So after enduring the travesty that was House I decided to read a book that was guaranteed to be amazing, so who else could I possibly read but Stephen King! I think it’s impossible to love horror and not love Stephen King, even if you’re not the world’s biggest horror fan you probably still have read at least one or two of his books. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book as I remember reading that Stephen King didn’t like, and still doesn’t, like this book as he chose a main character he knew nothing about (a teenage girl). So I was wondering if the tone of this book would be drastically different from some of his other books I read like IT, where the main character is an author… Or The Shining,where the main character is an author… Or Salem’s Lot..where the main character is….well you get the idea! Well I will say it was certainly dramatically different than his later stuff, but it was still an absolutely incredible read and washed the taste of House out of my mouth. I can certainly imagine why it shot him into superstardom, and here’s why:
The Main Character
Ah Carrie. What is there to say about Carrie that hasn’t already been said over the years as movie and stage told her story again and again and again. Going into this book I had seen so many different adaptations of this story that I thought I already knew all there was to know about her, but the book gave you such a stronger insight into her backstory and her mind frame during the climax. The movies portray her as a ticking time bomb who’s incredibly timid, compliant and naïve. And certainly she sometimes displayed those qualities. But while reading this you found that she was often rebellious (hiding make-up and less conservative clothes in her locker, fantasizing about boys, arguing against her mother’s religious teachings). She wasn’t always the whiny childish character you’d see in the movie who would begin crying the moment her mother began yelling at her. Often she’d yell back at her and harbored some deep resentment towards her for being the cause of her not fitting in. Finally during the climax you actually got to see what she was thinking during the entire thing and you realize that the entire burning of the school was a pure accident. Carrie means to turn on the sprinklers to ruin everyone’s hair, makeup and dresses just as hers were ruined. She unknowingly sprays water on the electrical equipment that is the source of the fire and once she realizes what she’s done she is horrified. This throws her into a state of dissociation and eventually yes she does snap and destroys the town as her raw emotion take over her psychokinetic power. In my mind she was so incredibly sympathetic in this, much more so than she was in the movie, as she became more of a person here. In the adaptations she’s almost a caricature of a timid person, whereas in this she is a well-developed well thought out character that’s incredibly relatable.
Okay so you thought the mother in the movie was over the top evil and mentally ill? Then read this book and have your mind blown. You don’t understand just how strong the mental illness in this character is until you read this book and you explore her backstory. She was a zealot in every sense of the word believing just about anything to be a sin. She wasn’t of the mind that Carrie shouldn’t meet boys because unmarried people shouldn’t consummate, she was of the mind that literally anyone shouldn’t consummate. She often told Carrie she was her sin because after years of being married her and Carrie’s father consummated once and gave into desire and as a result God was punishing them with a wicked child. Her father apparently was no better, he was said to be a contractor who would carry a loaded revolver to the worksite with him in case someone made a blasphemous comment. Carrie’s mother cursed the neighbour’s daughter for sun tanning – in a conservative one piece bathing suit – she argued with the school board that her daughter shouldn’t be forced to shower after gym class as flesh should never be looked at and she often refers to breasts as “dirty pillows” that only develop on loose women so they can sin. Many times throughout Carrie’s life Margaret attempts to kill her as she believes her telekinetic powers are a result of her being a witch. Carrie is usually saved by circumstance but regardless, her mother continuously tried to kill her. TO KILL HER! That is infinitely worse than just locking her in the closet as that’s really all the movie ever showed her doing. And I understand because if they showed the scene of Carrie as a baby levitating her bottle and Margaret attempting to murder her (as a baby) then the movie would almost surely have never been made. Overall she was much more of a villain in the novel then she was in the movies, and was more terrifying as a result.
If you haven’t read Nick Cutter’s The Troop, what’s wrong with you? Go out there and read it right now! But if you have then you’ll know where his story telling style for that novel came from and it’s from Carrie. Both books utilize press clippings, newspaper articles, interviews and police statements from the future as a method of foreshadowing but also to get you enthralled in the story. Immediately you know that Carrie murdered the majority of the town using her telekinesis but you don’t understand why. The interviews often speak with the survivors as they tell their own personal story of seeing Carrie drenched in blood, walking down the street and downing power lines or exploding gas stations, etc. You hear transcripts from the investigation where a committee tries to determine who is at fault and if Carrie was actually telekinetic. And then you flip back to Carrie’s story where she’s happily sewing her prom dress, so you always feel unsettled. You constantly just want to stop the horror from happening as you see her so happy, but alas when she’s done making her prom dress and starts day dreaming of Tommy you turn the page and it’s a news report of how they found Tommy’s burnt body. It’s a strong method of telling the story and really it was what made it as scary as it was.
The Film(s)/Stage Adaptation
I’m going to be honest with you, I have yet to see Carrie the Musical. Disappointing and shocking I know! And no please don’t think that I’m lying, there is 100% a Carrie Musical, if you’re currently in the UK then you can go watch it right now in London! Anyways! I loved the original Carrie film, and thought the made for tv movie was kind of okay, and I never ended up seeing the reboot and from what most reviews said, I didn’t need to. Since the original film is the best adaptation (not just by mine but by everyone’s standards) I’ll mostly discuss that one! It was nearly identical to the book with a few scenes involving Carrie’s childhood cut out for obvious time constraints. Carrie is perfectly cast in that movie (the legendary Sissy Spacek) as she is described in the book as an incredibly socially awkward and yet subtly pretty girl. She’s described as having her attractive features overlooked due to her bulky unattractive clothing and timid personality. Carrie’s mother on the other hand….well I feel like the actress playing her mother (Piper Laurie who earned a Oscar nom for this) acted the part perfectly, her description in the book makes you think that the director just kind of skipped over this part. She’s described as being incredibly unattractive and overweight……not words you’d really use to describe Piper Laurier (or Julianne Moore really). But regardless he had the perfect personality for it and really captured how over the top dominating she was. It was too bad they didn’t dive further into her back story the way the book did because it’s just absolutely captivating and really paints a clearer picture of just how intense she is. Overall if you loved the book then watch the original film and leave it there, you don’t need to see the 10000 re-imaginings and reboots of it. That is unless you’re in London, in which case turn off the West London Derby and go watch the critically acclaimed Carrie the Musical!
I absolutely loved this book and recommend it to absolutely everyone. Whether you love horror or not it’s such a captivating read and isn’t the type of stuff to give you nightmares. It’s set up as more of a mystery and a sympathetic story about a sheltered young girl. I know Stephen King hated it when he wrote it, but you can definitely tell why it launched him into super stardom. Overall I recommend it to everyone.
Up next, I’m tackling the iconic Exorcist. Let’s hope I can sleep comfortably when I’m done!