-stop torrent of scare chords and quick cuts, we can figure it out on our own. And sometimes, silence is far more frightening than loud strings, especially when they are used together. Brian DePalma, the director of the original, understood those things. He was a well-known fanboy of Alfred Hitchcock, the man who wrote the book on cinematic suspense, and it showed in his finished product. Maybe the director of this version should watch Vertigo or Rear Window next time he directs a horror film.

That said, Angela Bettis as Carrie was a light shining in the dark. She does weird, withdrawn outcasts very well, and here she was almost on a par with Sissy Spacek, even if her age was obvious at times (she was 29 when the film premiered). May proved that this wasn't a fluke. Girl deserves more work! I also liked Jesse Cadotte as Billy. The kid came off as a genuine psychopath, more in line with how he was portrayed in the book. When I saw him, I got a Columbine vibe off of him. Scary. It's too bad that the film does absolutely nothing with him until halfway in! Shit, this guy should've been one of the main characters.

Score: 2 out of 5
Angela Bettis' performance saves this remake from being a total waste of time, and I'm cutting it some slack due to the fact that it was made for TV and was written mainly as a TV pilot rather than a stand-alone film. But it's not enough to make up for everything that's wrong with it. The only reason to see it is if your parents won't let you watch the R-rated original, or if you're a high school administrator who needs something PG-13 to use in your anti-bullying assembly. (The PTA would probably flip their shit if they found out that their kids were required to watch the original's very R-rated shower scene on school time.)

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