The 1976 Brian DePalma directed classic Carrie, based on a short story by horror icon Stephen King, is widely considered a landmark film for the genre. Fabled film geek and revered filmmaker Quentin Tarantino named it as one of his top 10 films ever made. Accolades have been showered upon the film for decades now, so when it was announced they were remaking the film, it was met with an audible groan from horror and film geeks alike.
Truth be told, no matter what your feelings on remakes are, there comes a time when enough is enough. When studios start digging out classics such as Carrie to repackage and sell to a new generation of teenagers, it is hard to think of it as anything other than a quick money grab. However, MGM got a lot of talent to helm this remake, and if they were going to retell any classic, Carrie is the one story that could benefit from some modern day updates. Read the full review after the break.
It’s senior year and all the boys and girls are prepping for the upcoming Prom. Everyone except for Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz) that is. After being born to some unnatural (and unnerving) circumstances, Carrie was raised by her mother (Julianne Moore), a Christian woman who sees the devil in her daughter but can’t bring herself to do what she believes must be done. Due to Carrie’s upbringing, she has always been seen as a social outcast in school, teased by all the pretty girls for being different. But when one prank goes too far, Carrie is set down a path that will prove once and for all why you should never pick on those who appear to be weak and vulnerable.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Yes, this is indeed a remake of that 1976 horror classic and yes, director Kimberly Pierce has done as little as possible to distinguish her update from DePalma’s horror masterpiece. Some may say it was a wise choice, because how can one improve upon near perfection? While others will say what was the point then? If you are going to go through the trouble of remaking something, then put your stamp on it and make it your own.
To be completely fair here, it has been years since I have seen the original Carrie and only that film’s most signature moments, such as the taunting in the shower, the slaughter at the pig farm, Carrie and her mother “disagreeing” about Prom and the Prom scene itself (which is a horror genre classic) still standout. So a remake didn’t sound like a horrible idea. But the smaller details such as the gym teacher (Judy Greer) who tries to protect Carrie and the guilt-ridden Sue (Gabrielle Wilde) who makes her very honest and very trustworthy boyfriend take Carrie to the Prom weren’t changed much either making most of the film feel like one big deja vu moment.
As a matter of fact, the only real advent this update takes advantage of in any real way is the use of cellphones and how they are used to take pranks and teasing to the next level making Carrie’s continued harassment worse than it ever was in the original film. Carrie’s infamous shower room scene when she “becomes a woman” is filmed via a cellphone and almost immediately posted to Youtube creating a new sort of torment for her. Not exactly breaking news, but at least the film added one new element into the mix to properly update it to today’s more technology driven High School social life.
If there any reason to justify this film existing at all though, it would be the performances by both Julianne Moore and Chloe Grace Moretz as mother and daughter. Both roles seem to be tailor made for each of their unique talents (Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie were both nominated for Oscars that year for the same roles). While Moore has had her fair share of dramatic roles over the years, this is the first time in Moretz’s short career where she has been called upon to tap into her darker side for a role that is a far cry from her other ass-kicking super hero personality.
She was a perfect casting choice for Carrie, not just because of the convenience of her real life age matching that of Carrie’s, but because she has this awkwardness to her that helps sell her outcast status and despite being an attractive young lady, her looks aren’t so much that she fits that horrible Hollywood cliche of casting a gorgeous super model-like woman in the role of a supposedly unattractive woman.
When she blossoms forth from her dingy homemade clothes and puts on that Prom dress, it all feels right. Moretz’s transformation over the course of the film never feels forced or false. When she begins to drop her guard as High School stud Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort) unrelentingly asks her to Prom, the process is a delicate one as she realizes that by putting herself out there like that, they all might in fact laugh at her. Then add in her telekinetic powers into the mix and her growing control over them, Moretz captures perfectly that self awareness of someone who knows they are dangerous with that of a simple teenage girl’s desires to go to Prom.
Moore as her mother isn’t quite as three dimensional since she is basically relegated to crazy woman status for the duration of the film, but her performance is still a tour de force. Acting crazy and being convincing at it are two entirely separate things and a veteran like Moore shows you why she is one of the best in the business in a role that not just any actor could have pulled off nearly as easily as she makes it look. Her scenes with Moretz are easily the highlights of the film.
Despite all the negative connotations that come with a remake that is more or less the same as its predecessor, there is one major Pro to the fact that the film didn’t try to rewrite or change any of the fundamentals from that original film, and that is the fact that the story of Carrie is this timeless cautionary tale of human emotions gone awry and blood-soaked revenge. The most important aspects, such as writing, acting and directing are there and the original material is still able to get under your skin in all right (and wrong) ways. So by keeping things mostly the same, the film may play it safe, but by doing so it remains engaging throughout.
One thing this current generation of teens may find a little jarring though is that the film takes its sweet time getting to its ultimate payoff. This may be even more infuriating for those who saw the trailer, which gave away the entire finale, because they must wait upwards of an hour before we even reach the Prom (which is a long time when you take into account that the film is barely over an hour and a half long). Pierce shows some incredible restraint by keeping the film on track and saving all of Carrie’s vengeful wrath until the end and those who appreciate such a slow build up will be very pleased with the results.
While it doesn’t really do anything to distinguish itself from the original, thanks mostly to the powerful source material it pulls from and the strong performances by both Moretz and Moore, it at the very least stands above many of the other horror remakes that we have been plagued with in recent years. It also serves as a reminder that making a good horror film doesn’t mean you have to rely on constant bloody mayhem, sometimes taking the time to create a canvas for your characters to become real people, forge connections with each other and then subsequently see those connections ripped apart can be just as effective if done right.
In the end, this is a well made film that doesn’t really do anything wrong and in fact is superior to many original horror films released in the past decade. Your opinion of it will rest solely on your feelings towards remakes in general and whether or not their existence bothers you enough to condemn it right out the gate. However, if you give it a chance, take this updated Carrie to the Prom and it may just win you over in the end.