The Angel’s Fiery Sword: The Tragic Tale of Carrie White

There is a story that has found a home in the back of my mind. It is a tragic tale. It’s a story of pain and sorrow. A story of cruelty, vengeance, and blood. A story that has haunted me ever since I first watched the original motion picture. I still see the bucket hanging above the stage. I see her eyes widen, and then I see the chaos that ensues. This story I remember so vividly is about a high school girl named Carrieta White.

Julianne Moore and Chloë Grace Moretz in Carrie (2013)

Julianne Moore and Chloë Grace Moretz in Carrie (2013)

Carrieta White is a hopeless girl that is tormented on a daily basis by her fellow students, teachers, and even her mother, who is obsessed with religion. She is bullied, and constantly made fun of. When she is home; her mother screams and hits her in fear that Carrie is committing sins. Her mother, Margaret White, locks her in the closet for hours to get Carrie to pray; however, Carrie learns that she has a special power that makes her different from everyone else. Learning to deal with her newfound power, she is pushed to the limit when a prank at school goes to far. When this sick prank takes center stage at her school prom, Carrie finally shows everyone what she is capable of doing.

The tragic tale of Carrieta White came from the great mind of horror novelist, Stephen King. It was his first published novel, and was released in April of 1974. The book started as a short story to help King pay the bills, but once he realized it was too long to be a short–he tossed it. His wife,Tabitha King, was curious after King told her about the story, so she pulled it out of the waste basket and began to read. After reading the crumpled piece of paper, she asked him to finish it. He obliged, and It was picked up and published by Doubleday Publishing; changing King’s life forever.

Two years later, the story was turned into a poetically terrifying horror movie. The film, which was directed by Brian De Palma, became an instant classic, and is still considered one of the best horror films ever made. It earns a top spot of my favorite movies because of how beautiful, yet tragic it is. This poor, innocent girl is turned into a monster. Carrieta White was portrayed by actress, Sissy Spacek, in what probably is her most memorable performance. Spacek is defeated over and over again, until her eyes widen and the whole world hears her name. Spacek’s performance is equally matched by Piper Laurie who played Carrie’s mother. Both were rightfully nominated for Academy Awards. Laurie is despicable, evil, and so tragically lost in her own mind. The two play opposites so well. Carrie hopes; while Margaret destroys that hope. De Palma used his crafted style to make this more than just a scary movie, but a beautiful and terrifying film. Using techniques such as split screen to convey the chaos. One of the most famous shots of the movie is when we watch Carrie dance with Tommy Ross. The camera starts spinning quickly around them, “As if they were spinning out of control” Roger Ebert said in his review of the 1976 picture. Yet, my favorite shot of the film, is the one of lonely Carrie White emerging from the flames of the school gym. The doors closing behind her, locking every student inside the inferno. It was the power of emotion that makes this horror story so powerful. As Carrie is awarded Prom Queen, and for one second of this girl’s life, she is happy. For that moment in time, all of the pain and sorrow disappears, and we are finally able to cheer for her victory. However, moments later we have all of that happiness ripped away from us as we begin to be flooded with feelings of hate and sadness. Carrie (1976) is simply one of the best horror films ever made.

Now nearly forty years after the creation of Carrie; director, Kimberly Pierce, will give a modern twist to this tragic tale. The film has Julianne Moore playing Margaret White and has Chloë Grace Moretz portraying Carrie.

When I first heard they were remaking Carrie (1976), one of my favorite horror movies, two questions instantly popped in my head. One, who is gonna play Carrie? Two, and more importantly, who is gonna play her mother? Those questions were shortly answered, and to my surprise, I couldn’t have been happier with casting. Ever since her performance as Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass (2010), young actor Chloë Grace Moretz has caught my eye. I thought she had major presence and handled it well. She was witty, fast, and comedically brutal. Then her performance in Hugo (2011) was heart-felt and touching. Moretz has major talent and this is the role of a lifetime, all she has to do is make it her own, and put all of her heart in being a destroyed young girl. Then we learned the four time Academy Award nominee Julianne Moore would be playing Margaret White. Moore is a wonderful actress but the thought of someone trying to play the vicious and monstrous character that Piper Laurie brought to life made me a bit nervous. However, Moore does a great job as her version of Margaret White. What I mean is that Moore changes the character, allowing a small sentimental relationship with Carrie. Which completely changes the premise of her damaging mother. Now, I want Carrie to be it’s own film, but this was one aspect that change effected. Not because it was in fact a change, it just doesn’t add up. Margaret White, would kiss and love the devil’s child. She wouldn’t be as bipolar about sin as Moore portrays. The damaging relationship between mother and daughter make the story of Carrie. The fact a mother can hate her daughter makes this story stand out, and by making Margaret White kind of nice, destroys the power of her character. As for Chloë Grace Moretz, she does a solid job as Carrieta White. It is nothing spectacular, but good. My feelings are that Moretz has too much of a presence to be the girl that goes unnoticed. Spacek was just able to disappear in a crowd, be lost, where Moretz stands out even as they try to make her bland.

The most disappointing aspect of Kimberly Pierce’s Carrie is that the film is so much like the original 1976 movie. The movie was made, then remade for TV in 2002, so this allows Pierce to make her own version. Yet, for some reason she doesn’t. She uses the same formula with minor changes that simply don’t improve the story. Pierce is an incredible director with a strong voice, but she is completely silent in this film. Pierce should have this version her own, changing things, or using more scenes from the book. However, Pierce decides to replicate the Brain De Palma masterpiece, which in comparison falls very short. Pierce’s remake also lacks the intense emotional connection in the film. I didn’t feel as sympathetic for Moretz as I did for Spacek. Though the infamous tampon scene is one of the cruelest cinematic moments ever, it doesn’t have the gut-punching feeling it once had. The replication makes Carrie feel forced and unoriginal. Carrie is good, but fails to be great because of Pierce’s fear of breaking the mold.

It is quite interesting that Carrie addressed the issue of bullying nearly four decades ago because of what Stephen King had witnessed as a student and as a teacher. Yet, Carrie comes out in a time where cyberbullying is at a high, and the issue of bullying is a major topic. The story describes the pain of bullying and torment, as it destroys this innocent young girl. The story then shows readers and viewers that sometimes pain can do nothing but cause more pain. As a lonely, hurt, depressed young girl takes all her anger, her hurt and bestows that on others. This story is of revenge. Though Carrie is tormented and truly destroyed emotionally and spiritually, is it good that Carrie takes her revenge? Is it right for her to take the lives of those that destroyed hers? Two wrongs don’t make a right. This horror story asks some insanely prominent questions, as these things are actually happening in our schools and our society. Carrie addresses everyone’s breaking point. That at some point, something has got to give. However, the message isn’t as powerfully delivered as Pierce had hoped.

The story of Carrieta White is a powerful one, but the 2013 remake unfortunately is afraid to break the mold and allows Carrie to get repetitive. The movie doesn’t make any social commentary on today’s society in bullying, just reshoots the famous scenes from the 1976 version and adds YouTube. Even with the power of computer generated images, Carrie isn’t as heart-wrenching as the original. Usually, I hate comparing remakes and originals, however it is near impossible when the remake just wants to be the original. Carrie is good in the aspect of the already created story, and offers some tense moments. My heart was pounding out of my chest as the bucket of blood tips, but that doesn’t improve the Stephen King story. It didn’t do anything new with it, and that is why movies are remade. Take a story and add to it, and Kimberly Pierce failed to do so. She didn’t make a bad movie what so ever, she just made a movie we’ve seen already without adding much too it.

In Stephen King’s novel, Carrie is referred to as the angel’s fiery sword. This is possibly referring to Uriel, the angel of repentance, who would strike down the wicked. Carrie strikes down the wicked sinners at her high school and in her town. This is only the surface of Carrie’s depth. The tale of Carrieta White explores vengeance and asks if it is the answer. It addresses the question what if hate wins. These questions, these themes of Carrie are the reasons why is it such a compelling story.

Carrie White will still levitate in the back of my mind. The themes and messages embedded in Carrie are too compelling to forget. However, it will be the 1976 version that will replay in my mind when I think about a person’s breaking point. I won’t think of Moretz or Moore or Pierce, because there version won’t stand out. I will think of De Palma, Spacek, and Laurie. De Palma made sure to instill that feeling of desperation and defeat, right after a brief moment of hope and victory. Where Pierce thought maybe that comes with the story and not in the filmmaking. However, I’m sure it won’t be far down the line when someone else picks up the tragic tale of Carrieta White and wishes to retell the story. I will be first in line, with hopes for the film to give me something new, while illustrating the themes and emotions. Or nobody will touch the story again, and Brain De Palma’s film will remain the only reputable version of the story. Either way, what King, De Palma, and Pierce wanted came true, everybody knows her name and fears her power.

For Carrie (2013)

2.5 out of 4 stars

– By Jacob R. Tiranno


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