Sunday, October 20, 2013

Blood On Your Hands

As a general rule, I don't like remakes.  In fact, in the previews for this week's movie, I sat through the trailer for a remake of Endless Love, which just made me angry.  My anger comes only partially from the idea of remaking a Brooke Shields movie (although please tell me Blue Lagoon 2014 is not in the development pipeline), it's also from the trailer's depiction of obsessive teenage love as a Good, Though Misunderstood Thing, and it's being released on Valentine's Day.  Sheesh.  Girls - and boys, for that matter - stalking is creepy and yes, your parents do know how you feel.  That's precisely why they worry.

OK - rant over.  This week, the focus was on the updated version of Brian De Palma's (by way of Stephen King's) Carrie.  This time around, Carrie White is played by Chloe Grace Moretz (Sissy Spacek in the original, in an Oscar-nominated performance), and her deranged mother Margaret is played by Julianne Moore (Piper Laurie in the original and also Oscar-nominated).  Right off the bat, let's talk about the original - and here I mean the book.  When a then-unknown Stephen King sold the hardback rights to Carrie, he was thrilled.  When he sold the paperback rights for a jaw-dropping-in-the-1970s $400,000, he became rich and famous and was well on his way to becoming Stephen King, author extraordinaire.  One problem I've long had with King's writing is the bloat - his novels often seem to lumber and lummox their way along.  (On the other hand, I adore his short stories and novellas - tight, spare, and Mrs. Todd's Shortcut and The Mangler are among the best I've ever read.  And his latest, Joyland, is an absolute delight.)  Carrie was tighttighttight, with nary a spare word.  Sure, it reads like a first work, and the story has some weaknesses, but Carrie also does a great job of capturing the fear of being an adolescent girl - so much is happening to Carrie that she just doesn't understand and that no one is explaining to her.

There will be much talk about whether this version, directed by Kimberly Peirce, is as good as/better than de Palma's.  That's fair, I suppose.  But here's my dirty little secret - I've never seen the original, not all the way through.  I was too young when it first came out and I just never got around to seeing it all in one sitting.  (I've picked up bits and pieces of it here and there, though.)  I know, I know - bad critic!  Bad!

That being confessed, I liked this a lot.  I wasn't sure if the gorgeous Moretz could pull off being the uncomfortable, unpopular, plain and picked on Carrie, but she does.  And Julianne Moore is pitch perfect - to the point she makes an empty closet the scariest thing in the film.  One thing that King does well, and that Peirce carries through on in her film, is making Carrie White sympathetic.  Our culture has changed since King first published the book and de Palma first filmed Carrie in 1976.  Carrie's tormenting at the hands of her high school classmates (and let's face it, Buffy got that one right - high school is hell, no matter where you rank in the pecking order), is now recorded and uploaded.  All this girl wants is to be normal and, honestly, to be overlooked.  I nearly cheered when Moretz's blood-drenched face takes on a vengeful expression following a criminal prank and she telekinetically slams shut the doors.  It's time for payback, bitches.  And it's gonna hurt.

Carrie does terrible, horrible, violent things.  But I want her to.  And that's the key.  Carrie's every bullied kid who commits suicide, but she's also every school shooter.  She is Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds, in a homemade prom gown.  She wants to be Everykid, and when "they" won't let her be that, well, then, by God, she'll be the freak they say she is.

We create our own monsters.  Is a telekinetic teenager out there?  Doubtful.  But there are plenty of those we brush aside and tell to "toughen up."  And gun laws in this country are lax.  Let's stop pretending to be surprised when these kids snap and either hurt themselves or turn their rage outward.

Blood on your hands.  On Carrie's, on Chris', and yeah - on ours.  So go see Carrie and have a good scare.  Then do something to make sure Carrie only stays a story.

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