Carrie (2013) – Review

Remakes, remakes, remakes.  They’re everywhere these days, the young escorts of Hollywood producers who are ditching old, worn-out classics and “rejuvenating” them for the smartphone generation.  Here we are again with yet another fresh take on a classic horror flick; Brian De Palma’s Carrie from 1976.  Back then it shocked and wowed audiences – and still does – with its brazen depiction of teen bullying offset by strong horror elements and religious themes.  Sissy Spacek was frighteningly believable in the central role, and that climax is still one of the most shocking pieces of  horror cinema to date.  One could certainly argue that there’s nothing about the film that needs re-doing, and that Kimberly Perice’s attempt to do so fails to bring anything new to the table.  That would, however, be looking at the film through a slightly cynical eye.

Not to deny that Peirce’s Carrie doesn’t do anything new or different or interesting with the original material (the film anyway – I haven’t read Stephen King’s novel).  It frustratingly goes through all the same beats and emotional chords, never swaying from the template already set and tested and using many of the same tricks that made the original so distinguished (the slo-mo walk to the stage or Carrie silently searching for her mother in a darkened house), but it does stand alongside De Palma’s film every step of the way.  Perhaps that sounds like damning praise, but really it’s an impressive achievement amidst the array of dull, soulless, lesser remakes of the last few years.

The only thing this remake really adds, or perhaps more accurately, changes, from the original is the technological advancements inherent with the story being set nearly forty years later.  During the famous opening shower scene, Chris (the bitchiest of bitch antagonists) whips out her smartphone and records the whole thing, only to later post online and get in trouble for it.  This opens a whole new door to her character, and ultimately the plot, which the original film just didn’t have.  That, and the far more extravagant climax which goes bigger and lasts longer than De Palma’s film, but to generally good effect.  There’s more blood (sadly not dyed corn syrup) and more carnage this time round, but that’s no bad thing.

Filling in Sissy Spacek’s shoes is another fine young actress who’s just going from strength to strength.  Just like Jennifer Lawrence or Haley Steinfeld, Chloe Moretz is taking Hollywood by storm with her talent and confidence, and showing them that she wants to and can own films.  They’re proving that there’s a new generation of brilliant actresses who need strong female lead roles, and this writer certainly hopes they get them.

As Carrie White, Moretz is good but awkward.  Not awkward in the way that Carrie is, but awkward in that there’s a lot of head dipping and shoulder hunching action going on as she drifts through the hallways of her cruel high school under the torment of her peers; actions which look unnatural to her.  With all due respect to Sissy Spacek, Moretz is just too “normal” looking to be entirely believable in the role.  She doesn’t look strange or unusual enough, or an outcast, even with the help of fine make-up work, and while I must stress that she is very good and completely embodies the role, it’s just often hard to see her as the character and not Moretz acting really well.  There was something to Spacek’s casting as Carrie White that just clicked, almost inexplicably, like Heath Ledger as The Joker or Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone.  Every actor has a role they’re remembered for, and Spacek’s is definitely Carrie White.  I, for one, can’t wait to see what Moretz’s turns out to be, but it certainly won’t be this.

Oddly, Carrie and her relationship with her crazy, religious zealot mother (portrayed terrifyingly well by a straggly-haired Julianne Moore) is less interesting than the stuff going on at the high school.  It should be the other way around; Moretz and Moore are two fantastic actresses and the dynamic of their relationship is compelling and frightening – at birth Margaret White contemplated killing her baby as she thought it was born out of sin, and as Carrie has grown up Margaret still feels she is of the Devil’s blood – but somehow it’s Carrie at school, her interactions with the hot couple Tommy and Sue who feel sympathy for her but who she doesn’t trust, and her surrenders to Chris’ unfathomable cruelty, that prove the most compelling.

Certainly no better than De Palma’s original film, Carrie is ultimately an unnecessary remake – but a good unnecessary remake.  What it lacks in gritty rawness it makes up for in sleek visuals and fine acting talent, and while the finale may go on too long and end up relying just a bit too heavily on CGI, it still gives us that gut-curdling feeling of anger and fear that concludes to be Carrie’s final straw.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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