Friday, October 3, 2014

Carrie (2013)

Directed by Kimberly Peirce.
2013. Rated PG-13, 99 minutes.
Chloe Grace Moretz
Julianne Moore
Gabriella Wilde
Ansel Elgort
Portia Doubleday
Alex Russell
Judy Geer
Zoe Belkin
Karissa Strain
Connor Price

When I heard they were remaking Carrie, the horror classic from 1976, I wasn't the least bit surprised. I wasn't uspet, either. I have a few reasons. First, and foremost, its themes are timeless. This isn't some purely 70s flick that would have to be stripped and rebuilt to fit the twenty-first century. We're talking bullying, self-esteem, mother-daughter relationships, and revenge. Nothing dated here at all, aside from the clothing. That brings me to the other reason I didn't mind. A new version will bring Carrie to people who might not seek out the original simply because it came out before they were born. The only question is would it be botched, or not. The answer is yes...

and no.

Where it works is in the tone it's going for. The setup is essentially the same as the original, but the execution is different. Carrie (Moretz) freaks out in the shower at school when she gets her very first period and her classmates respond by pointing, laughing, and trying to stone her to death with tampons. She also learns she has telekinesis, the ability to move things with her mind. The '76 version plays up the idea of young women blossoming sexually and having that filter throughout the rest of the movie. This time around, we go for a straight horror vibe with some actual sex thrown in. Well, not actual, but you get the picture. Everything is immediately somber and scored with ominous music. It's also purposely drab. Carrie's mom Margaret (Moore) speaks in a hushed voice and our bullies are mean about the way they go about being mean. Let me explain that last sentence. In the original, the bullies certainly did awful things to Carrie. However, they went about their business in a jolly manner. They often made us laugh. Here, we get none of that. It's all dead serious to them.

A lack of humor is just one of many differences between this movie and its predecessor. Not only is it apparent in our bullies, but more importantly, in Carrie's mom. The role is played so outlandishly by Piper Laurie in the original, it becomes sublime ridiculousness. It is difficult not to see it as satire. She also has a domineering presence. The iron fist with which she rules is clearly evident. We sense that Carrie fears her mother with every bone in her body. Laurie's performance is simultaneously a pointed jab at over the top religious fanatics while making an effective one, herself. She's a woman who knows that without a doubt that she is empowered by God to do the things she does. Julianne Moore's take on the same character in the remake is almost the exact opposite. She speaks softly, often appearing even meeker than her daughter, cowering in the presence of others. There is no humor in watching a woman who is completely vulnerable and saddened by this fact. Even her outlook on religion feels different. Where Laurie is absolutely empowered by her faith, Moore's Margaret seems to approach it from a place of weakness. She's not a tall standing soldier in His army, but a flower wilting in His presence. Her only hope is that she's repented enough to not be punished for past indiscretions. This is a dramatic difference. It changes the dynamics of her relationship with Carrie to the point where it doesn't quite work. Where the original Margaret is commanding of Carrie's every move, this one seems to be pleading with Carrie to maybe find it in her to attend a church service or two. This makes it harder to believe that she would still take the same steps as the other Margaret at the end of this movie.

Without directly comparing it to the original, this version of Carrie still doesn't quite work. Carrie herself doesn't feel quite fragile enough to pull this thing off. For starters, she's standing up to Mama way too soon. When we get to that all-important prom scene she's less like a person who just snapped and couldn't take it anymore, and more like one who is simply vindictive. It's like she's been waiting for this moment her entire life. Take note of the pause in the climactic scene with her mother. It's one, maybe two seconds of film, but gives the scene a totally different feel than the same scene in the first movie. It feels like something this Carrie has just been itching to do. Spacek's Carrie just has an instinctive reaction to a heightened situation. Another issue is Carrie's classmates. Right from the start, one character is far too remorseful of her actions toward Carrie in the opening scene. This removes lots of mystery from the movie and it doesn't quite feel like the entire school is really against her. Too many people are in her corner for us to feel the need to be there.

Like I said in the beginning, I really don't mind that Carrie was remade. I just think director Kimberly Peirce's approach to the material was a mistake. Trying to make it a straight horror flick doesn't really work. The original was not that. It was a movie that used teen angst and religious commentary in service of a twisted sense of humor that culminated in two fantastic horror movie scenes. It seems she mistook those non-horror elements as ancillary components of the film rather than being integral to its effectiveness. The performances she gets from Moretz and Moore are actually pretty good, but misguided as detailed above. On the other hand, the major plus of the film is its look, including a fairly impressive prom scene. However, and you should know my rule by now, a movie with not much besides pretty pictures is not a good movie.

MY SCORE: 5/10


  1. I'm with you here. I agree, Carrie doesn't feel fragile enough. It's just an overall safe film that has very little to say about anything. Although I will admit that Portia Doubleday played that Chris bitch very well. She really sold that character.

    1. Safe is the correct adjective, sir. It's not actively bad, just so middle of the road.

  2. Superb review dude. Not seen the remake but you make a lot of valid points and perceptions.

    1. Thanks a bunch. Hope you've seen the original.