Carrie Done Again! or How I Delved into Déjà vu with Hope

Stephen King is hailed as one of our current modern literary geniuses partially because he has been responsible for so many cultural understandings based around films adapted from his work but also because he does so damn much compared to most other writers, cranking out novel after novel in a seemingly endless string of successes financially and sometimes even critically. The young woman, soaked in blood, taking on her peers, its all so familiar. And therin may lie the problem…we’ve seen this before, then saw it again when there were sequels that changed none of the formula, than even one more time when the story was told again in the form of a television movie (is there any bigger travesty?). Remakes and reboots can be fun but sometimes you have to shake it up a bit.

I grew up knowing the first Carrie film by Brian De Palma well. Released in 1976 it became a smash hit almost instantly and is considered one of the best films of its era, dominating the box office and reviews and becoming a huge part of our reference culture that we live neck deep in today. It led to a love of the lovely and talented actress Sissy Spacek who took the character and created a broken, pained, abused child out of it and was hailed by all as wonderful in the role. The story hit me when I was little (I saw it at 7) because of the sheer amount of horrible people there seemed to be in high school. The way the girl was tortured by her peers and mother disturbed me, but instead of terrified I was filled with a profound sadness. The carnage took a back seat to the abuse which ended up being far more fascinating and unnerving than the blood and death layered all over the end.

2013’s remake was originally supposed to be closer to the novel than the original De Palma adaptation but instead winds up being more a tribute to it and even goes so far as to credit Lawrence Cohen with a co-credit for writing because of how much it lifted from the film he helped write. There is nothing new here, and perhaps that is its major flaw. There is simply too much similarity and those who have seen the original film will be disappointed to find nothing ventured to make this stand apart.

The performances of those starring, however, are nothing less than extraordinary in some places and at their worst remain at least interesting. In our lead role we have Chloë Grace Moretz of Kick-Ass fame for her role as the character Hit Girl, who’s foul mouth and viciously violent portrayal of her disturbed character earned her both praise and scorn (it all depended on who you asked about it). We have  beautiful portrayal here of a girl who is transformed from a beaten-down girl who never allowed herself to be hopeful to someone with a potential for not just popularity and positive attention but true friendship with some kids if she can wade through the pity. The hunched, shy, scared girl we see in the beginning is unable to function, let alone interact with anyone on a normal level. She flinches at mere acknowledgement for most of the film, but by the end has found courage and strength in not just her interactions with Sue and Tommy but even further through the independence she gains with her psychic ability that is discovered with the beginning of her womanhood (she gets her period but that isn’t so bad because she also gets telekinesis so…mixed bag). What truly sold me on Moretz as Carrie wound up being her manic, deranged look as she destroyed not only the prom but the lives of so many of the other guests. There is a pristine moment after the main moments of maniacal messiness in which Carrie realizes what she has done and has a complete emotional breakdown. She scrubs pig blood off of herself and cries, splashing around in the mess of it and genuinely falling apart and its hard not to sympathize with her.

With Julianne Moore involved in this some of my initial fears were abated. I have never detested a performance from her (ok…The Forgotten was a mess) and look forward to each film she signs on to. With her role being played opposite that of Judy Greer, whom I love due to her role as the drug addicted secretary from the animated series Archer, we are given the idea of a mother and a deranged monster of a woman. Between the encouraging, loving, and kind actions of Greer’s Desjardin and Moore’s cruel, oppressive, and berating Margaret White our young heroine (victim?) Carrie is given a look at what could have been had her mother not been who she is but rather a whole person. It creates an interesting contrast that I wish director Kimberly Pierce had been able to do more with.

The themes of motherhood, adolescence, and sexual maturity run rampant in both the original story and the new film. From the first moments we are given the image of blood running as a recurring image that begins with the start of menstruation and runs right up to the moment the bucket tips and it brings with it the idea of power in the maturity of a woman and the responsibility of a mother to teach to her daughter the way she could look at it and grow into it. Margaret uses sharp objects to inflict pain on herself and fists on Carrie, but she never tells her daughter what her new monthly issue means. This, instead, comes from Carrie’s gym teacher who begins to fill the role of family for her. The overarching story of the film is a very powerful look at repression and the dangers of not only bullying in schools but also parenting when one is not stable.

In tone the film fails utterly. Too often modern horror cliches take precedence over thematic ideas and performances. Yes, I enjoy ‘Vampire Weekend’ as much as the next person, but do we really need to be berated with quirky hip songs to indicate how modern this film is compared to its predecessor while still driving home that these kids are in high school (with the basic plot it seems redundant to constantly force this on the audience). Its jump scares are well timed and well done for what they are, but it never quite makes it to the true terror of human nature during adolescence that the story is supposed to embody. Instead what it goes for is the same thing each modern remake has – references to older films. The only thing less forgivable than the constant polishing of De Palma’s film (and not much else) is the final moment, which involves Carrie’s defaced headstone and a crack sent from her soul in hell (apparently) as a jaunty, quick tempo tune plays and the credits roll. From beginning to end you can tell the director just does not have the strength to separate herself from an original classic.

The film will delight new audiences but those who saw what came before will find nothing new to look at other than a high definition glaze over pretty much the exact same thing they saw before. The director and her writers seem to have worked from either the original script or a checklist of things they felt they had to do exactly the same. Overall it will never feel like a waste of money but it will leave you feeling underwhelmed. Those who watched the 1976 film should wait for home-video release.

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The Wondrous World of Selective Interest and the Fallout of Such

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The idea that everything we do increases outcome probability is not an old one, but you can’t help but wonder what you’re doing with your life when preparing for bed at 7:30 p.m. at 25 so that you can have just enough energy to make it through the final banal work day before the weekend. The sheer willpower dedicated to suppression of culturally imposed impulse is impressive, I would much rather stay up reading or watching television than descend into dreams (this has nothing to do with my recurring nightmares in which I awake in an insane asylum for claiming I can fly souls to the castle on the moon) in order to perform my duties tomorrow.

The mid 20’s lull I’ve hit is a frustrating one. Lack of drive has become a real problem lately. I can’t finish any real writing projects, I can’t seem to make myself care about anything other than the weekend, and I have become quite the impressive little pack rat. Incessant prodding from parental sources both biological and metaphorical has led to little other than a childish urge to become the lazy, worthless bag that it is feared I will wind up as.

This may just sound like a good whine but it has a point.

I was accosted today by an older Italian gentleman who took my suit measurements for an upcoming wedding I will be attending (I will, in fact, be a best man for the first time). He was a kind man, chatty and laughing heartily the entire time he was trying ever so obviously to avoid brushing my junk while he took my inseam, all the while seeming genuinely pleased with himself. I soon learned otherwise.

In the span of about 15 minutes I learned what a roller-coaster of a life this man had led. He offered the information openly and it indeed felt as though he needed to get it out. I learned of the rise and fall of Manager Rich in Pittsburgh, the two marriages of Husband Rich that failed and the ongoing marriage with an apparently wonderful young red-headed Welsh woman, and even further received advice on life from him. He laid down his laws for living as simply as possible, attempting to sway me from the mistakes he made in his own life.

  1. “Never stop striving for what you want.” After losing his 100k annual salary as manager of a Dillard’s in Pittsburgh (insane right, who knew mall managers made that kind of money?) he felt lost, but had the understanding that he had perhaps been so his whole life. In 2004 he vowed to never again work in retail no matter how much the salary offered and yet somehow in 2013 he is selling suits at a JC Penny’s in the middle of Kansas. This has prompted him to reach out to younger people he meets at random and urge them to never stop going to school, never to stop learning, and never to give up what they want in life. Being told by a random stranger to “…get your ass back to that hippie coffee shop and start writing again!” was an oddly helpful push that I never would have had if not for the decision to go to the mall for measurements instead of to Men’s Warehouse.
  2. “Never get married. Well alright,” he further explained that “some just aren’t meant to get married.” As a man who found lucrative employment without the fulfillment he felt he required he had not quite figured out marriage either, despite his current involvement in a matrimonial contract. Some people just aren’t meant to live their life as a shared experience. I don’t see the world that way, but I have also decided on a path. With focus comes fulfillment and the lesson I gleaned from this is that one should know what they want.
  3. “Take care of the people who trust you.” Perhaps the most important lesson the man taught me was also the one I have received from nearly every person close to me at some point or another. Whether it was the friend who I asked to walk home drunk on the ice with a Wii so that I could make out with a woman I had an interest in or the friends who carried me unconscious to my room when I was so sick I couldn’t walk my buddies have always taken care of me, and as often as I can I reciprocate. The experience of life isn’t a solo thing, it can’t be. We are social animals and we need each other, and I am prone to forget that. We all get ‘comfortable’ with our lives when in a rut not matter how much we don’t always like it. Its a story as old as…well mundane civilization. I guess the story is as old as the sitcom if looked at in that context.

This man departed his wisdom, shook my hand (and palmed me his card), and walked away without another word. Few people know what impact they have on others, but sometimes all you need is for an older person with more experience to hope that you can learn from their mistakes. Currently my favorite quote is from Hunter S. Thompson (my favorite quote changes weekly).

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

I have started so many blogs, who knows how long this one will last. Currently it will remain a pointless novelty, but as I sit here thinking morbidly about death in the context of a life not yet lived this man left me with one thought – what stories will people tell about me when I’m gone?

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