In this season's second episode of "Glee," would-be high school dance queen Tina Cohen-Chang got doused with a bucket of red goo during her big moment on stage. But instead of pig's blood, Tina only had to towel off familiar wet, cold slushie, the bane of McKinley High glee club members.
The scene, of course, invoked the unforgettable climax of "Carrie," which first jolted movie audiences in 1976, likely before the parents of the "Glee" target audience reached high school. The "Glee" spoof speaks to the power of one of the most iconic images in horror movie history, perhaps second only to the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho."
But with the new movie version of "Carrie" arriving Friday, can Stephen King's teen telekinesis queen move audiences like she did four decades ago?
Reboots of horror flicks often struggle to follow in the bloody footprints of the originals. Gus Van Sant's 1998 well-meaning, but ill-conceived shot-by-shot redo of "Psycho" succeeded, sadly, in only rocking audiences into apathy. Others remakes are less homage than opportunistic, as we’ve seen in more recent years with unnecessary do-overs of "The Omen" and "The Amityville Horror."
Recreations that fail tend to over-rely on a well-known name – as well as advances in special effects and an increased tolerance for gore – rather than stress taut storytelling. The remakes that work best tap into both the spirit of the originals and the current tenor of the times, finding new ways to scare us and make us think (see the 1978 version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and the 1986 reworking of "The Fly").
"Carrie" has a lot going for her, even if she's an outcast. The story of a scorned teen, particularly in an age where bullies lurk on- and off-line, packs the potential to strike a nerve, even among jaded young movie goers who think they’ve see it all.
At 16, Chloe Grace Moretz – unlike Sissy Spacek, who gave her great performance as Carrie at age 26, and most of the “Glee” cast – is high-school age. Moretz also is a strong young actress who carried the fun, if ultra-violent “Kick-Ass” flicks. Director Kimberly Peirce doesn’t yet have original “Carrie” director Brian DePalma’s long track record, but made a strong impression with her first film, “Boys Don’t Cry.”
The producers are waging a pretty good bet that there’s still something compelling about a teen who can manipulate the physical world around her, even if she can’t control the cruelty of others. That’s evidence by a scary-funny promotional video, released last week, in which a Carrie stand-in wreaks havoc in an effects-rigged New York coffee shop, freaking out real-life customers
The clip is approaching 40 million YouTube hits. Check it out below, along with the far more intense movie trailer, as we wait to see whether the new “Carrie” brings down the house:
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.