“Carrie” is going viral.
In the new take on the supernatural coming-of-age story, beleaguered high school student Carrie White’s torment doesn’t merely occur within the gym showers or on stage at the prom. It’s also online, one of a few modern updates dropped into filmmaker Kimberly Peirce’s reimagining of the landmark 1974 novel by Stephen King.
There are references to the “Today” show and “Dancing with the Stars,” tunes from Passion Pit and Krewella playing at the prom and Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz) searching about her burgeoning telekinetic powers online. Outside the movie, “Carrie” is also being marketed with a hidden camera stunt that’s racked up nearly 40 million views on YouTube.
However, the most profound use of technology in this contemporary “Carrie” occurs while she’s antagonized.
“It’s how you raise your story to the level of myth,” said director Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry” and “Stop-Loss”). “Too much specificity is a bore. I thought the characters needed to have cellphones, but they should probably only use them a few times. Otherwise, we’re beating the audience over the head with it. That’s why it was carefully chosen.”
The shy outcast isn’t only ridiculed by fellow students when she experiences her first menstruation — and doesn’t know what’s happening — after gym class, the moment is also captured on a smartphone and later uploaded to the Internet by mean girl Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) and played again on screens during their prom after bullies dump pig’s blood on the teen.
This isn’t just Carrie 4.0 though.
Moretz — who at 16, is the same age as the titular character — believes the broadcast of the digital video amplifies the internal rage of this version of the introverted young woman, who’s been sheltered throughout her life by her fanatically religious mother Margaret (Julianne Moore). It’s a new reading of the tale that’s spawned three movies and a Broadway musical.
“When that blood is dropped on her, I do think she would’ve walked away if that video had not been put up on the screen,” said Moretz. “I do think she would have walked out of that gym, gone home, cried and been fine — figured her life and moved back into her shell. Without the video, I don’t think the telekinesis would’ve taken over her body.”
When it came to filming that iconic scene, which has been endlessly imitated and parodied in the decades since director Brian De Palma’s “Carrie” debuted in 1976, Moretz said she was showered with phony blood just twice. The bigger challenge for the actress was unleashing a totally new interpretation of the classic cinematic moment.
“I had to forget about all that,” said Moretz. “As an actor, I just needed to live in my character and not think about Sissy Spacek’s performance or how this is an iconic scene or anything like that.”
With the aid of computer-generated effects, the blood-soaked mayhem Carrie wreaks is certainly more expansive than the original “Carrie” film, as well as the 1999 sequel and a 2002 made-for-TV movie. Peirce was tasked with balancing expectations without turning Carrie into one of the X-Men or Transformers.
The filmmakers focused more on the novel than the original film, with screenwriter Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa incorporating additional elements from King’s book. While the issue of bullying has become more relevant in recent years and is paramount to the story, the cast and crew didn’t set out to make A Very Special “Carrie.
“There’s a huge spectrum when it comes to bullying,” said Moore. “There are a lot of things that come under that heading like teasing that aren’t necessarily bullying. I kept going back to Stephen King’s impetus for writing the book, and that’s how damaging isolation can be to people.”
Rated R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content
Running time: 100 minutes