When the current theatrical reboot (a sequel and toothless TV remake had already come and gone) of Carrie was announced, there was a lot of teeth gnashing and cries of “leave the classics alone!,” mostly by me. But as details began to leak out, the prospect became more intriguing. Gay director Kimberly Pierce gave us the masterpiece Boys Don’t Cry, and the fabulous Julianne Moore signed up to play Carrie’s psychotic fanatical mother. Chloe Moretz doesn’t look anything like Stephen King’s Carrie, but then neither did Sissy Spacek, so I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.
Carrie was supposed to open in March, but the studio has pushed it back to October, which means they’re either hoping for Halloween dollars … or it’s a sign of a troubled production.
But while we wait to rain judgment down on the new version of our favorite telekinetic teen, let’s take a look at other put-upon girls who were pushed too far and fought back against their tormentors. Whether with psychic powers, witchcraft, or … undetermined, these are all “Girls With The Power” and you’d better treat them right … especially if you’re a stuck-up blond.
Summer Of Fear
Summer Of Fear (aka Stranger In Our House) is one of the greatest TV movies of the 70’s (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise), and one of the early jewels in the crown of director Wes Craven. Linda Blair (with her all-time greatest ’fro) stars as Rachel, whose life is thrown into turmoil when her cousin Julia (Lee Purcell) comes to live with her and her parents after the mysterious deaths of Rachel’s aunt and uncle. It soon becomes apparent that Julia is up to no good, as she usurps Rachel’s boyfriend … her father … and her horse! Rachel is the only one who can see through her cousin’s lies, and begins to suspect that Julia may be … hiding something. Um … possibly. Don’t piss off an Ozark Witch!
This 1981 TV movie featured the inspired casting of two beloved America’s Sweethearts, Melissa Sue Anderson and Mary Beth McDonough, from Little House On The Prairie and The Waltons, as rival high school girls who discover that they both have the ability to demolish a shop class. Actually, the movie was a who’s who of early 80’s TV stars, including Marion Ross, Cathryn Damon, Gordon Jump and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her Vanna White as a cheerleader. Melissa is bad girl Vivian, and Mary Beth is the good but bland Robin, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I am Team Viv all the way, especially when Robin had the audacity to spray paint Viv’s Jordache jeans green. She needs to pay!
The Initiation Of Sarah
One of the most beloved TV movies of the 70’s, it is, of course, a ripoff of Carrie, but it’s a great ripoff, and stands on its own. That’s mainly because of the cast, with Kay Lenz a vulnerable, sympathetic victim of the faboo sorority bitch Morgan Fairchild (whose face ends up steak tartare). Add in Shelley Winters at her most weezing (and it sounds as if she’s either ad-libbing every single line, or being fed the script through an earpiece) as the Housemother From Hell, and such TV mainstays as Morgan Brittany and Robert Hays.
Jennifer (Lisa Pelikan) is a poor backwoods girl with a special power. She can control snakes! (in fact, the original title of the film was Jennifer: The Snake Goddess). When she was a kid a local boy was killed during a demonstration of her power, and she had vowed never to use it again. Of course, that might change after she gets a scholarship to a snooty school, and is immediately pounced on by the rich girls. In addition to the fabulous Lisa, we also get 70’s favorite Bert Convy and our gay brother Wesley Eure. You can see the trailer below, which has been made to resemble Carrie as much as possible, and makes almost no mention of Jennifer’s actual power!
Creepers (aka Phenomena)
A year before she walked through the Labyrinth, a 15-year-old Jennifer Connelly starred in this typically (thankfully) overwrought production from horror icon Dario Argento. Her character Jennifer (what’s with all these Jennifers?) attends an academy for girls, and when her roommate is murdered, Jennifer becomes the next target, and tries to survive with the help of her special power. She can control insects! Because this is an Argento film, the insects are mostly … flies and maggots. It also has the greatest “murderous chimpanzee brandishing a razor” scene ever filmed. It’s that kind of movie. If you seek it out, make sure it’s the original uncut version titled Phenomena.
Speaking of iconic Italian horror directors, Lucio Fulci tried his hand in 1987. After a cruel prank leaves schoolgirl Kathy in a coma, she uses her psychic powers to possess the body of a classmate and exact Italian horror movie revenge on the teens responsible. That means impossible gore, bizarre dubbing, a terrific soundtrack, and an infamous naked “Death By Snails” scene.
For his follow-up to Carrie, Brian DePalma went back to the telekinetic well, with lesser results. Amy Irving (who survived Carrie’s wrath) had the powers this time, and uncovered shady business at the Clinic For Psychic Teens. Andrew Stevens co-starred as a troubled boy with one hell of a migraine, and their kinetic connection would lead to a Grand Guignol denouement.
In this TV movie, Susan Myers stars as Rita, who is constantly teased and bullied because of her alleged weight problem, and is given no sympathy from her bratty younger sister, played by Helen Hunt, who is described by Rita as “A simpering little toad who traps you with all her looks. Underneath she’s weak, stupid, unworthy and useless.” Aside from Susan (who sadly hasn’t acted again since Revenge Of The Nerds), the main reason to see this is Lee Grant, who plays Rita’s mother and is a force of nature in every scene. Below you can see the VERY Carrie-esque opening scene. And you can see the entire film on HULU.
As a bonus, here’s one of my favorite scenes in all of 70’s TV movie history.
Friday The 13th Part VII
Or as most people think of it, Carrie Vs. Jason. Lar Park Lincoln stars as troubled telekinetic Tina, who years earlier had accidentally sent her father to a watery grave at Crystal Lake. Now a “teen,” she and her mother return with her sleazy therapist, who has a hidden agenda to goad Tina into using her powers in order to exploit them. It works, too well, as Tina inadvertently raises Jason from the dead (I hate when that happens). Soon Jason is on the rampage again, cutting down a nearby house of “teens,” (including the gorgeous, out Kevin Spirtas), and has a final showdown with Girl Who Stares At Boats Tina.
Another Stephen King heroine, Charlie McGee was played by Drew Barrymore in her first role since E.T., and she did well, considering most of her pyrokinesis scenes consist of a leaf blower under her chin.
After her beloved Tara is killed by a stray bullet from an asshat with a gun, Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Willow Rosenberg is filled with grief and rage and unleashes her inner dark forces, threatening to destroy … well, everything. She eventually gets revenge on Tara’s killer (with some … extreme exfoliation), and manages to control her temper. You can see a gif of Willow’s rage below. Unfortunately, I can’t provide video, because every single Willow clip on the internet is accompanied by that damn “Bring Me To Life.”