Updated: Oct 17, 2019
This is the second adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie, about a bullied teenage girl who uses her telekinetic powers for revenge, after a cruel prank at prom goes wrong.
This adaptation is actually a pilot for a TV series, which thankfully did not get picked up. This is technically the most faithful, in terms of page to screen, but being closer to the book doesn’t technically make it better. After all what works in writing doesn’t necessarily work visually.
The cinematography certainly gives away that it’s a TV film, with unimpressive camerawork that looks cheap and very over lit. There’s also quite a bit of censoring, with little to no nudity or swearing, the religious content was watered down, and the blood that looks like runny strawberry jam. The special effects are pretty terrible, there’s a lot of cheap CGI like the rain of stones and the town destruction with debris flying everywhere. The music is awful, it’s so cheesy and sounds like it belongs in a Disney Channel Movie.
There’s so much silliness in this film, which makes me wonder what anyone in the production team was thinking. When the girls surround the shower cubicle looking over Carrie, all I could think was ‘What are they standing on?’ In the next scene, they shove a thousand tampons in her locker, and again all I could think was, ‘Where did they get so many tampons from?’ Also, with attempts to modernise the film, screenwriter Brian Fuller adds dialogue, which is just awful e.g. “This is so far from over, it’s not even in the same area code as over.”
That’s not to say this film doesn’t have its good merits – the biggest merit it has goes to Angela Bettis. As Carrie, she nails the awkward loner but she’s able to display Carrie’s sense of humour as well. In fact, I enjoy some of her comebacks (Chris: “She tried to talk me into getting Botox.”; Carrie: “Maybe she thought you needed it.”) and I laughed when she was secretly reading teen magazines in her praying closet.
Margaret’s character is severely toned down, due to obvious censoring of the disturbing religious aspects, but Patricia Clarkson gives the best performance she could with what she was given to work with. Emilie De Ravin and Jesse Cadote give solid performances as the evil Chris and Billy. Kandyse McClure as Sue has some good moments, especially in interview scenes but fails to sell the character’s redemption.
Tobias Mehler is particularly boring as Tommy, and Katharine Isabelle is incredibly annoying as Chris’s friend Tina. Chelen Simmons makes a likeable minor character, Helen, another girl who bullied Carrie but wants to be friends with her at prom. Rena Sofer as Miss Desjardin was a scene-stealer, so awesome when she confronts the girls for their awful treatment of Carrie - that’s my favourite kind of teacher.
With a longer running time, they were able to add in more scenes from the book, such as a scene where Carrie as a child talks to a teenage girl sunbathing next-door and asks her about her breasts, and says only bad girls get them; then Margaret catches her and drags Carrie into the house and Carrie screams and a rain of stones comes down and damage the house. This was actually a weird scene from the book, that at least played into the case study aspect. In this film, however, it’s just a random flashback that’s never addressed anywhere else.
This film sticks to King’s non-linear style by breaking up scenes with detectives interviewing survivors of the tragic event. Not a full on adaptation of the case study aspect, as it omits the media and court case. The film is pretty much an investigation drama and a supernatural teen-drama in one.
I can see why it appeals to some fans for adapting investigatory parts of the book. I just don’t care for it, it’s not very well made and is pretty boring overall.
Written by Jack Parish