Carrie (2013) Review (R)
It’s almost impossible to avoid comparing this latest version of Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’ to the Brian De Palma horror classic from the 70s, especially when the film mirrors the original almost scene by scene. There are deviations, but it appears this wasn’t taken from the king novel as much as it was taken from the Lawrence D. Cohen script for the 1976 big screen adaptation (after a quick look on imdb.com I see that indeed, Cohen is given a co-writing credit, which means I’m right… which doesn’t occur often). There are a few scenes that are tweaked (or updated for what the filmmakers thought would be more palatable for a contemporary audience, I guess) and there is an added scene at the start of the film, but the events of this version largely follow the original movie scene by scene, just short of ‘shot for shot’.
Naturally, the technology to depict Carrie White’s telekinesis is far more advanced and polished than what it was in the 1970s, but I didn’t think that was necessarily a good thing. It used to be, because of a lack of the ability to portray such things, that most of that would be saved until the end of the film (as with the shark in ‘Jaws’). Now, the ‘reveal’ comes much earlier in films and I think there is a little lost in the way of suspense. The imagination of the audience will always be greater than what is depicted onscreen, in my humble opinion. I also don’t think the film was nearly as unsettling as the original and maybe that was intended. There was something just downright creepy about that 70s film that I felt this rendition lacked. Director Kimberly Peirce (yes, that’s how her name is spelled) even decided to abstain from the conventional horror tropes that Brian DePalma fully embraced. DePalma’s final ‘jump’ moment ending was one of the best of the genre. Peirce seemed to be less interested in scaring the audience as much as focusing on sympathy for the title character.
The story begins with (maybe an unnecessary) scene of a woman who was not even aware that she was pregnant giving birth to Carrie, who she at first sees as some sort of cancer and a test put before her by God. She feels a strong urge to murder the newborn, but instead decides to raise her despite insane reservations. Is this typical postpartum depression? No? I didn’t think so. Anyway, flash forward 13 or 14 years and we find the daughter Carrie (Chloe Moretz), now in high school and quite the social outcast. She is bullied by her schoolmates (and even some of her teachers), but is mostly ignored until a sympathetic gym teacher (played by the always fun Judy Greer) tries to intervene after a particularly cruel locker room incident. One of the school’s ‘it’ girls, Chris (Portia Doubleday) is suspended from school (and the upcoming prom) and Carrie becomes her personal target of vengeance because of that. Another popular girl, Sue (Gabriella Wilde), feels guilty over the locker room incident, despite having not directly participated in the incident. She convinces her boyfriend, a popular football player to ask Carrie to the prom, feeling that the only way she could expunge her guilt would be by giving up something that mattered; that ‘something that mattered’ being: attending the prom. After some prodding by Sue, her boyfriend manages to convince Carrie to go to the prom with her.
When Carrie’s mother (Julianne Moore) learns of this, you know it’s not going to sit well with her, seeing as how she routinely locks her daughter in the closet. But, ever since the locker room incident, Carrie begins to exhibit the ability to move objects with her mind, and it’s no coincidence (story-wise) that the more she stands up for herself, the more self worth she gains, the stronger her telekinetic abilities become. Soon, the mother begins to believe that her daughter is doing the devil’s work and must be destroyed while the innocent Carrie is naive to this. Meanwhile, Chris, who is quite the little minx is plotting a horrible act of revenge against Carrie to be enacted at the prom in front of the entire school.
On the surface, ‘Carrie’ is the fantastical story of young girl who is abused by her fundamentalist mother and bullied by her peers, but King seems to have tapped into something primal… Something about sexual repression and violence, I think. Blood is a motif in the story that appears coinciding with each (sexually) traumatic event for Carrie White, sometimes literally (when she, um… becomes a woman) and figuratively as sexual trauma as in the prom scene. Her telekinetic abilities stand in for the rage stemming from all of the repression, humiliation and abuse she takes. Boiled down to the bare bones, the story could be about systematic mental abuse/sexual repression in general and the eventual outward explosion at everyone and anyone when the eventual breaking point comes. Or something like that… Remake or not, this film is about something that’s creeping around below the surface.
This updated version of Carrie, doesn’t quite carry the weight of the 70s version, but I didn’t find myself asking why they remade the film when the end credits arrived. It won’t be the definitive version in my eyes, but it’s not a reworking that I’ll hate. it tells a solid story, even if there isn’t anything too exceptional about it. It’s an adequate reworking updated for 2013. If you have not seen the original, then this may work better for you than it did me. I do think Brian DePalma’s does have more of an unnerving quality about it and therefore has much more of an impact when you watch it. This accounting may be just a little too polished for its own good. This is a better looking film from the cinematography to the cast, which might also be what I think diminishes this one a little. Chloe Moretz may be just a little too button nose cute for the role it’s a little hard to believe that she would ever be the unpopular girl even as timid/shy/weird as she’s supposed to be in this. Nothing wrong with the way Sissy Spaceck looked either, but I do find it easier to believe that she would be the class victim. Moretz did evoke sympathy in the part, though, and found the right note for most of the film. Again with the comparisons, but I also found Piper Laurie’s portrayal of the mother to be far scarier (and believable) than what Julianne Moore does with the role. Maybe it’s just because she is such a recognizable actress, but there were times when it just felt like that; a well known actress hamming it up.
It would not be true to say that the actors and actresses did not do a solid job, though. Besides Moretz and Moore (who are both top notch if very mainstream actresses) , the rest of the cast helped to make this better than just another unnecessary remake. Greer, who has had a career of scene stealing bit parts, is once again slightly underutilized, but fun when she’s onscreen. Barry Henley added a bit of comedy relief every time he appeared (often with Greer). He, too, has had a career of being that kind of somewhat recognizable face that turns up in a film, has a couple of lines and always adds to the film in a positive way. Another ‘character actor’ Hart Bochner (from two of my favorite movies: Breaking Away and Die Hard) turns up for a brief cameo. No one plays a sympathetic jerk like he does. He plays that role yet again, if ever so briefly. And Gabriella Wilde… YIKES!
Anyway… Not as bad a film as you might think or at least as bad as I heard it was going to be. It’s ‘professionally made’, meaning even if it isn’t an extraordinary film, it at least was made with intelligence behind it, shot well and has a pretty good cast. It’s an added bonus that it’s rated R instead of the dreaded PG-13 rating geared to water down a film in order to get more teen butts in the seats. If you happened to read the book, wanted to see a big screen version of it and you’re only ever going to watch that one version and ONLY that one version, then I would recommend checking out the De Palma take instead of this one, but that’s not to insult this film. And clearly this isn’t the worst version of Carrie ever put to film, either, so it has that going for it, too (or was that other one I’m thinking of a sequel?… I’ll let you research that one).
3.5 of 5