Review: Carrie (2002)

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Carrie (2002) Directed by David Carson. Cast: Angela Bettis, Patricia Clarkson.

Since we’ve got a review of Teeth coming up this week, a tale of a teenager with some bizarre modifications, I thought I’d review Carrie, another teenager with an unusual gift.
Carrie was wildly successful upon its release. The reason? I’m guessing because we’ve all met (or been) a Carrie. You know: the bullied kid at the bottom of the social ladder whom everyone loves to torture. It’s a tale with universal appeal and one that would resonate, perhaps even more strongly, with a post-Columbine generation.
The first adaptation of the movie is a worthy flick directed by Brian DePalma. It’s also totally 70s. Not that this was a bad choice, but I can see why other directors might have wanted to put their contemporary spin on the story of a teenager who discovers blossoming telekinetic powers that arrive with her menstruation. Still, I wondered why we got a 2002 remake of the film, considering that the Carrie sequel is, essentially, a remake of the first film (or perhaps it is a reimagining?) transported to the 90s. To have a film, three years later, that again reexamines the material in the same setting seemed odd, though after seeing it, I learned the reasons behind it. More on that later.
The new Carrie is an adaptation on the cheap, made for TV. There are no great set pieces or effects. The direction is by-the-numbers. Not bad but mechanical. The story is quite close to the original, adopting a storytelling device similar to the one used in the novel (which is epistolary in certain portions), by having the characters narrate the events to police officers conducting an investigation. Overall, it’s surprisingly decent.
The best part of the movie is the portrayal of Angela Bettis as Carrie. Bettis became famous for her role in May (which is basically the tale of an adult Carrie going ballistic in a slightly different way), a flawed film which, in my view, got many of its rave reviews, not due to the direction or script, but to Bettis’s portrayal. She has a knack for playing tortured outcasts and this means that her Carrie is top-notch. Sissy Spacek’s Carrie is also very good, but she seems softer and more likeable. There is something creepier in Bettis, though it is mixed with enough vulnerability to make us root for her.
Ultimately, it’s not the adaptation to dethrone the first version, but it’s a worthy effort. It was intended as a pilot for a TV show, which ultimately explains its existence and shortcomings. The idea seems to have been to have Carrie on the lam, developing and trying to control her telekinetic powers (In this flick, when she uses her powers, she seems to go into a trance and has little idea of what is happening). Sue Snell might have been her companion and friend.
The idea of a Carrie show sounds stupid on paper, but I might have liked to see that. If you remove the Carrie name and picture two teenage girls, one with dangerous psychic powers and the other the regular girl trying to keep her in check, it actually seems doable. It might play like a female Supernatural roadshow with the characters trying to evade capture by police officers and shady individuals intent on using the heroine for their devious purposes, perhaps discovering dark and secret conspiracies, other telekinetic-powered enemies, and the like. A Xenaesque tale with sci-fi underpinnings. Maybe someone can take the general concept and spin a show out of it.

The re-make of Carrie is available through