Carrie - the book
But before I get to that, let me tell you what "Carrie" means to me. "Carrie" could be one of the biggest contributing factors to me being a writer today. I was first exposed to "Carrie" when a friend loaned me the paperback just after it came out. I was a teenager and read periodically. I just started reading Sci-Fi, and didn't read to much horror. Well, Stephen King changed that. I was literally knocked out my socks by the book. I couldn't put it down. There was something about King's writing that connected with me. I went from being a periodic reader to an almost obsessive one. I couldn't wait for the next King book to come out.
And it made me think about being a writer some day. (Little did I know that seed would take a couple decades to grow.)
Carrie - the Audiobook
Anyway, back to my "Carrie" orgy. Two weeks ago, I listened to the audiobook on my daily commute. It was like going back in time for me, but it also transcended my nostalgia. I could see a nimble and intelligent writer at work. Despite it's deceptively simple surface level plot, this is a complex book. You have the on-going traditional narrative interspersed with an epistolary approach that is quite complex. On top of it all, King uses some of the most overt foreshadowing that I can ever remember reading. Trouble's coming and I have to know about it.
My wife and I had planned to see the most recent silver screen version of the book, and since we have Netflix, I thought it might be a good idea to watch the 1976 DePalma version to allow us to compare it.
Carrie - the movie (1976)
First, I've never been a big fan of this version of the movie. DePalma's treatment seems heavy handed at times and there are several scenes that don't stand of the test of time. That being said, I can say that I found the movie to better than I remembered. This is largely due in part to the strength of the source material and Sissy Spacek's performance. Spacek gives a fantastic and empathetic performance, it's hard not to root for her Carrie. DePalma also charts the course toward the finale with a great sense of tension.
Carrie - the movie (2013)
I had some initial trepidation about this most recent incarnation, largely due to the casting. There's nothing wrong with Chloe Grace Moretz as an actress. She's quite talented. It was just the fact that "Carrie" is about an ugly duckling becoming a swarm and Moretz brings a lot of innate attractiveness to the role that is hard to overcome. Still, she does her best and almost gets over this challenge.
For her part, Julianne Moore does a fantastic job of rendering Margaret White. This is quite a challenging role as it could easily drift in to caricature. While Piper Laurie's performance is somewhat stylized, Moore's is slightly more nuanced.
As for the other roles, I think Amy Irving and William Katt are much better in portraying Sue Snell and Tommy Ross than their contemporaries. Gabriella Wilde's Sue is somewhat plastic and one dimensional. Ansol Algort's Tommy is more nuanced and layered than Wilde's Sue, but he comes off more goofy than earnest.
As for the direction in the new "Carrie," Kimberly Pierce focuses on bullying and its harmful effects. This works to good effect in this re-telling of the story. There are times in the movie when your heart is almost breaking for this young girl who had been tormented.
Comparing the Two Movies
If someone made me choose which version I would recommend. it would be the 2013 version. There are just too many deficits in the 1976 version (e.g. some terribly dated music tracks, the choice of split screens during the climax, etc.). Plus the advances in special effects allows the movie makers to fully realize the climactic scenes in the most recent version.
My only qualms with the new movie is that movie stretches Carrie's abilities past just telekinesis to pyrokinesis which I felt took it too far.
Comparing the Book to the Movies
Comparing the screenplays of the two movies with the original material is somewhat easy because Larry Cohen had a hand in writing both screenplays. If you compare the two movies, you'll hear some line-for-line repetition in the two movies.
Obviously, a movie is no match for the human imagination when it comes to realizing what a movie could be, but Cohen, in my opinion, actually improves the dramatic structure of King's book. I don't want to giveaway the ending, but Cohen switches around two chronological events at the end of the book and finishes the movies with a better dramatic punch with the climax than King did. It's rare that I can say a movie does that, but this is one of those times.
In the end, I say make up your own mind about the movies, but please do yourself a favor and read the book first if you haven't. It's a real treat.
[Author's Note: I have not seen the 2002 TV version, but I sure would like to.]