dir. Kimberly Peirce
Release Date: Oct 18, 13
If there’s a major argument to be made for the remake craze, it’s that some movies actually do offer room for improvement. Placed in a different time, and with modern technologies available to them, these ideas have a chance to flourish in a way they couldn’t in an analog era. On some level, Carrie offers this opportunity. While the real meat of the classic 1976 version of Stephen King’s novel is Sissy Spacek’s wilting, terrifying lead performance (and for that matter, Piper Laurie’s as her zealous mother), the original as a whole definitely shows its age in modern times. It doesn’t hurt that King’s story of teen bullying gone horribly wrong arguably needs to be foisted upon modern audiences.
Carrie in its 2013 form, however, hardly does justice to its prescient source material. Though bullying is a major cultural buzzword in the U.S. at present, Kimberly Peirce’s remake makes the fatal mistake of losing its moral center early and often throughout. Her Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz) appears to attend the most sadistic high school in America, a savage place where her lack of preparation for the coming of her menstrual cycle leads to YouTube videos and the kids trawl the halls just waiting to point and laugh. Her mother Margaret (Julianne Moore) is fervent in her religious beliefs, regularly forcing Carrie into a prayer closet to think on her sins; by Margaret’s measure, virtually anything Carrie does or could potentially do falls under the umbrella of “sins.” After her public humiliation, Carrie discovers her gift for telekinesis, an unfortunate turn of events for those who plan to cross her further.
To return to Carrie’s place in the remake craze for a moment, because it’s arguably an unavoidable talking point when discussing the second act of a horror classic, one of the biggest errors most remakes commit is their assumption that you’ve seen the original already and generally know the story. Carrie is terribly paced from start to finish, rushing through beats on the way to the telekinetic gore show because of its unwillingness to linger on anything. The interactions with Carrie and her mother are mostly one-note, as Moretz’s doeish innocence contrast so sharply with Moore’s scenery-gnawing (is there a better actress working today in that department?) that it’s hard for viewers to pretend that anything good will come of this. Likewise, Carrie’s high school arc only exists to set the table for prom, and all the pig blood and sadism therein.
The bigger issue with Carrie, and on a much simpler level, is that it’s not scary. At all. For being Hollywood’s only horror offering this Halloween season, Carrie is less a horror film, or even an engaging thriller, than a Very Special Episode of a CW series stretched out to feature length, where the mean girls are sociopaths and the adults are one-note and the sweet, innocent girl taking her bloody revenge in the end is treated less as a tragic moment of youth being lost to emotional anguish than as the kind of cathartic, crowd-pleasing moment designed to make the viewer whoop as teenagers are trampled to death, burned alive, and forced into explosions for their cruelty. Nobody’s supposed to win at the end of Carrie; it’s a story about what happens when somebody is pushed beyond the limits of their morality and reacts beyond rational definition. There are a lot of corpses at the end of this Carrie, but there’s little reason to care about them.