***1/2 (out of 5)
October 18, 2013
Julianne Moore as MARGARET WHITE
Chloë Grace Moretz as CARRIE WHITE
Gabriella Wilde as SUE SNELL
Portia Doubleday as CHRIS HARGENSEN
Alex Russell as BILLY NOLAN
Zoë Belkin as TINA
Ansel Elgort as TOMMY ROSS
Judy Greer as MS DESJARDIN
Studio: Screen Gems
Directed by: Kimberly Peirce
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Unlike some folks out there, I don’t instantly hate a remake simply because it’s a remake. Sure, there are plenty of awful remakes out there (“House of Wax,” I’m looking at you), but there are still some pretty solid ones as well (with John Carpenter’s “The Thing” topping that list). So, the idea of remaking Brian DePalma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s “Carrie” was not sacrilege.
The 1976 version of “Carrie” is far from untouchable. Sure, it’s a great film in the annals of horror cinema, but it is so steeped in the decade that it can become a bit of a farce today. Even using a very similar approach, including some scenes that are virtual re-shoots as director Kimberly Peirce does rather than re-imagine the novel from the ground up, can make for an interesting film.
The story is pretty much the same. Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a repressed teenage wallflower. She is picked on by the girls at school, and when she gets her first period after gym class but has no knowledge of the biology behind it due to her fiendishly pious mother (Julianne Moore), the bullying reaches a fevered pitch. With the onset of menstruation, Carrie also develops the power of telekinesis, which segregates her further from her peers at school.
One of the bullies tries to make amends by having her boyfriend invite Carrie to the prom. However, another bully has bigger plans, which erupt into a horror show in the middle of the school dance.
What makes this movie really hit home is the cast, more than the iconic story. Moretz is good as Carrie, giving us a greater depth of humanity to the character and less of the wide-eyed freak show that Sissy Spacek gave us in the original. However, it’s Julianne Moore that really nails the role. Where Piper Laurie in the original played things up as the batshit crazy prayer warrior, Moore plays the role of Margaret White with a level of empathy. She’s still batshit crazy, but it’s clear her warped motivations make sense to her. Instead of being the fanatical cliche, Moore gives us a woman who means well but has no human understand of how to achieve that.
Kimberly Peirce steps out of her wheelhouse from films like “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Stop-Loss” to give the horror genre a try, and she wholeheartedly succeeds. She does this by making minor changes to DePalma’s delivery from more than 35 years ago. She focuses more on the character of Margaret and her true motivations. She also updates the level of bullying to include cyberbullying to make it more relevant to today’s teenagers.
“Carrie” has always been an uncomfortable film. Back in the 70s, it was uncomfortable because it dealt with uncomfortable issues like menstruation and religious fanaticism. Peirce still plays with those taboos in her movie, but she really hits home the unnerving moment with the shaming of Carrie by both her mother and her peers, as well as the inevitable slaughter that everyone knows is coming.
This, coupled with the modern look of the film, made for a very disturbing and uncomfortable film… and that was the point. “Carrie” is not a warm and fuzzy picture. There are no heroes and only a few villains, but even the villains have their own bizarre motivations that make sense in the context of real life.
I also applaud Peirce’s resistance to the temptation of using digital blood in the movie. With few exceptions where an effect would be impossible to achieve with practical liquid, there’s real movie blood in this picture… buckets of it. The carnage and rage that comes in the climax is well staged and doesn’t try to recreate too much of what DePalma did in 1976 (so, no, there’s no epic split-screen sequence, and that’s a good thing).
Hard-hitting and intense, this version of “Carrie” is a solid thriller that is powerful and not always easy to watch. Like the “Evil Dead” remake, this film is respectful to the original and offers something a bit different as well.