Carrie (2013) / Horror-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content
Running Time: 100 min.
Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Alex Russell, Zoe Belkin, Samantha Weinstein, Karissa Strain, Barry Shabaka Henley
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Screenplay: Lawrence D. Cohen, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Review published October 20, 2013
2013's Carrie is the second adaptation of the Stephen King's first novel, published in 1974, though it is not really an adaptation so much as a remake of the campy but entertaining 1976 Brian De Palma film. That film featured iconic performances by Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, both of whom would go on to garner Academy Award nominations. This film casts actresses that have equal potential to deliver good performances, but there will be no Oscar nods for this update, as the screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen (Ghost Story) and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa ("Glee"), directed by Kimberly Peirce (Stop-Loss), almost slavishly sticks to the plot and story of its big screen predecessor, leaving these actresses to fail to deliver anything new or noteworthy to their roles. It should be noted that Cohen had been the screenwriter for the original film, though one wonders if he is merely credited for Aguirre-Sacasa's retool more so than in adding anything new of his own.
Moretz (Kick-Ass 2, Dark Shadows) stars as Carrie White, a teenager who barely registers among her peers until she freaks out in the showers after experiencing her first menstrual cycle, something her fanatically religious mother Margaret (Moore, Don Jon) never deemed to make her aware of. She is ridiculed by her classmates in the moment and, worse, the rest of the school, after one of the girls, Chris (Doubleday, Youth in Revolt), captures the moment with her cell phone and then posts it up on YouTube for all of the world to see. Also important in the moment, Carrie discovers she might have powers of telekinesis, which is the ability to move objects with her mind. Chris is banned from attending the all-important prom, which makes her vow some form of revenge, while Billy (Russell, Chronicle) one of the school's most popular jocks, is egged on by his girlfriend Sue (Wilde, The Three Musketeers), who feels sorry for Carrie, to ask her to the prom, thus setting the trap for a night that could crack the impressionable, and highly powerful, girl's psyche once and for all.
One would think that Peirce, who directed an acclaimed film about a bullied misfit who would be persecuted for being different in Boys Don't Cry, would be a natural fit for the material. Truth be told, though it did go on to earn some decent write-ups among most critics, I did not care for that film, and I care even less for this one. First off, as alluded to above, the film adheres very closely to its predecessor in terms of its story structure, so if you've seen the 1976 film, you'll likely be bored in seeing the same scenes play out in ways that are vastly inferior. The few scenes that are different rank among the worst of the film, starting off with Carrie's birth in the bed of Margaret, all alone, thinking the baby she is carrying is a cancer that needs to be eradicated; it's a scene both ludicrous and nauseating at the same time.
But, really, the problem with Carrie lies more in its lack of the virtuoso directorial style that the 1976 version had oodles of and this one lacks significantly. For instance, De Palma's prom scene, which features tense, split-screen moments of suspense, is replaced with cheap snafus that culminate in the climactic moment being replayed from different angles no less than three separate times, in case we missed its significance. If that's not enough, the scene is further needlessly punctuated by a replay of the viral shower video, lest we "dummies" in the audience miss the symbolic significance of the blood. Not that the screenplay is a winner, featuring such cheesy lines, lifted from Cohen's original, as, "I can see your dirty pillows", Margaret remarks about her daughter's prom dress showing off some of her post-pubescent curves. Though the film is less racy than De Palma's somewhat voyeuristic version, Peirce relies on a 'womanhood' motif that seems quite unsavory given the visceral nature of Carrie's messy birth and her introduction into puberty: blood and cracks. No joke.
Carrie is an abysmal remake, not able to best its predecessor in any discernable area, and not able to distinguish itself from any other of its many imitators over the years . If the 1976 film seems campy and dated, the 2013 film feels instantly vamped and antiquated. Moretz ends up going on a rampage for the climax like the Dark Phoenix from X-Men: The Last Stand with arms held out and eyes in 'looks could kill' mode, but lacks the emotional resonance of Spacek's trance-like turn, in which her powers unleashed came as a shock, but with an overriding sense of tragedy; Moretz is shown practicing her skills extensively during several scenes, which makes her revenge seem much more calculated and evil.
As Peirce dilutes De Palma's more raw and cruel ripping out of a young girl's innocence, there is little power or justification to the moments of retribution, which makes Carrie far less sympathetic, as the ending emerges without any shred of poignancy. Carrie's tormentors are more bland and petty than malevolent, and Margaret's fundamentalist edge seems to be without any rooting to the film's quasi-reality, borne entirely out of someone's overactive imagination. The film's final shot, so startling in the original film, is just one more major fumble, further cementing the grotesque 2013 version of Carrie as one of the most toothless and terrible films of the year.
©2013 Vince Leo