'Carrie' Remake Is All Blood, No Guts
Published: Sunday, October 20, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 20, 2013 23:10
Bullying is awful. Bullying is terrible. A redundant sentence perhaps, but surely not as redundant as this movie. Introverted Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz) is constantly bullied at school and controlled by her intensely Christian mother (Julianne Moore) at home. This abuse comes to a head when her female peers witness Carrie’s first period, an event that is wholly traumatic because she doesn’t know what is happening to her. After Carrie’s classmate Chris (Portia Doubleday) films the incident for the whole school to see, Carrie’s life becomes almost unbearable—until she discovers that she has telekinetic powers.
Although the supernatural aspect of the story advances gradually, it is key to Carrie’s bloody empowerment. The most popular girl in the school and participant in Carrie’s bullying, Sue (Gabrielle Wilde) decides to atone for her behavior. She organizes one special night for Carrie in the form of high school prom, with Sue’s athlete boyfriend, Tommy (Ansel Elgort) as Carrie’s date. With Carrie’s turbulent home life, her increasingly powerful telekinesis, and Chris out for revenge after she is banned from the prom, it is clear the night will not go as planned.
Despite best efforts it is almost impossible to watch Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie without thinking of Brian de Palma’s version, released in 1976. The similarities are endless although Peirce does stick far more closely to Stephen King’s 1974 novel than de Palma chose to. The obligatory updating of the story for its 21st-century audience is handled well in Peirce’s retelling: camera phones and Dancing with the Stars references abound. The major sticking point of the remake, however, is its interminable use of CGI, taking away from potential moments of terror. In the final scene not only do we witness horrific death in all its gory detail, but one moment is shown in slow motion and repeated from different angles, creating an unnecessary and amateurish effect.
The representation of Margaret White’s warped sense of Christian morality remains as cliched as previous versions have depicted it, but it doesn’t ring true anymore. At a pivotal moment in the film, Margaret’s description of breasts as “dirty pillows” generates laughter from the audience. Although instrumental in King’s novel, any attempt to create an authentic depiction of mental instability is certainly undermined by this inclusion of a Christian background.
Certainly it feels as if Lawrence D. Cohen (who wrote the screenplay for de Palma’s film) and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (whose most substantial credit to date has been on Glee) wanted to create an original telling of this famous story. The opening scene gives the character of Margaret White an interesting background and context for how she treats her daughter, and the characters of Sue and Chris are lent more importance in the core storyline than previously attributed to them. The seemingly arbitrary use of identical twins as their friends makes little sense and further degrades the film.
Perhaps the most infuriating part of Carrie is Moretz’s casting as the title character. It would have been difficult for anyone to follow in the footsteps of Sissy Spacek’s mindless, robotic victim turned merciless killer, however, Moretz never portrays the complexities demanded of her. Cohen and Aguirre-Sacasa create a new Carrie: more a victim of her powers, overwhelmed by the sudden authority she can command over her peers. This characterization is certainly more resonant with the original novel, but although Moretz has proved her acting capabilities to an extent in Kick-Ass, this Carrie requires an emotional access that Moretz simply doesn’t have. Moretz’s portrayal lacks the awkwardness and weakness vital to story. Of course it doesn’t help that we can easily imagine her being gorgeous, as she already is, making the character’s physical progression less believable. Similarly, Carrie’s immediate acceptance and interest in her powers meant the finale, when she uses them to full effect, is less impressive. With the explosion of superhero movies in the past few years this element is important, yet the writers, director, and actors appear to go down the route of X-Men rather than anything more haunting.
Peirce’s Carrie is by no means a shot-by-shot remake—however, any potential for a fresh perception on this story is frustrated by cliches and poor character development.