Movie Review: Carrie
By Matthew Huntley
October 22, 2013
We’ve reached a point in modern cinema where remakes are a dime a dozen and no original is sacred enough to be simply left alone. Horror is the dominant genre for this exercise, probably because its movies have the most recognizable concepts and the filmmakers don’t have to do a whole lot in terms of introducing the audience to the story and characters. They assume we’re already aware of the broad strokes and they can therefore focus their attention on updating, rather than re-inventing, the movie’s superficial components.
With this in mind, we’ve also reached a point in modern film criticism where it would be futile to complain about how most remakes are unnecessary and don’t really bring anything new or exciting to the table. They merely work at upping the original’s sensationalism and presentation factors while diluting its substance and characterizations. Unfortunately, this course has become so common we automatically expect it.
So rather than dwell on the obvious, let me save us some time by saying Carrie (2013) is the latest example of this trend and comes across as just another empty cash grab - the kind that give remakes a bad name. It is, of course, a retread of Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976), and if you’re at all familiar with that film, you have an extra incentive not to see the new one, because it doesn’t do anything fresh or interesting with the underlying material, which is based on the novel by Stephen King.
In fact, the whole thing feels like a scene for scene reshoot. Director Kimberly Peirce simply lessens the roles insight and truth played in De Palma’s version and replaces them with extra violence and gimmickry. Instead of making the latter secondary to the former, and actually creating tension that leads to surprises and effective payoffs, it places these qualities at the forefront. This is illustrated as early on as the opening title treatment, which has animated blood dripping off the letters in Carrie. Therefore, we know what we’re in store for right off the bat, which makes the rest of the movie dull and watching it a mostly unproductive use of our time.
The story follows Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz), a shy and socially ousted high school student whose reputation and life inexperience (at 18, she gets her first period but is unaware of what it is) have been wrought by her religiously fanatical mother (Julianne Moore), who almost killed Carrie when she was born because she believed her to be the product of sin. She routinely locks her daughter in the closet and forces her to pray for forgiveness for irrational transgressions against God.
With all of her pent up rage and emotion, it’s no wonder Carrie begins to act out after discovering she has telekinetic powers. Perhaps she needed “to become a woman” for her abilities to come to fruition, but in any event, she quickly learns to harness her telekinesis and gains more self-confidence while doing so. She even hesitantly accepts an invitation to the prom from the school stud, Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort), who, despite being the popular jock and “sure thing” prom king, is a decent guy with a good heart. He asks Carrie to prom because his girlfriend, Sue (Gabriella Wilde), wants to make things right after humiliating Carrie in the girls’ locker room. This same sense of nobility doesn’t extend to Sue’s friend Chris (Portia Doubleday), who vows, “This isn’t over,” when she’s banned from prom by the school gym teacher (Judy Greer) for instigating the same shameful incident.
Just as it does in the original, all this leads up to a climax at the prom where…well if you’ve already seen De Palma’s Carrie, you know what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t, then see De Palma’s version. Peirce’s rendition makes it too obvious what’s going to happen, and when things finally do go down, it’s no real shock to us. We simply watch the events transpire as we knew they would. And where’s the fun in that, especially for a horror film, whose efficacy tends to rely on surprises and visceral responses more than others?
To be sure, Carrie isn’t the worst example of needless horror remakes, and with its on and off-screen talents, it certainly had the resources to be better than it is, but the end product is still so mediocre that it leaves us wondering why its resources weren’t put to better use with something more original.