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Welcome Back the King and Queen

'Carrie' will continue to haunt dreams, no matter which version viewers I opt to watch.

Stephen King was a name that used to strike fear into the hearts of many, especially with his first novel Carrie in 1974. The storyline was unlike anything written before, and within two short years, the movie version of Carrie was released. Since then, there has been a sequel, a TV movie, two musicals, and an upcoming remake movie, but none have ever compared to the original movie. The remake is said to stay closer to King’s original writings, but does that really matter to people in a movie theater or do they just want to see the blood and guts horror? Each time Carrie was remade, there were always murders of people for bullying a young girl, who was a little different. The original Carrie, Carrie 2: The Rage, and the 2013 remake, Carrie, all tell a similar story, which leaves people asking if there is a need to be remaking the movie.

In the original 1976 version of Carrie, the title character was played by a young Sissy Spacek and the role helped launch her profession. The movie also helped launch director Brian De Palma’s career using a screenplay written by Lawrence D. Cohen. In the movie, Carrie was a teenager in her last few months of high school who lived with her abusive religious nut of a mother. On prom night, Carrie and her date win prom king and queen. When they are up on stage, the popular kids prank them by dumping a bucket of pig’s blood all over Carrie. She finally snaps and using her telekinetic powers, destroys the gymnasium and kills all her peers and teachers trapped inside. She returns home looking for the comfort of her mother, but her mother stabs her. Carrie crawls into the kitchen, but her mother corners her, so Carrie again uses her powers and throws all the sharp objects in the kitchen at her mother, ultimately crucifying her. Carrie becomes distraught over all she has done and sets the house on fire, where she dies along with her mother. Carrie’s real-life scenarios mixed with supernatural seeming phenomena drew in crowds across the world.

Carrie was hailed as a classic and even to this day, people enjoy the movie for many reasons. De Palma’s catchphrase for the movie, “If you’ve got a taste for terror, take Carrie to the prom” drew in a large crowd of teenagers eagerly awaiting their own prom night escapades. According to De Palma, “Carrie isn’t really a horror film—it’s a fairy tale (Cinderella in particular) gone horribly, tragically wrong… but it’s also a coming-of-age film, a high school comedy, a familial melodrama, a Pygmalion remake, and a Hitchcockian thriller.” De Palma feels that since Carrie has so many aspects rolled into one, the movie can last forever. Carrie fans felt the same way, but they wanted more bloodshed and terror.

In 1999, filmmakers agreed with fans and released Carrie 2: The Rage. Since Carrie died at the end of the original movie, the plot had to have some way for a new girl to still have Carrie’s same powers. Barbara Lang is institutionalized and her daughter Rachel is sent into foster care. Years later, Rachel’s best and only friend, Lisa, commits suicide, which triggers Rachel’s telekinetic powers. When the school counselor, Sue Snell, the only survivor from Carrie’s escapade twenty years earlier, tries to talk to Rachel about what happened, Rachel runs away. Sue visits Rachel’s mother in the institution and finds out that Rachel and Carrie had the same father and that is where Rachel’s powers are coming from. Jesse, a football player, and Rachel grow closer. Mark, the football captain, feigning niceties, gives Jesse his cabin for a night, but all the while Mark and his girlfriend are videotaping them. When Rachel goes to a party at Mark’s house, he plays the video and the group begins to mock Rachel for thinking Jesse actually cared about her. She snaps and a bloodbath ensues as she kills all the partygoers. Jesse soon shows up and tries to convince Rachel to stop and that he loves her, but she does not believe him until she hears him say it on the videotape. Rachel pushes him from the burning building and dies inside. Carrie 2: The Rage is basically the same story as the original, so it did not gain as much momentum or fame except among true horror movie buffs. Yet, people continued to make the two musicals and TV movie versions in the hope that Carrie would again take off.

In 2013, the horror world was abuzz with news of the new remake of Carrie, starring Chloe Montez as the title character. This time, producers say that they are trying to keep as close to the story King wrote as they can, while still bringing the story into a modernized setting. This was done by adding in one of the popular girls’ videoing Carrie’s repeated abuse using her cell phone and then playing it on a big screen at prom. Some other changes to the script that plays into King’s original work are when Carrie goes to prom, she locks her mother in the prayer closet instead of in her room. This seems to be more of a poetic justice for Carrie. Then, Carrie stops her mother’s heart with her powers, not by throwing knives at her. Finally, the ending is a true change from the original movie. Instead of burning down the house and dying, Carrie has stones rain down on the house and Sue Snell tries to stop her. Carrie feels that Sue was in on the trick and betrayed her, but Sue shows Carrie in her mind that she had nothing to do with it and Carrie throws her from the house as it dissipates into the ground. The remaining question is, do these few small changes really make it worthwhile to recreate a classic horror story?

King himself even said, “I’ve heard rumblings about a Carrie remake…The real question is why, when the original was so good? I mean, not Casablanca, or anything, but a really good horror-suspense film, much better than the book.” Many people say that since the new movie will stay closer to the truth, that it is worth the remake, but the author himself even says the original is better than his own book. Others are not looking forward to the remake saying that the original was the best there could ever be. “Given that adolescence was a living hell for the vast majority of us, there’s something thematically ingenious about a horror film set in an American high school—a ‘house’ as haunted by ghosts of the tormented and suffering as any Gothic mansion. An observation which probably goes a long way toward explaining why Stephen King’s 1974 novel, Carrie, still holds such a pop-cultural fascination for us.” In other words, the original still works to portray the messages it was meant to and to give viewers a scream once in a while, so there is no need to mess with a classic. One person who surprisingly is looking forward to the new movie is Brian De Palma.

He says, “A new version of Carrie… will be released in time for Halloween this year, and while I appreciate the cynicism around it, I must admit I’m excited. Carrie isn’t Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or The Exorcist—horror films that seem rooted in the times they were made and lose critical context when removed from that period—it’s universal. Bullying and cruelty will always—sadly—be around. There’ll always be a Carrie White struggling to get by in life and there’ll always be a Chris Hargensen doing all they can to make the struggle even harder. Carrie, therefore, will always be relevant. It may not be just a horror film, but it remains one of cinema’s most potent, important, and relatable explorations of the true, hideous nature of horror.”

Carrie, Carrie 2: The Rage, and the new Carrie will always have a place in horror history. King says, “Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes they win.” There will always be bullying to stop and there will always be people who want to watch a scary movie, but either way, Carrie will be around. The new Carrie is going to be added into the long line of spin-offs from the original, but it may just be able to stand on its own as well. Either way, Carrie will always be a classic that is able to withstand the test of time.

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