Now, call me naive, but I have always had great faith in horror remakes despite so many of them being hugely disappointing and often unnecessary. Still, there are rare times where, as a result of vast improvements in filmmaking technology (and just good fucking filmmaking in general), remakes have been just as good, if not better, than the original. I decided to put myself through rewatching both the 1976 and 2013 versions of Carrie to be able to more fairly and freshly decide whether or not this was one of those times.
Spoiler alert: it most definitely was not.
Speaking of which, the characters that constitute Carrie’s peers in 1976 also differ from the ones we see in 2016. Now, I feel like I have to say that differences in characters found in remakes are not always bad. In fact, changes are usually encouraged; otherwise, why is the movie being remade to begin with? But this is only true when the differences strengthen the weaknesses the original rendition might have had, which is not the case with Carrie. Besides Carrie, her peers also pale in comparison to the original characters from 1976. For example, Billy, as played by John Travolta in 1976, was written as the goofy boyfriend of Carrie’s primary tormenter, Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen). In 2013, his character (played by Alex Russell) doesn’t have the silly characteristic and is instead written as the school’s “bad boy” who completely lacks any hint of empathy or personality. Not that Travolta’s Billy isn't still a complete jack-ass, but tiny details like his goofiness made it easy for the audience to still kind of like him, therefore making his merciless murder a little bit more impactful on us. This also applies to other characters like Portia Doubleday’s Chris Hargensen, who in 2013 maliciously kills the pig to harvest its blood, whereas in 1976 she had Billy do it for her. While only minor character details are changed, it still hugely affects the tonal shift (which we’ll touch upon later) in 2013, making it a way less effective transition from dreamscape to nightmare when Carrie is pushed over the edge the way the 1976 original does effortlessly.
What I felt was most badass and effective about 1976 Carrie was that her powers felt involuntary and triggered by her torment. It made her all the more terrifying, and also made her a victim of not only her peers but also her own omnipotence. This is also the case when we look at the turning point of Carrie: the prom. This is where that “tonal shift” I mentioned earlier comes into play. One of my favorite things about the 1976 original is the dreamy nature of the movie, all the way through to where we see Carrie at prom. We sympathize with her and want her to have a genuinely successful prom night although we know that probably won’t happen. Because throughout the movie she didn’t exactly show signs of seeking revenge and just genuinely wanted to be left alone, the shift is way more effective when she goes from the helpless Carrie we knew to completely losing her shit and unleashing a merciless wrath upon everybody, even those who tried to help her. In 2013, the shift becomes blurred since we pretty much expected Carrie to do what she does, making it less effective. Another thing that made her vengeance a little less persuasive is the fact that she lets her gym teacher (who had previously been trying to help Carrie throughout the movie) go free, which she doesn’t do in 1976. Because of this, it almost subdues Carrie’s power as something that she can control as opposed to a telekinetic instinct that (while she is able to manipulate) controls and overcomes HER, ruthlessly destroying anything that tests her.
The Other Stuff
The Final Verdict