Stephen King’s 'Carrie' more dangerous than ever

This photo released by Sony Pictures shows Gabriella Wilde, left, and Chloe Moretz in a scene from "Carrie." (AP Photo/Sony Pictures, Michael Gibson)

In 2011, grumblings within Hollywood were finally silenced when MGM announced it would, in fact, green-light a remake of the 1976 horror classic, "Carrie," based on the Stephen King novel.

It would take another year or so before the production's director was announced, award-winning cinema renegade Kimberly Peirce, and within months Oscar-nominated actress Julianne Moore, and up-and-coming 16-year-old starlet Chloe Grace Moretz were signed on as the leads.

Aiming for a spring 2013 release date, "Carrie" didn't appear nationwide until Oct. 18.

Almost immediately, reviewers and audience members started griping. "Carrie: 2013" wasn't a "re-imaging," as Peirce had promised. Using Lawrence D. Cohen's original 1976 screenplay, the rebooted "Carrie" was a slavish, at times almost sequence-by-sequence, remake of director Brian De Palma's original film.

It's reasonable to expect that a film whose heroine unwittingly suffers her first menstruation in a high school locker room, is ridiculed by her peers for her ignorance and awkwardness, is abused at home by a religious zealot of a mother, goes on to be humiliated at her high school prom in an unspeakable manner, and ends up razing her high school gymnasium to the ground (along with a fair number of her classmates) in a massacre brought on by her telekinetic abilities would be controversial.


But it's the creative team behind "Carrie" who have complicated matters by insisting that the tale of this ugly duckling misfit gone awry, this Cinderella with a vengeance, is, in fact, a socially relevant "message" picture.

Relevant, yet dangerous

Peirce, whose 1999 feature film "Boys Don't Cry" also featured a social outcast meeting a tragic end while trying to assimilate (Hilary Swank, as a young woman posing as a boy in Nebraska, and taking home her first Oscar), said from the beginning she was returning to Stephen King's original novel, and intended to hammer home an anti-bullying message aimed at the moral climate we're faced with in today's society.

"I am also modernizing the story as one has to in order to bring any great piece of work written in one era into the next and especially given how very relevant this material is right now," Peirce proclaimed on Facebook in 2012.

That same year, Cohen, who has worked on every major revival of "Carrie" (including the Broadway musical) said, "Forty years after the writing of this book, it is more resonant and more relevant, and sadly truer than it ever was."

In the wake of school shooting massacres in Columbine, Newtown, and the recent tragedy in Sparks, Nev. offering "Carrie" up as a stance against bullying isn't only faulty logic, it's dangerously irresponsible.

In 1976, when horror films could be schlocky, sexy, scary, and funny, "Carrie" didn't require a socially redeeming reason to exist. All you had to do, De Palma proved, was root for the title character.

By relegating the supporting cast to largely one-dimensional portrayals of glittering maliciousness, the emotional emphasis of the film was shifted onto Sissy Spacek, who turned in a sensitive, heart-wrenching, and Oscar-nominated performance as Carrie.


Today, that same lack of character development makes the "heroine" more horrific than her tormentors, and the message seems to be that her ultimate act is somehow justified.

Isolated, with a rage-induced power she's unable to control, Carrie exacts her revenge on her classmates because they're unwilling to accept her differentness.

License to kill?

Surely that's not an anti-bullying lesson anyone wants to be teaching. In fact, in 2013, it's unacceptable.

Whether they intended it or not, the creators of "Carrie" have failed to realize that her actions can't be justified in any morally credible way, not when they're so closely aligned with the all-too-real atrocities perpetrated by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in Columbine, Colo. in 1999, and Adam Lanza in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.

Of course, there are those who say "Carrie" is just a movie, that her telekinetic powers are different than real-life gun violence. That's true. But it's the creators who have unadvisedly invited such comparisons.

Horror films, as many critics have noted, should not be condemned because they feature nuanced portrayals of graphic violence, rather it's gratuitous violence coupled with a lack of consequences that should cause alarm.

What, we then have to ask, are the consequences of Carrie's actions? Ultimately, it's mass murder in a high school.


No one involved in the current remake of "Carrie" could've have know that, on the Monday following its release, another horrific school shooting would happen Sparks, Nev., this time at a middle school.

But they should've realized that, in re-envisioning a gruesome piece of pop culture in today's social landscape, they had a moral obligation to offer a meaningful solution to the terrifying violence our kids face today.

And that solution should never end in mass death.

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