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Stephen King's Carrie, and How the Movie Adaptions All Seem to Miss the Point

By Jay Stevens, Jr. | Trade News | August 13, 2012 | Comments ()


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The latest version of Carrie has been underway shooting in Toronto for the better part of six weeks. The film starring Chloë Grace Moretz is not due out in theaters until March of next year, but there has already been a bit of buzz including photos on the set and some allegedly leaked B-roll footage. Moretz will not have to travel very far at all when Carrie wraps in September because her next film, Kick-Ass 2 overlaps its shooting schedule by two days and is also filming in Toronto.

I'd like to point out that every version of Carrie done so far shares a similar questionable alteration in that they all stray from the book's depiction of Carrie White. The book describes such things as her being a little fat in the middle, having long dirty-looking, dark blond hair and acne everywhere. In every case Carrie's outward flaws as depicted in the book are downplayed, softened or even eliminated for the movie adaptations. Maybe they were decisions made by the studios in attempting to make their stars not too unattractive perhaps feeling a more accurate depiction might repel potential audiences. Maybe they were done to make the character of Carrie seem less like a caricature freak and more like a normal person just unfairly mistreated. Whatever the reasons, Carrie White was to me supposed to be a social misfit and a high school pariah and her appearance was a large part of the reason. Her introverted personality and timid nature was largely a result of the treatment she received based on her appearance and social deficiencies. By having her flaws reduced, it potentially takes away some of the seriousness of her plight. She goes from someone getting bullied because she's an easy target; to someone who has a little more obvious going for her, she just doesn't see it.

In the photos and footage seen so far, she still looks like a pretty girl. Part of the point of the book was the transformation she had, going from an extreme outcast to gaining some courage and reaching for her dream of just being liked and accepted by the other kids. For one fleeting moment she seems to get her wish before it's all taken away in a splash of blood and cruelty. Here, and in every adaptation made, Carrie is portrayed as a not-so-ugly wallflower. And while it isn't something that completely ruins the movie, it does come across as missing part of the point. The transformation for her prom is part of the journey, as is her realization after the prank that it was all for naught and she's still the outcast she always has been, but now on a grander scale. Carrie was supposed to be the ultimate tortured high school soul. Whether or not other people ever actually looked as she did, many people have gone through their high school years feeling how Carrie looked. And that is one of the reasons why the book found the audience that it did. Given the violence that both bullies and in some cases their retaliating victims have expressed in real life, I have no doubt there are many teenaged souls who could identify with her situation and would have reveled at being able to wish pain and death upon their tormenting classmates if they could. Perhaps Moretz's portrayal will make up for that, but I feel the production potentially starts itself off in a hole because of it.

Allegedly leaked "B" Roll Footage from the set of Carrie @ school's swimming pool featuring Chloe Moretz and Gabriella Wilde - as Carrie White and Sue Snell.

Photos from the set (via Coming Soon, Egotastic, and Splash News)

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Stephen King's book, which was first published in 1974, has been adapted before. Brian De Palma directed the first and best remember version back in 1976. That film would later get a very loose sequel of sorts called The Rage: Carrie 2 in 1999. NBC also produced a made-for-television adaptation in 2002 intending for it to be a pilot for an ongoing series. But due to low ratings the series never came to be.

Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry) is directing the new PG-13 adaptation. Toronto's Northern Secondary (High) School, Toronto Pinewood Studios and nearby the town of Newmarket are all standing in for the movie's setting of Chamberlain, Maine. No word yet on whether or not Carrie wipes out the town after the prom. The film co-stars Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Portia Doubleday and Ansel Elgort. MGM and Screen Gems are producing and distributing the film.

Photo of "Carrie" Promotional banner displayed at this year's San Diego Comic-Con.

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Comments Are Welcome, Douches Are Not


  • Devil Child

    I never minded the beauty change, largely because the decision to not tell the story of Carrie en medias res made the whole thing so much more terrifying and touching that I actually preferred the film version.

    In fact, I'm pretty sure Misery, The Shinning, and The Shawshank Redemption were all superior to the written source.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    I've said it before, but all movie adaption from King's books are superior. Even the shitty ones.

    Trying to get through one of his books is tantamount to work.

  • Muscleman

    I personally think that if ANYONE can pull this off it will be this girl and this director. After I saw "Boys don't cry," I was ready to get a ball bat and start hitting people and I thought Moretz MADE "Kick-ass." Plus, IMHO, she made the remake of "Let the right one in" stand on it's own.
    These are just pics, when I first saw the leaked pics of Ledger in Joker drag from the Batman set, there was no clue that he would literally come out of the screen and carry that to the Oscar...I am anxiously awaiting this film.

  • AudioSuede

    That second paragraph sounds like the description of every character on Glee.

    You can't be a "geek" and still be a high school quarterback. Unless you're Matt Seracen. And even he got to hang out with Tim Riggins.

  • e jerry powell

    You can if you go to a magnet high school. Senior year the quarterback was in my physics class.

    Now, my high school's football team probably only won about four games in the three years my graduating class was there, but you didn't say anything about good football.

  • Egostastic?

  • Snath

    I was walking through an Aeropostale the other day (obviously not for me, I don't think one of their shirts would even fit around my LEG), and Moretz is everywhere in that damn store. She's apparently their current spokesmodel?

    So yeah...not exactly Carrie White.

  • brdkelli

    My casting choice would be Rebel Wilson. I haven't seen her in much, but she has so much charisma in every scene she has she walks away with it (see: Bridesmades). Honestly, if the Hollywood Double Standard didn't exist we would already be calling her the female Jonah Hill and she would be well on her way to being overexposed. On IMDB the character in her upcoming movie is called "Fat Amy". Fucking really? She deserves to pig slaughter some bitches.

  • In defense of the character Fat Amy's name, the explanation's exchange goes like this in the trailer:

    "You call yourself 'Fat Amy'?"
    "Yeah, so twig bitches like you don't do it behind my back."

  • ed newman

    In these pictures Moretz looks like a hot girl whose body has been taken over by an 80-year-old woman. Are we sure this isn't a Carrie/Freaky Friday mashup? I might be down for that.

  • e jerry powell

    Given the myriad problems in the book itself (was Ralph White dead at the time of Carrie's birth or was Margaret White totally bonkers and manufactured an entire incident surrounding being physically prevented from killing Carrie in the crib?), I think that just about every film version's problems have been cake by comparison.

  • Randomlurker

    I agree 100%. Being one of those formerly-ostracized teenagers, I have not once identified with a character in these movies. My biggest problem with it is that they're all still Hollywood actresses, thin and long-limbed, and not a one of them would look out-of-place at my upper-middle-class, white high school. I, however, was the fat girl. I dealt with many of the same situations as the girls in these shows/movies, but while watching, the biggest distractor was that they still don't look like they have a clue what's it's really like to work your ass off every day and still be called a fat bitch for no reason other than sitting in the classroom. I'm interested to see if Moretz truly portrays that kind of understanding or if I'll still be distracted by, "God, she's skinny and pretty, this would never happen in real life."

  • Greedy

    When has Hollywood cast anybody ugly, and I mean uncomfortable to look at ugly, not a normal good looking person acting ugly (Eric Stoltz, Charlize Theron), in a lead role? Steve Buscemi maybe. Perhaps. Peter Dinklage is great and all, but Tyrion was supposed to be hideous, a monster. If HBO had cast a truly ugly dwarf, would GoT have had the success it had? No. Ugly Carrie equals direct to DVD.

  • Bandit

    There are some really homely looking men floating around the acting world. John C Reilly is an ugly motherfucker. Ron Howard's brother is sinfully hideous. There are others, but I'm shit with names.

    There are less ugly looking women though. Maggie Gyllenhaal and her Droopy Dog expression aside.

    P.S. Buscemi may be boggly eyed, but I still would.

  • ,

    Not exactly ugly, perhaps, but a friend once challenged me to name a top actress who wasn't conventionally pretty, and I came up with two: Kathy Bates and Frances McDormand. He rejected those answers because, he said, they act the hell out of their roles (not sure what that had to do with their looks). Anyway, he then challenged me to name a top actress who's fat and I said, "Queen Latifah." And he either submitted or just quit asking.

    But no, really, Bates and McDormand are, in their way, attractive women. The truly ugly/funny-looking ones in movies are almost always men. Danny Trejo, anyone? Danny Devito, Buscemi as you mentioned, and the like.

  • ,

    William H. Macy.

    Knew I was forgetting someone.

  • POINGjam

    Yeah, I hate how every movie wallflower is pretty and charismatic. They're ostracized because they get good grades or they're sarcastic or some shit.

  • John W

    Forget about it Jay it's Hollywood....

  • ZombieNurse

    I agree. Carrie has always been one of my favorite books, and it's always seemed weird to me how the portrayal of the character of Carrie seemed to be missing some important details. I think that the prologue of a latter release of the book (written by Stephen King himself) explains a lot about how the character came about and was created, and if that was taken into consideration by whomever casts these films, I think it would help.

  • ,

    Be great if she handled any problems at the swimming pool

    SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

    the way Eli did in "Let the Right One In." And THEN ...

    SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

    burned the fucking place down.

  • Fredo

    I think part of the reason for not going with the more physical-outlier version of Carrie is to act as a mechanism for the audience to identify with her. We tend not to equate ourselves with either the most physically attractive nor the least physically attractive. So, depicting Carrie White anywhere like King wrote her wouldn't allow many of the people who identified with Sissy Spacek's wallflower to do so.

    That said, I do agree with you in that young Chloe Moretz doesn't look anywhere what even Spacek's Carrie looked like. It feels more like the joke from Not Another Teen Movie, where the actress was ugly because of her glasses and her ponytail. Does that mean that a pretty girl from a fucked up situation can't be ostracized and picked on? No. As you say though, it robs the movie from much of its horrific punch in terms of the kids' cruelty towards one another. After all, the first thing kids learn to pick on is each others' physical selves.

    Kids are cruel motherfuckers.

  • Might be they pick pretty girls to avoid the viewing public identifying too much with the character and the circumstances. Everyone who goes through high school was the picked on kid or knows who the picked on kid was. Speaking for myself, watching that person get accurately and realistically destroyed on film would gut me like a fish on an emotional level potentially equal to Requiem for a Dream.

    Casting a pretty girl in a role like this reminds us that it's a fiction. Makes it palatable. Doesn't remind us too much of what we may have been like when we were cruel motherfuckers.

  • twig

    I think King said he based Carrie off of two girls he'd known who were viciously ostracized when he was in school. At least one of the girls killed herself later in life. Which is the real undercurrent of the horror, or ought to be.

  • pumpkin

    ONe of the girls, according to King, came back one year after her parents made a little money (I think I'm getting the story right), and she had a new haircut and pretty clothes. The other kids still tortured her. She was still an outcast.

  • JenVegas

    Well in the DePalma version I can see how Sissy Spacek's pale, lithe, no-make-up, wall flower could be seen as "flawed" compared to the '70s glam of the other girls...big hair, blue eye shadow, athletic etc...As a fan of the book and the OG Movie I've always felt that, although not repulsive, Spacek's Carrie was definitely physically set apart from her peers in very important ways that would make her seem "unattractive." The pictures from the remake though...I don't buy it. Moretz looks like every other crafty/hipster/vintage chick I see on the streets here in Chicago. She's a wacky hair cut away from Manic Pixie Dream Girl, so they should maybe do something to ugly her up or...everyone else in the movie has to be shockingly beautiful, buxom and brunette....or something.

  • pumpkin

    Spacek also had a look in her eyes and a demeanor that screamed "outcast" and "pariah." Moretz in those photos reminds me of the pretty girl who just needs a makeover, a new dress, and a little confidence boost. Hopefully she rises above that (or below it, rather) on screen.

  • special snowflake

    I didn't read the book, but JenVegas' assessment that Spacek's "flawed" appearance which was "definitely physically set apart from her peers in very important ways that would make her seem "unattractive" is spot-on, not only compared to the other girls of the time but also to what the average high school 'jock' would consider as attractive enough to be seen with them.
    And the same with Moretz: the pics and the video already show that it's gonna be a real stretch to imagine this Carrie as anything less than a somewhat 'hot' chick who may act a little strange but would still be regularly hit on by the boys.

  • ,

    With all the prom dresses cut just below the cootch and the butt-dancing.

    I know some photographers who shoot proms, and they say if the parents knew what goes on ...

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