Such a variety of bloody endings…
I’ve read a number of Stephen King novels, but hadn’t picked up ‘Carrie’ until this week… and considering it was King’s debut back in 1974, the novel still stands the test of time. However, when I compared it to the film adaptations, there were some marked differences…
** WARNING : Herein lies many spoilers **
Carrie herself was written as a chubby, frizzy-haired girl with acne, introverted and copping the brunt of bullying from classmates. In both of the films, Carrie has already been given a makeover holding some sexual appeal, even in her opening scenes. While I understand that Hollywood needs to keep some appeal for the audience to connect with her character, the reason why she is ridiculed in school is because of her imperfections and naivety of the wider world due to the overprotective nature of her religious zealot of a mother. While the film starring Sissy Spacek, and the TV adaptation in 2002 connect with this aspect quite strongly, the delivery is a little stereotypical. At the times they were aired, however, expectations regarding the horror genre were different to now and both represent social expectations. The 2014 remake with Chloe Grace Moretz shows a softer version of Carrie, although still remaining true to the character in the novel. The Carrie in the novel was aware of her mental abilities, and was ‘playing with them’ and we see this for the first time in the same tone in the latest film adaptation. While Sissy Spacek will always be my favourite, Chloe Grace Moretz really brings something new and unique to the character of Carrie.
Our antagonists in the novel range from the maniacal to people who were on the cusp (like Ms Desjardin / Miss Collins). Now there is a lot more gore and carnage in the novel than in the film adaptations, and we really get to see the characters descend into darkness as they begin to let their hate consume them in the written version – while all screenplays attempt this in various ways, many of the “bad guys” feel stereotypical and unrealistic… with one exception: Mrs White played by Julianne Moore in the 2014 version.
The point in Stephen Kings novel was that a girl predisposed to telekinesis was pushed to the brink, snapped, and retaliated (somewhat justified). But it is supposed to be the power that consumes her, putting her into a fugue state to commit the murderous rampage and Carrie is mortified once she snaps out of it. I don’t think I got this message clearly from any of the film adaptations. Additionally, when Carrie has flipped her switch in the novel, she connects psychically with everyone near her, broadcasting her thoughts and intentions – we never get that in the films. The fear and speculation of telekinesis is at the core of the novel… something lost on the big screen.
The book also lets the events unfold organically, with snafoos and road blocks, where most of the events in the screen versions happen seamlessly and, in my opinion, add to the lack of realism.
I will say Chloe Grace Moretz depiction of Carries’ final scenes is my favorite, and that which rings the truest to the novel, showing Carrie bringing down justice on more than just her tormentor at school. Although we know why she is doing it in the book – there is no reason as to why she is doing it in the film other than she is lost in the fugue state.
The biggest thing from the book to screen is that Carries actions are seemingly motivated and justified in the book, but no so much in the films.
The supporting cast are a little hit and miss too. The novel has Tommy Ross walking that line of good and evil, but redeems himself, where it’s only in the 2014 film he’s always depicted as a good guy. His subsequent demise also differs from film to film, as well as his accidental death being the trigger for Carrie to fall into her rage. Additionally, the Coach’s (Ms Desjardin / Miss Collins) ending differs. In some she survives, and in others she’s caught in the carnage. It all came down to what viewer classification the screening came down to – as with cutting much of the gore from the novel adaptations. Shame really, I liked the message the novel brought.
The ending is where a lot differs – Carrie never gets to bathe in the book, and “punishes” herself for her actions, seeing no other way out. I wonder if the shower scene was introduced in the first film to flash a bit of nudity and increase viewer ratings? In the novel, Sue Snell, having been telekinetically linked with Carrie, has resided herself to death as punishment for her actions, but it is her unborn child that saves her, and subsequently knocks Carrie out of her fugue state.
From this point, Sue, as a survivor is one of the narrators of the novel, which is told in a collection of accounts and documents, police reports into an investigation of Carrie White. The point being Carrie linked her mind to those around her. Bringing up the question about the existence of mental abilities in the first place… We don’t get to see any of this aspect in the films.
One point regarding all the screen adaptations is that the 2002 version is the only one to explore much of Carrie’s childhood (as the novel does) with more than a few flashbacks and something I though was important to the plot. I really would have seen that brought to the other films.
Overall reactions from the films: 1979 – a little corny and stereotypical but rings true to the novel; 2002 TV movie – a watered down version, Carrie is more like here written counterpart, but the rest of the movie fell a little flaccid and gore free; 2014 film with Chloe Grace Moretz – the best characterization and flow of story line, but still missed parts from the novel that justified some of Carries actions, but surpassed all in character relationships and special effects. Best entertainment value.
It is always up to the reader/viewer to decide whether Carrie is a villain, and even in all the film versions we are left wondering. There is even an alternate ending in the 2014 version. The 1979 film with Spacek would have been the better adaptations, but still fell short of encompassing everything from the novel.
I could go on and on about so many other differences, but the most important aspects dealing with story have been covered. I feel the book surpassed all the movies solely on story and perspective, that, and managing to raise speculation and fear over telekinesis.
Stephen King’s novel is a well-paced, fast read only 253 pages long, an easy weekend read, something I recommend for all to read, but keep in mid it was written in the ‘70’s. Novel for the win!
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