Spanning over four decades, does the Carrie trilogy do anything out of the ordinary or is it all in the mind?
Released in 1976, Carrie was the first Stephen King novel to be published and adapted for the big screen, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. It received two Academy Award nominations generating approximately $33 million in its lifetime, which is incredibly impressive considering the budget was less than $2 million. Continuing the story more than twenty years after the original, The Rage: Carrie 2 arrived to largely negative reviews, and didn’t make too much of an impact when compared to the first film. Unfortunately, the second film never took off throughout its run at the cinema, and seemed to mark the end for the potential franchise. However in 2011, MGM announced that a Carrie remake was on the cards to disgruntled reactions from some big names, including Stephen King himself: “The real question is why, when the original is so good?” The remake was finally released in 2013 to fairly average reviews across the board; it seems Mr King wasn’t alone.
The film’s are all relatively short, comprising of just over 300 minutes in total, and could surprise some that there are even three films. But it is the franchise structure that is most strange; the original is a well-known , critically acclaimed horror film while the 2013 remake is almost a clone of the original film. Due to the second film being largely forgettable and unsuccessful, the franchise appears to really be made up of two serious outings – the first and the last.
Similarly to the Evil Dead franchise, the original dominated as the most favourable of the franchise with a remake in 2013; however, that’s where the similarities stop. Fede Alvarez’ take on the Sam Raimi classic sees a new female lead and a completely different and serious style, whereas the Carrie remake almost replicates what the original film does and never really creating its own identity, despite being an enjoyable standalone film. King’s comments seem to ring truer the deeper we look.
For an iconic horror franchise, it’s surprising to learn that there aren’t that many horror aspects: there are an average of 9 kills per film, with only one person per film being covered in blood. These limited numbers are largely down to the horror aspects happening more towards the end of each film with much quieter building drama beforehand. It’s this overall structure that makes this stand out from other traditional horror franchises. Despite this, with Rachel and both Carrie’s discovering their mental powers throughout the films, it does allow for 63 instances of Telekenisis, with the final film containing 49% of these. From the 63 instances of use they collectively break a total of 12 objects while using their unique powers.
With the popularity of the Scream franchise at the time (released in 1996, 1997 and 2000), The Rage: Carrie 2 couldn’t allow itself to miss the opportunity to reference it in an attempt to connect with a similar audience. The horror trends, outlined in the Scream franchise, awkwardly appear in the second Carrie film shoehorning lines like “What’s your favourite scary movie?” while stalking the lead, Rachel, over a telephone. This never really convinces due to it being heavily disjointed from the nature of the second film in the context of the Carrie franchise. In a nutshell, it’s trying to be something its not while also managing to mock itself at the same time.
Throughout the trilogy we never have a consistent lead actor or even lead character; Sissy Spacek plays the original Carrie, Emily Bergl plays the sequel’s Rachel, and Chloe Grace Moretz plays the remake’s Carrie. Out of the three it’s Moretz that impresses the most, taking the role with both hands and dominating the film; unfortunately 27-year-old Spacek looked old enough to be a teacher, and Bergl was shown as too attractive to fit the role of a lonely and lost lead female convincingly. Bergl’s character was also too popular at school and too flippant with her moral stances to be entirely believable. Despite Moretz holding the prom queen tiara best of the three leads, the film massively lets her down with nothing new brought to the franchise or any of the scenes really differing from the original.
The 1976 Carrie brings something new to the genre with a creepy and lonesome recluse controlling the film; unfortunately, the second film doesn’t really build on this with forced links to the original and a far too popular but apparently unpopular girl who fails to drive home the situation or her bullied victim status. The third film fails to bring anything new to the franchise, but as a standalone horror film delivers a lot of excitement and a modern take on the original. With barely any building of story, a lack of consistently effective horror aspects and no character progression, Carrie is certainly an odd horror franchise, that’s hardly a horror and only just a franchise.
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