In the annals of horror movie history, there are a few moments that are considered most iconic: Carol Ann sitting too close to the TV, Pinhead’s introduction in the hospital room, Regan’s vomit-filled bedside chat, Laurie Strode fighting for her life in a bedroom closet, and of course, Carrie White’s blood-filled prom night.
So, with great curiosity and, honestly, a little skepticism, I joined several other writers on the set of Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie remake in Toronto, to watch the filming of that unforgettable prom scene.
Housed inside what looked like a giant storage space, the Carrie crew had built the Thomas Ewan High School gym decorated for prom, along with the famous locker room strewn with tampons, maxi pads, hair spray and bracelets, and the interior of the White house. Carrie’s room looked like that of a young girl, rather than a teen, with watercolor paintings and a crystal collection decorating the room and a requisite New Testament Student Bible front and center.
Director Kimberly Peirce said her Carrie is not a remake, but something different, a way to develop the characters whose backgrounds didn’t get much time in the original. Specifically, the uber-evil Chris Hargensen.
“What I saw in the book, putting the original film aside, was a chance to really develop Chris as your villain. Who is Chris? Why is she going to pick on this girl? How does that escalate? Actually, what we build in is, not to give it away, but Sue actually starts off as the catalyst of the problem. I'm not going to give it away exactly, but she's the first person to do something in that locker room, and that sets off a chain reaction with the other girls. So Chris follows,” Peirce said.
2013’s answer to Chris is played by Portia Doubleday who, if her role in Youth in Revolt is any indication, is no stranger to the playing a manipulative teen and playing it well. Doubleday said that the challenge for her was not to slip into the convention of being mean, but to consider what brought her to the point of tormenting Carrie.
“ … one thing was to establish the relationship between Chris and Sue and that they are really close and have a really strong bond. And it’s not necessarily in the beginning like the interaction that we have with Carrie isn’t as kind of – to me it was more like I was a part of a pack of girls and it was just kind of that high school fun. It wasn’t aimed directly at her to start. It was just kind of our world and establishing our relationship and how close we were because as things progress you kind of see how my character, I guess, loses herself. Because her world slowly falls apart. I mean, she loses her best friend,” she said.
Peirce also described some of the more interesting taboos explored in the original which she expanded upon. Her updated version on the shower scene makes use of social media, specifically, the tendency of today’s teens to video tape everything.
“There is one thing that I really love that the girls found which is that it's period blood. Period blood is strange. If somebody had period blood and touched you, oh my God, there's a realization that that's a really awkward moment, so there was a reality when we were writing and staging it that we got to build upon. And what I love about our Chris is that she's totally right that her life is getting totally F'd up because of Carrie White. So I made sure to make it that you really saw things through Chris' point of view, “ she said.
Blood is, of course, central to the story. Testing the blood dump again and again, the set used between 300 and 400 gallons of blood in total. Destruction also plays a key role in the remake, along with a heightened emphasis on the telekinesis. Carrie’s room was completely rigged with wires so the bed and furniture could be raised. In the end it was a mix of the practical and digital that created the epic destruction of Carrie’s house and entire town that Peirce was looking for.
“Well, what is the reality of stones raining down and actually destroying a house and sucking it into a crater in the earth? Ain't no reality to that. But if we do it half practical, which we did, and then we build it digitally, which is expensive and I have to cut corners to be able to do that, the spectacle of it ends up being much more satisfying because you can do things you couldn't possibly do, “ she said.
Visual Effects Supervisor Dennis Berardi went into greater detail about how he and Peirce defined the new look of the film and how they are planning to pay homage to the original.
“… in the early days of prep I showed Kim a bunch of crazy footage just to get a sense of the … Lots of movie reference and we kind of found a palette that started to be really physical but needed digital enhancement. … So, we’re shooting in the example of say some of the moments with Carrie and Margaret where Carrie will want to shut Margaret up and do something to her, we’ll put her on a stunt rig we’ll shoot her in a couple different layers with different poses for arms, we’ll composite them all together and give a contorted hopefully shocking effect,” Berardi said.
"The original movie is amazing, it’s fantastic, particularly in the gym destruction sequence there’s a lot of the hose going … there’s a lot of physical stuff. There’s the montage-y bit where that all happens. We’re doing a lot more certainly in terms of destruction. There are moments where we are paying homage. The cable work where we’re ripping out cables, electrocuting people. I think the cables is a bit of an homage to the original movie. Certainly Billy and Chris’ ultimate death is an homage. I’m not sure if you remember how they died in the original version, we have a pretty spectacular death planned.
There has been a constant referring back to the first movie, but there’s also – all the filmmakers have been really sensitive, including myself, to the modern aesthetic and the modern appetite for stronger visual footage.”
Back to the bucket of blood scene at the prom.
Chloe Moretz, who plays the titular Carrie, was ready to make it happen, but a little nervous about how it was all going to play out.
“It’s interesting because I’ve seen a couple videos of what they’re gonna do, and during filming of one of the scenes with Margaret and I—actually where I tell her like, ‘No Momma, I’m gonna go,’ I’m in the prom dress and she’s like, ‘Repent Carrie, don’t do it,’ and I’m like, ‘No Momma, I’m gonna go,’ it was during that scene where I walked off set into the gymnasium and I was just hanging out shooting basketball in my prom dress, and I turn around and they’re like ‘Okay so we’re about to do the blood dump.”’ We were like, ‘Wait, what?’ and literally 30 people just starting filing in trying to watch it, and it happened and it was so cool. So I’m really excited to do it in a second, but it’s like five gallons of a liquid being dumped on your head so it’s really heavy, so they’re like ‘Just don’t fall,’ and I’m like ‘I’m not gonna fall, don’t worry.’ The minute I say that, I’m gonna fall,” Moretz said.
When it was time to shoot, they shuffled the eight or so press folks into a spot behind the action, with a perfect view of the stage. Extras roamed around as the stand-ins for Moretz and Ansel Elgort (who plays Tommy Ross) took to the stage to be bombarded with blood.
Once Peirce was happy with the trial runs, it was Moretz and Elgort’s turn. All the plastic that covered the set for the practice takes was removed and the actors got in their places. I don’t think I could have imagined how satisfying it would be to see five gallons of fake blood hit Moretz, or how perfect she would look when it happened. Watching the replay in slow motion, the waterfall effect was amazing and chilling. Plus, Chloe managed not to fall.
Carrie opens on October 18th from Screen Gems.
Read all of Fearnet's Carrie coverage here and watch the trailer below.