By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Carrie White, one of the most complex female villains of the horror film genre, is back in a new movie adaptation of Stephen King's cautionary tale of teen isolation and revenge, this time with a feistier actress, more blood and a dose of modern technology.
"Carrie," out in theaters on Friday and based on thriller writer King's first published novel from 1974, follows the story of an alienated high school girl with telekinetic powers, who rains down destruction on her tormenters after being doused by a bucket of blood at her high school prom.
The novel was adapted into a 1976 film by Brian De Palma, with Sissy Spacek in the starring role.
The new film, the third feature from director Kimberly Peirce, stars 16-year-old "Kick-Ass" star Chloe Grace Moretz in the title role. Julianne Moore plays her religious, fanatical and overprotective mother.
Unlike the 1976 film, which begins with Carrie menstruating for the first time in the girl's locker room at her high school, the latest adaptation starts at the beginning of Carrie's fraught, dysfunctional relationship with her mother, Margaret.
"I chose the fundamental concept of Carrie and her mother as a fight to the death because her mother is afraid that Carrie might be evil, and she's afraid that Carrie exposes her own sin," Peirce said in an interview.
Many of the scenes in Peirce's remake harken back to the 1976 original - the yellow-tiled showers in the locker room where Carrie has her first period appear in Peirce's version, as does the bloody handprint on the gym teacher's shorts, along with Tommy Ross' "to the devil with false modesty" line when the handsome high school athlete persuades Carrie to vote for the two of them as king and queen of the school prom.
The 37-year-gap between adaptations allows Peirce to put her own modern stamp on the classic story, she said. One example is when school bullies film Carrie's hysteria from her first menstruation on their cell phones and upload the video on YouTube - a link to modern-day teenage cyber-bullying.
The use of technology allowed the director, whose 2008 movie "Stop-Loss" dealt with the problems of a soldier returning from Iraq, to place Carrie in a modern scenario. But the bullying faced by the character is as vicious as in the 1976 version and there is even more blood.
"This movie is being made when there is different violence in our culture, it was very important to me that Carrie was not a wanton murderer," Peirce said. "I put in a very strong culprit narrative, that's old-fashioned revenge, American justice, she's just trying to track down the people who hurt her."
CHLOE AS CARRIE
Moretz has already carved a noteworthy career with a range of diverse roles, including a smart-mouthed child in 2009's "(500) Days of Summer," the pre-pubescent potty-mouthed vigilante girl in 2010's R-rated "Kick-Ass," and a moody teenager in 2012 vampire comedy "Dark Shadows."
With so many feisty young female roles under her belt, Moretz said it was a challenge to play someone as introverted, timid and naive as Carrie.
"I myself am very confident, I'm very attuned with my emotions and I'm fine with myself," she said. "I feel older than I am because I feel like I've dealt with more emotions at a young age. So finding the vulnerability in Carrie was interesting."
Despite Carrie's story being written almost 40 years ago, Moore, who developed a strong bond with Moretz during filming, said the film and its messages would still resonate with modern-day audiences.
"The movie is about something that is timeless, the effects of social isolation and what that really does to people. You see Margaret and her self-imposed isolation and what that's done to her mental health, and then you see what people in this community do to this child," she said.
But don't expect Moretz not to channel some attitude into the painfully shy Carrie.
"She's a brilliant girl, she's filled with so much wonder and she wants to know so many things, but she's emotionally stunted. I really wanted her not to be stupid," Moretz said.
Unlike Spacek, who was in her mid-20s when making the 1976 film, Moretz, who was 15 at the film of filming, had the advantage of being in the same adolescent age group as Carrie.
"I remember when I first got my period, I remember that first kiss, I remember when I first really liked a guy," she said. "Everything was fresher than someone who is 24 or 25."
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Ronald Grover and Peter Cooney)