Some of the characters and plot points change, but the basic story of Stephen King’s novel Carrie has been adapted a whopping four different times. As has become well-known, King wasn’t confident he had anything in Carrie, at that point still not having broken out as a writer. He threw the pages of Carrie into the trash, only for wife Tabitha to recover them and urge him to finish it. Thank goodness for that, as Carrie ended up King’s first published novel, and also the first King work to become a movie, just two years later in 1976.
By now, the story of Carrie needs little introduction. Possessing latent special abilities since childhood, Carrie’s journey into adolescence awakens the full potential of her powers, mainly in the form of telekinesis. Carrie is a shy, bookish girl burdened with a domineering religious mother, and the opposite of popular at school. That is until she gets asked to the prom, an infamous prank occurs, and Carrie’s fury claims many lives. Carrie has been adapted into four different movies, and here’s a look at them all.
Directed by Brian De Palma, Carrie (1976) was a huge hit upon release, and has carved out a place as a horror classic. Sissy Spacek played Carrie White, while Piper Laurie played her menacing mother Margaret. The screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen was quite faithful to the book, although the device of looking at Carrie’s rampage after it happened was dropped. Amy Irving co-starred as Carrie’s friend Sue Snell, who makes out much better than she did in the book, and William Katt plays her boyfriend Tommy Ross, who takes Carrie to the prom. Nancy Allen and John Travolta memorably fill out the cast as the despicable Chris Hargensen and her violent boyfriend Billy Nolan.
While ostensibly a sequel to Carrie starring the new telekinetic teenager Rachel Lang (Emily Bergl), The Rage: Carrie 2 is really more of a modern (for the 1990s) retelling of King’s story. Amy Irving reprises the role of Sue Snell, now Rachel’s guidance counselor. It also turns out that Rachel is Carrie White’s half-sister (her father was apparently quite prolific), connecting her directly to the first film’s events. Outside of those bits, the plot is almost entirely the same. Rachel begins dating a popular guy, she’s publicly humiliated at a large social event, and then kills basically everyone there with her powers. Like Carrie, she also ends up dead after her massacre, only to feature in one last scare scene before the end credits.
The most obscure of the Carrie adaptations is this 2002 TV movie that aired on NBC. Written by future Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller, Carrie (2002) casts Angela Bettis as the titular teen, who earned raves that same year for the indie horror flick May. Patricia Clarkson assumed the role of Margaret White, while future Lost star Emilie de Ravin played the villainous Chris Hargensen. In an interesting casting change, Sue Snell was played by black actress Kandyse McClure, after being white in both the book and prior films. The TV Carrie was in some ways closer to the book than De Palma’s film, and in others strayed heavily. The biggest change was the ending, in which Carrie survives, and leaves to start a new life in Florida of all places.
Infamously among horror fans, the makers of Carrie’s 2013 theatrical remake starring Chloë Grace Moretz repeatedly insisted prior to the film’s release that it was going to be a new adaptation of King’s book, and not simply a remake of De Palma’s film. Yet, by the time it got to theaters, Carrie (2013) was basically the same movie audiences saw in 1976, in some cases lifting entire shots, and adhering so close to Cohen’s screenplay that they had actually had to credit him as a writer. A pretty pointless adventure, Carrie (2013) has justifiably been mostly forgotten.