Review: King's 'Carrie' Remake is Predictably Flashy and Pointless
by Jeremy Kirk
October 18, 2013
Stephen King's 1974 novel "Carrie," the author's first published, caused an ensuing avalanche in the horror world. The landscapes of horror fiction on both bookshelves and in theaters was forever changed. It was only a matter of time before the senseless remakes began down the assembly line. Coming 37 years after the Brian De Palma-directed debut of King's source material to the big screen, Carrie has once again been adapted to film, and the results are predictable. Despite a strong showing from its two leads, this new version of Carrie is a lazy retread of King's original story, retold without a shred of creativity or new blood refreshing the atmosphere surrounding it. It's now become a thing that just kind of goes "Meh" in the night.
Chloë Grace Moretz stars as Carrie White, awkward high schooler made as such by her overbearing and deeply religious mother, played here by Julian Moore. Carrie's mother fears the worst for her child and wishes to shroud her from any and all of life's depravities. Because of this, Carrie's misunderstanding of even her own body plays a horrible prank on the girl when she has her first period at school, an event that sparks an onslaught of bullying and humiliation.
But Carrie's misunderstanding of herself grows even stronger when she begins to understand the powers she has, telekinetic powers allowing her to move and alter objects with her mind. As the bullying at school and the mental and physical abuse at home continue to escalate, Carrie's abilities appear to be growing in strength. As you can imagine, the prom at the end of this one isn't all slow dances and spiked punch.
To that end it seems almost senseless to be vague about the plot details and horrific events that transpire in the back half of Carrie. King's novel and De Palma's film contain imagery so ingrained in the minds of horror fans that even those who haven't experienced the full story in either capacity are fully aware of what goes down. A certain bucket of pig's blood has become the Titanic iceberg to this story. You know it's going to drop. You just dread that moment and everything that comes after.
For all of the built-in tension that comes from the story, though, this new telling of Carrie, written by Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, gets bogged down in hitting all the key points that come along the way. That's all well and good, but King's novel - and De Palma's film, for that matter - tells a slight story with little depth with which to pull from. The screenwriters here could have added that depth, built on the foundation King has already provided. They could have even gone a different route as the original adaptation - also written by Cohen, by the way - and told the story in nonlinear fashion, something King's original novel does. Any diversion from being the same, old story would do a Carrie remake wonders. Alas, this isn't that wondrous.
Director Kimberly Peirce is, to the say the least, an interesting choice to tell this story having already hit solid marks with Boys Don't Cry, a different story about female misunderstanding of one's own body. Peirce's vision in Carrie never aids the screenplay in any way, though, the execution choosing flashy CGI and loud, Final Destination-level death sequences in favor of grit or subtlety. As with the story, visually, Carrie goes through familiar motions, the results now in 2013 being too glitzy and vibrant to ever be scary.
Peirce does succeed and has always succeeded in getting powerful performances from top-notch actors. Moretz and Moore flesh out their respective roles with more subtlety than the rest of the film suggests. Even this is quite loud. Moretz goes from uncomfortable wallflower to black-eyed hellraiser with quite a bit of nuance, her performance suggesting a much more drastic transformation than what her physical appearance suggests. Moore, on the other hand, is full-on psycho from frame one, but the decision to keep from playing to the back row throughout the film is a welcome one. When she does explode, it matters, and Carrie/Moretz's reaction to her is made all the more impact
Unfortunately, these performances is all Carrie really has to offer. Even at that, it's difficult to see more suitable and spot-on performances in these roles than Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie. What there was to work with in King's original novel has already been taken care of on the cinematic front. If Carrie is any indication where the future of King adaptations are headed, we're in for a long, tedious ride through some familiar territory, and unlike Carrie's schoolmates, we only wish we could simply laugh at them.
Jeremy's Rating: 3.5 out of 10
Follow Jeremy on Twitter - @JeremyKKirk