‘Carrie’ re-imagining now in production

By Trevor Ballanger

It’s a slow-motion teenage dream—a group of naked girls laughing and showering together after gym class. Delicate music and steam rise through the air. Meanwhile, a social pariah is experiencing her first period in a state of panic, a flurry of sanitary napkins and the resounding “PLUG IT UP! PLUG IT UP!” of her peers.

This is Brian De Palma’s 1976 cinematic representation of “Carrie” by Stephen King. One could debate De Palma’s exploitative nature of such a haunting and private moment in a typical day for girls. However, this is not a delicate tale. Girls don’t shower with their clothes on. They can be vicious. And experiencing one’s first menstrual cycle in public is a living nightmare. Her blood and shame are also the foreshadowing metaphor of something dangerous awakening deep within her that everyone will inevitably see.

Today, the story that left audiences scarred with its depiction of brutality imposed on an innocent high school girl and her subsequent telekinetic rage is being resuscitated. Acclaimed director Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry”) has a reputation for gritty, unrelenting filmmaking, which will prove an exciting change from De Palma’s own clean, A-line shots. Her previous work has proven her understanding of female-driven stories and unflinching attitude regarding truthfulness. Peirce said she wants to make her version of the film more grounded in reference to the book and as a response to bullying.

“I have gone back to the wonderful Stephen King book, ‘Carrie,’” Peirce said on her Facebook page. “I am also modernizing the story as one has to in order to bring any great piece of work written in one era into the next, and especially given how very relevant this material is right now.”

Critics have called De Palma’s version one of the best film representations of King’s work. It also launched into stardom an up-and-coming Sissy Spacek, who earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in 1977. After much speculation as to who could handle the task of playing such an important literary female character on screen again, the reins were handed over to 15-year-old Chloë Grace Moretz.

It’s encouraging to see someone as young as Moretz taking on heady roles with such maturity. She has already gained a reputation for controversial parts in “Kick-Ass” and “Let Me In,” so it’s easy to envision her nurturing this character with vulnerability and strength. It may be too early to tell, since the movie doesn’t open until next March 15, but this could lead Moretz to a shot at an Academy Award as well.

“I am changing everything about me—my hair, my look,” Moretz said in an interview with Vanity Fair. “I’m doing my own take on [the character]. The script is totally different from the [original]. It’s more like the book. It’s a more ‘Black Swan’ version—it messes with your mind. You’ll see things, and you don’t know if you’ve seen them.”

In addition to Moretz, the rest of the casting is impeccable. At home, Julianne Moore’s insane Margaret White is plotting to kill Carrie in a disillusioned attempt at godliness. Playing the deliciously spiteful Chris Hargensen is Portia Doubleday, who masterminds the plot which ultimately leads to an entire town’s undoing. The scenario starts with an act of kindness by Sue Snell, played by Gabriella Wilde. Snell secretly recruits her popular boyfriend to take Carrie to the prom as both an apology and a way to integrate Carrie into society. Gym teacher Miss Desjardin, played by Judy Greer, is skeptical of the plan and attempts to protect Carrie from various potential daggers, but ultimately, she fails.

Hargensen, who has a virtually baseless vendetta going against Carrie, and everything spirals spectacularly out of control thereafter into a dark frenzy. According to the book, she and her exhibitionist boyfriend rig the senior prom for Carrie to be crowned queen, only to have two buckets of pig’s blood poured over her head. The sequence of events that follow leave a trail of dead teenagers through a world on fire. In summation, this won’t end well.

De Palma’s film, although frightening, depicts only the prom and home-life aspects of the story. Whereas something much deeper lies at its roots: the fact that these monsters being talked about are just kids. As Snell describes in the book, she and her friends were all just teenagers in high school, doing their best. As an adult, she looks back on her prom night and no longer feels sorry for the deaths of her fellow classmates, but has rather found absolution in maturity. This begs the question, who defines evil in this story and who is right in justifying their comeuppance?

I expect Peirce’s representation of the story to be hotly anticipated in the coming months. In predicting Moretz’s success, I can also say the same of the rest of the cast, in particular Judy Greer, who has long deserved a role of this magnitude. Until then, the story stands the test of time as a testament to whom to laugh at and when.

The film is set for release March 15, 2013.