Remake. Is there any word that strikes as much fear in the heart of a horror movie fanatic? For the past decade we’ve been inundated with redux after reboot after reimagining, starved for original content while forced to see another title plucked off the shelf and spitshined with a pretty new cast and watered downed script. Classics. Schlock. Obscurities — all have become grist for the mill. It’s no surprise that someone would take the trend to Carrie eventually.
As a remake, Carrie is proficient but uninspired – your standard flat, unnecessary retelling of a well-established classic. The impetus to drag Stephen King’s tale of a supernaturally blessed high school outcast’s telekinetic revenge against cruel classmates kicking and screaming into modern light is sound. King’s tale was always a parable about the dangers of bullying and a decade plus of school shootings, teen suicides, news reports and “It Gets Better” campaigns has only made it even more relevant now. And hiring a director like Kimberly Peirce, who gave us Boys Don’t Cry and thus has a knack for sensitive portraits of tragic, abused figures, only makes Carrie seem like a rare remake to have a point to exist. So why does it seem like such a squandered opportunity?
Peirce doesn’t bother to re-adapt King’s story or give her own contemporary spin to the proceedings; beyond the fact that the idea of viral videos get used for cyberbullying, this new Carrie hews far too close to the original vision from Brian DePalma. Except that Pierce has decided to strip all that voluptuous style DePalma’s known for from her vision, shooting it in a straightforward, “realisitic” style. So we get a near beat-for-beat new version minus anything that made the first film distinctive. A banal retread, indeed.
It’s not that Pierce’s Carrie is bad. It’s well shot, well acted, professionally assembled. It’s a perfectly competent film, remake or no. But mere competence isn’t exciting. And Carrie is not exciting. It’s bland and familiar — a film for junior viewers who won’t give the first film a chance, not for seasoned horror vets who’ll only put up with a remake if it gives us a way to see a story through new eyes.
As Carrie, Chloe Moretz is horribly miscast. It’s not that the rising actress gives a bad performance — the opposite in fact, as she’s quite excellent as a shy, tremulous teen facing a psychopathically religious mother and taunting classmates. But she’s not right for the role. She’s too conventionally pretty—with her strawberry-blonde locks and chic pink silk dress she’s downright (unintentionally) radiant in her prom scenes—but, more than not looking the part, she doesn’t *feel* like Carrie White; under her awkwardness, she’s too confident, too burgeoningly rebellious, too emboldened by her powers to convince as a broken teen pushed to the edge and beyond. Moretz, as good as she is, lacks the haunting otherworldliness Sissy Spacek brought to the role. She’s not off, she’s just timid, and feels more like someone her peers would rather ignore than torture. It has the effect of making Carrie feel like the heroine of a bad 90s teen-makeover comedy forced into becoming a slasher villain.
The CW network-pretty supporting cast playing her peers as are mostly a colorless, underwritten lot, though Portia Doubleday gives good bitch as the evil Chris Hargenson and Ansel Elgort makes for an engaging enough nice guy as Tommy Ross, the football hunk who brings Carrie to prom. Julianne Moore, though, steals the show as Carrie’s mother, underplaying her psychosis in a way that makes her feel more fantatically real–and thus creepier—than before.
Peirce stages the biggest money shot scenes—the emotionally mortifying shower scene and the bloodbath at the prom–perfunctorily and without flair. The prom, in particular, comes across as Pierce being forced to deliver the horror goods, trampling, smashing and bashing Carrie’s victims without any sense of enthusiasm, and her attempt to add a new twist to the original’s famous, and still copied, shock ending only results in eye rolls and titters. (A newly added prologue, however, is effectively queasy enough you wish even more that Peirce had struck off on her own rather than work from a soiled version of DePalma’s blueprint.)
Carrie ‘13 is a perfectly fine substitute for anyone too young to have bothered with King’s novel or DePalma’s film. It’s competent and professional and not at all surprising. Which begs the question for anyone else: what’s the point?
2 out of 5 stars.