Me and Lil’ Stevie
Are Moved By
By Peter N. Dudar
(INTERIOR/NIGHT: Establishing shot of a gymnasium filled streamers and balloons and painted banners and signs. High school students in tuxedos and formal gowns are floating and twirling on a wooden floor with gridded basketball lines and circles. In the background, a slow dance number flows through the mid-spring evening. One couple waltzes past the camera, and as the man’s tuxedoed back turns to face us, we see that it is a man holding a ventriloquist dummy in the form of Master of Horror, Stephen King. We also see that Lil’ Stevie is wearing a prom dress!)
Lil’ Stevie: What the…What did you do to me?
Peter: You’re my prom date for the night. You look gorgeous!
(Lil’ Stevie pulls the pin out of his corsage and sticks it right in Peter’s eye.)
Peter: OUCH! Why you little…
Lil’ Stevie: Good evening, Constant Viewer, and welcome to our little column. In this edition, we’ll be reviewing Brian De Palma’s masterpiece adaptation of my very first novel, CARRIE. Now, in case you didn’t know…
(Peter plucks the pin out of his eye and plants it right into Lil’ Stevie’s wooden nose.)
Peter: Hold that thought! Today, we’ll be discussing David Carson’s 2002 made-for-TV adaptation of the REAL Stephen King’s novel CARRIE (USA Network). I was going to have us review the original De Palma film, but the truth is that I just don’t have it on DVD and Netflix only had the newer version. So I figured, what the hay and the two of us sat down and watched it.
Lil’ Stevie: You must have slipped me some Roofies because I don’t remember it. You didn’t molest me or anything, did you?
Peter: Of course not. I’m waiting till after the dance. Now, can we get on with this?
Lil’ Stevie: Just a sec…(pulls pin out if his nose and tosses it aside). Alright, get on with it!
Peter: For the two people out there who have never read the book or watched the movie, CARRIE (played originally by Sissy Spacek and, in this version, by horror-fan fave Angela Bettis, who also starred in Lucky McKee’s MAY, 2002), is the ultimate high school loser. She is the epitome of tragic figure: her mother is a fanatical religious nut who has raised her in ritual obedience and punishment, her fellow schoolmates absolutely loathe her because she is incapable of fitting in, and we get the impression that she has absolutely no hope within herself to ever find happiness in any part of her life.
Lil’ Stevie: Hell, when I was writing the book, even I wanted to slap her!
Peter: That’s terrible! But you didn’t write the book, so quit interrupting. This version of the movie begins with Carrie’s mom Margaret White (Patricia Clarkson, SHUTTER ISLAND, 2010) delivering her baby at home, in her own bed, all by herself. Apparently, Carrie’s deadbeat dad was long gone by this point.
Lil’ Stevie: Would YOU want to stick around with that psycho-head?
Peter: I suppose not. But this little glimpse of Carrie’s life is missing from the original movie, as was the rain of burning stones directly afterward.
Lil’ Stevie: At least that follows what I wrote in my book…
Peter: Jump ahead the seventeen-plus years of her life to her senior year of high school, where the mousy, beaten-down Carrie practically tiptoes through the halls of the school with her head down and her books clutched in a death grip in front of her. We see her in her daily classes, where the other kids carelessly pick on her and laugh at their own delight. We see her in the library, where she sketches in her notebook a picture of a heart, with her and her crush, Tommy Ross (Tobias Mehler, DISTURBING BEHAVIOR, 1998) holding hands and living happily ever after. And we see her in gym class, where she strikes out to end the softball game.
Lil’ Stevie: She’s on the Loserville Express!
Peter: It’s no wonder the other kids pick on her. She sucks at life!
Lil’ Stevie: I shoulda just euthanized her back in chapter 3, so she didn’t have to endure all the punishment I throw at her.
Peter: Like when all of a sudden, at the end of adolescence, she suddenly has her first menstrual cycle in the girl’s shower? Only to have all the other girls peering at her over the shower stalls and chanting terrible things at her? And then they fill her locker with tampons and write “Plug it up!” in magic marker on the locker door for all the world to see?
Lil’ Stevie: (Chuckling) Yeah, that may have been a little over the top.
Peter: Actually, no it wasn’t. That’s the kind of cruelty you can only find in teenagers. They suck! It’s a developmental thing…camouflage your own flaws by pointing out the shortcomings of others. It’s a defense mechanism. Three parts projecting, two parts pack mentality. And with a bunch of high school girls, all riddled with their own self-esteem issues, it becomes very convenient to find a weaker target and throw garbage at her.
Lil’ Stevie: Only, MY pile of garbage has telekinesis!
Lil’ Stevie: Telekinesis! The ability to move objects with your mind.
Peter: Oh, like this…
(Peter closes his eyes and concentrates, and suddenly Lil’ Stevie begins smacking himself in the face over and over again.)
Lil’ Stevie: OUCH! Hey, knoc…OUCH! Quit it!
Peter: (Laughing) Sorry. I got CARRIE’d away. Get it?
Lil’ Stevie: You’re an imbecile!
Peter: Anyway, for their stunt in the locker room, gym teacher Rita Desjarden (Rena Sofer, TRAFFIC, 2000) tells the rotten little bitches that if they want to go to the senior prom, they will be spending a week in detention with HER. Which means they will be running laps on the track until they puke.
Lil’ Stevie: …And since most of them want to lose those last few pounds before prom anyway…
Peter: Of course, the actual perpetrator, Kris Hargenson (Emilie De Ravin, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, 2006) refuses and declines her prom privileges, and she begins hatching a scheme to get even with Carrie. Even though none of it was Carrie’s fault, Kris blames her and simply wants to punish her.
Lil’ Stevie: God, she is such a bitch!
Peter: De Ravin plays the role perfectly. You can feel the hate just oozing out of this girl, when the reality is that she’s a spoiled brat who is used to getting everything she wants. Seeing just how well she performed here made me wonder if actresses enjoy playing this kind of role, especially when it is nothing like themselves in real life, and if it somehow impacts their reputation, as some people can’t seem to distinguish characters from their portrayers.
Lil’ Stevie: You think too much.
Peter: The other girls commit to doing Ms. Desjarden’s detention so they can go to the prom. But Sue Snell (Kandyse McClure, MOTHER’S DAY, 2010) actually feels guilty about the whole shower incident. Wanting to clear her conscience and actually show poor Carrie some compassion, she decides to also opt out of the prom, and encourages her boyfriend Tommy Ross to take Carrie to the prom as her date. She sets the wheels in motion with no knowledge of what Kris is up to, and the catastrophic results that will later ensue.
Lil’ Stevie: And while all of this is going on, Carrie is discovering her supernatural powers. Developing them, so to speak. We see her as she begins to spasm and convulse, and then she’s moving hairbrushes off tables and throwing the rude little kid on his bicycle into a tree after he taunts her.
Peter: You know, I’m glad you mention this. This aspect of the movie reminded me of Harry Potter, and how he reacted to the mean people in his life. I kept waiting for Hagrid to pop out and go, “You’re a wizard, Carrie!”
(Harry Potter suddenly appears on the dance floor.)
Harry: Did somebody just say my name? Brilliant!
Lil’ Stevie: Avada Cadavra!
(A light fixture suddenly falls from the ceiling and crushes the boy wizard to death.)
Peter: Why did you do that? I loved Harry Potter. Even the Real Stephen King loves Harry Potter!
Lil’ Stevie: He was a tool!
Peter: The rest of the movie is the unavoidable catastrophe that has been set in motion: The prom, the terrible prank that Kris and her boyfriend Billy Nolan (Jesse Cadotte) play on Carrie, and the vengeful wrath of a girl that has been pushed too far by her mom, by her classmates, and by life in general.
Lil’ Stevie: Which begs the question, was remaking Brian De Palma’s original masterpiece worth it?
Peter: Well, there are several things to consider. First is that Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie absolutely nailed the roles of Carrie and her mother in the original version. The photo of Spacek dripping with blood is iconic to us horror fans. Second, De Palma’s version has the “jump out of your seat” popcorn horror moment at the end, when Sue Snell visits her grave. Third, the gymnasium sequence, when the camera goes to split and multiple screens of the chaos that happens after Carrie gets pig blood dumped all over her is some of the best horror ever committed to celluloid. It’s amazing to behold.
Lil’ Stevie: But in this version, we have a whole different ending…
Peter: Which we won’t give away to those who still want to see it. Look, this version is not terrible at all. In fact, it’s quite good all the way up to the bogus ending. Bettis is a fantastic actress, and she really does give a great performance here. As do most of her castmates. Where this film succeeds is stripping away all the bad fashion sense of the late 70’s and adding the up-to-date touch of cellphones and technology. Carrie goes to the library and Googles her special powers rather than have to hunt through books to learn about it. It makes the story more accessible to today’s teens.
Lil’ Stevie: But it’s not the original. And it never captures the power of De Palma’s vision.
Peter: Close, but no cigar!
Lil’ Stevie: Well, then…Let’s have some fun. I wanna spike the punch and have a few drinks before Carrie gets up on stage.
(Lil’ Stevie suddenly swings his arm up and begins smacking himself in the face over and over again.)
Lil’ Stevie: OUCH! I told you to…OUCH! STOP IT!
Peter: I’m not doing it!
(Carrie walks over and confronts the two.)
Carrie: That’s for making my life such a bummer. You didn’t have to be such a creep and write my life to be this way!
Lil’ Stevie: I’m sorry! I’m sorry!
Carrie: (To Peter) How would you feel about ditching this little jerk so you and I can go have some fun?
Peter: (To Lil’ Stevie) Later, Stevie. See you next time, folks!
(Peter drops the puppet on the floor and takes Carrie by the arm, and the two exit the gym. From out of nowhere, a stream of blood comes gushing out, spilling all over Lil’ Stevie in his prom dress. The doors slam shut just as the flames begin to engulf the school…)
Lil’ Stevie: You just wait till I write the sequel! Don’t leave me…NOOOOOOO!
© Copyright 2012 by Peter N. Dudar