Carrie may have taken her telekinetic wrath from the 1970s to modern day, but beyond that, Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie falls right in line with the Brian De Palma original. However, even though the films hit all the same beats, share character names, and even some dialogue, the 2013 version isn’t a total copy and paste job. The structure stays the same, but by using a little modernization, additional character details and new scenes here and there, Peirce essentially recreates the same experience while trying to make it her own (read our Carrie remake review).
Whether or not that remake technique works for you, if you’re a fan of the original, it certainly makes pinpointing those differences an entertaining game. Check out all the changes we caught in the new Carrie and let us know which ones you spotted, too.
It goes without saying that the following post contains SPOILERS for Carrie and the 2013 Carrie remake.
The moment Peirce and Co. cast Julianne Moore as Margaret White, you knew momma was getting more screen time. In fact, screenwriters Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa even gave Moore the first scene in the movie. In Stephen King’s book, there’s talk about Margaret’s confusion regarding that enormous (pregnant) mound in her midsection, but here, we actually see that scenario play out.
The blood continues to flow for Margaret thanks to her self-mutilation habit. If she’s not bashing her head against a wall, she’s looking for the sharpest object in the room to give herself a quick jab. On a lighter note, whereas Margaret is mostly homebound in the first film, here we also get to see her hard at work as a seamstress, and according to Sue Snell’s mother, she’s a very talented one, too.
One of the biggest differences between the 1976 release and this new edition is the big finish. Carrie still stabs her mother to death before literally tearing down the house, but before she’s buried alive, she comes face to face with Sue Snell. Even though Sue just watched Carrie murder half of her peers, she’s still hell-bent on doing her good deed, so tries to coax Carrie out of the home before it crumbles. Carrie refuses, but before giving Sue the boot, she informs Sue that she’s having a baby girl.
On top of walking away from this rendition pregnant, Sue Snell also walks away with her sanity. Whereas Sue Snell #1 is left broken and disturbed, Gabriella Wilde’s version struts off with a bun in the oven and enough composure to leave a flower at Carrie’s grave.
Nancy Allen’s Chris Hargensen was your typical high school mean girl. She was popular, had a big mouth, and took pride in torturing girls like Carrie. Not only did this Carrie come with a blonde/brunette swap – Sue Snell becoming a blonde with a heart and Chris turning into a sassy brunette – but the film also turned Chris into a deeply malicious person. Back in 1976, John Travolta’s Billy Nolan took care of business and beat the life out of a poor pig with a sledgehammer, but the 1976 Chris didn’t then hop over the fence and enthusiastically slit the pig’s throat.
Portia Doubleday’s Chris does exhibit inklings of thoughtfulness, like when she gets a look at the gym all decorated for prom and realizes that she won’t be there to enjoy it, but considering that Chris ultimately demands that Billy run Carrie over with his car, those moments wind up feeling a bit out of character.
It’s a new Carrie for a new generation. There’s no modern movie without modern technology, and Moretz’s Carrie certainly feels that wrath. Instead of the pad and tampon-throwing incident becoming a thing of the past, a little cell phone recording and YouTube uploading lets the event plague Carrie throughout the movie. The camerawork even gets a 21st century twist by adopting a shaky camera, POV perspective during the prom sequence. The term “dirty pillows” didn’t seem to appease a contemporary audience considering it gave the large majority a case of the giggles, but a Tim Tebow reference wasn’t particularly well received either.
The modern spin on the classic tale also turned the original film’s score on its head. There are no foreboding orchestral tones here, just unexceptional background music that transitions to soundtrack-friendly tunes like Vampire Weekend’s “Diane Young” during prom time.
Stabbing a character with a dozen knives and having another smash through a windshield is cool, but a couple face-slaps here and there is not. Ms. Desjardin still gives Carrie a good smack during her shower meltdown, but other than that, all violence beyond the horror-themed set pieces has been removed. Ms. Desjardin keeps her hands to herself when punishing Chris for the tampon incident as does Billy when the couple is driving along – but perhaps that’s just because Chris doesn’t call him a “stupid sh*t” in this one.
Alex Russell’s Billy also takes a pass on drinking and driving this round, which is somewhat surprising considering the new Billy has lost all of Travolta’s goofiness and instead comes across as an all-around bad kid with zero compassion and a reckless reputation.
Both versions of Carrie rock R-ratings, but the 2013 film really takes it to heart. Other than a very graphic version of the pig-killing scene, Peirce’s Carrie stays pretty tame until the grand finale – but at that point, all bets are off. Kids are going to die and you’re going to see it. Carrie’s victims aren’t just dragged around the gym and sprayed with a hose. Moretz’s targets are vividly electrocuted, crushed in bleachers, and more. And the massacre doesn’t end there.
This time around, Carrie doesn’t just flip Chris and Billy’s getaway car, watch it explode, and call it quits. She tortures them. Carrie bashes Billy’s face in – right in front of Chris – and then locks her in the car and hurls the vehicle into a gas station. However, even though those stunts run red to the max, it’s the unnervingly intimate and thorough presentation of Margaret’s self-mutilation routine that’ll make your skin crawl the most.
In Brian De Palma’s original, when Carrie is about to boil over, you don’t see it coming. Here, however, Peirce is constantly dropping hints that Carrie is prepping to put her abilities to use. Before Carrie smashes Principal Morton’s water cooler to bits, the water bubbles in the background. There’s also an instance involving a paper cut hinting at the bloodshed to come – and then one during which Chris sends a text message to Sue from the prom, boasting that something terrible is about to happen to Carrie.
If you’re someone who’s seen the original film dozens of times over, these moments are bound to feel heavy-handed. Peirce’s film sticks so close to the progression of the original narrative that you always know what’s coming, making this technique (for many) unnecessarily repetitive.
Not only is this Carrie only a smile away from coming across as a pretty young woman, but she’s far more eloquent, too. Gone are the days of Sissy Spacek’s eerie whispering. Moretz’s Carrie is still a total outcast with a preference for sticking to corners, but when Carrie does feel the need to speak, she does so with far more confidence. Yes, she still begs Tommy to stay in the car for a moment longer because she’s nervous to walk into the prom, but when she does, Moretz’s intonation implies that she’s doing so with a hint of self-assurance.
We also see quite a bit of this during Carrie’s conversations with her mother. Spacek’s character was clearly more comfortable talking to momma than the kids at school, but Moretz takes that one major step further by essentially bossing her mother around. We get a handful of scenes during which Carrie cowers as her mother raises her voice and gives her a good smack, but beyond that, Carrie’s running this show.
Carrie’s newfound confidence is likely directly connected to the fact that in Peirce’s film, she’s a telekinesis whiz. Spacek’s character slowly becomes aware of her abilities after putting them to use involuntarily. Moretz’s version, on the other hand, makes tampons float, demolishes a water cooler, does a bit of light reading and then is ready to crack mirrors at will, float furniture, and banish her mother to the closet.
To go with her more deft telekinetic control, Moretz also utilizes a far more defined physical form to make those things happen. Spacek just stands there with a blank stare on her face, merely eying a target before harming them. In the new Carrie, Moretz is literally moving her body with the action, controlling objects as though one would move things around on an iPad.
Whether you’ve seen the 1976 Carrie once or dozens of times, I’d like to bet you remember P.J. Soles’ Norma. No? Can’t recall a Norma? How about the character wearing a red hat? You absolutely cannot have a female character strut around throughout an entire film donning a bright red baseball hat and not have people notice. Norma even wears the thing to prom while in a dress!
Sadly there is no red hat-wearing character in Peirce’s film, but there is one quick glimpse at a character donning a white one that somewhat resembles the original accessory.
What other differences between Kimberly Peirce’s 2013 Carrie remake and Brian De Palma’s original 1976 movie (not to mention Stephen King’s novel) did you notice? As mentioned the list is not all-inclusive, so share your picks and reactions in the comments.
Carrie is now playing in theaters.