Director: Kimberley Peirce
Starring: Chloe Grace Mortez, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday
Written by: Lawrence D. Cohen, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and (based on his novel) Stephen King
Running Time: 100 mins
Release date: 29th November 2013
Before I start this review, I have to say that Brian De Palma’s 1976 horror classic, Carrie, is one of my favourite films. A tremendous cinematic experience that shows what you can do with the art form if you are imaginative enough and technically minded enough to push the boundaries. So going into this modern remake, I had low expectations. I’m glad they weren’t left disappointed because, while the new Carrie isn’t the turkey I thought it was going to be, it’s also not a patch on original, mainly because it comes across as far too ordinary, and that’s its problem…it’s nothing special.
Carrie White is a shy, quiet young girl who is the easy target for school bullying and when she has her first period in the showers of her gym, the rest of her classmates cannot wait to belittle and taunt her and one, Chris Hargensen, videos it and places it online. Carrie gets no sympathy from her mother, a highly religious woman who wants nothing more than to protect her daughter from the evils of the world outside. Full of remorse for her actions, fellow classmate, Sue Snell, decides to give up the chance of going to the school prom in order for Carrie to go instead with her boyfriend, top jock, Tommy. However, what Carrie doesn’t know is that Chris wants to humiliate her again. What Chris and everyone else doesn’t know, is that Carrie has a special power that could be the death of them all.
Director Peirce came out and said that to make her version of Carrie, she went back to the source material, Stephen King’s original book. When the film opens, we see a scene in which Margaret White gives birth to Carrie and my immediate reaction was, “Yes, this is going to be very different!” Alas I was wrong because apart from a few “modernized” scenes and a slightly different ending (more on that later), this was a blow-by-blow carbon copy of the 76 film and you cannot help but compare when huge chunks of dialogue is lifted from the first film (due to the co-writer being Lawrence D. Cohen, who also wrote the De Palma version).
So we get a slight twist which you think will be expanded, that of cyberbullying and the use of smartphones etc but these are brushed over and almost forgotten as quickly as they appear and it is this element that could have made the new Carrie stand out. Instead it’s back to the pig’s blood that we all know so well now.
The other problem is that while De Palma’s film maybe all fancy cinema tricks: slow motion, split screen, long tracking shots and that famous spinning dance routine, it all helped to build the tension. Carrie was never a true horror in the sense of the word but De Palma built up such a feeling of suspense that you were gripped. The prom scene is a classic of how to set up the scene and prolong the agony to the inevitable. You are almost breathless by the time the bucket of blood is tipped. You get none of that here, instead a straight-forward story with no thrills and certainly no chills.
It also suffers from some bad miscasting. As the mother, Piper Laurie was outstanding and earned her an Oscar nomination. All nut-job with her self harming(in a subtle way) as she almost screamed the bible at her daughter. Taking on the mother this time, you would have thought that Julianne Moore would bring another dimension but she doesn’t. Now I really like Ms Moore, she can no do wrong but here she is wasted. Whispering all her lines like some woman with a permanent sore throat, she just seemed to have read “How to be mad” and followed the rules.
The real crime is casting Chloe Grace Mortez as Carrie. Carrie is supposed to be vulnerable, naive and full of confusion as a girl entering womanhood who finds she has these extraordinary powers. Sissy Spacek, even though in her 20s, brought that to the screen and more. Ms Mortez doesn’t. In fact, she looks like she could beat the living daylights out of the bullies. She doesn’t have those qualities. It also doesn’t help in that most of Kick Ass 2, a film in which Mortez played the foul-mouthed, ultra-violent Hit Girl, was just about the same thing, a girl trying to fit in a world that doesn’t want her to fit.
When she finally loses it and goes to town with her powers, this Carrie looks like some dark Super Villain that wouldn’t look out-of-place in an X-Men movie, all contorted limbs and pantomime hand gestures.
When it comes to the finale, the original Carrie was the first film to really introduce the shock ending (and I won’t tell you what it was here…just in case) so they face an uphill battle and like the rest of the movie, the ending turns out to be…well, ordinary.
If you haven’t seen the original, this might whet your appetite to check out those 70s fashions. If you have, then my advice is to dig out a copy of that masterpiece and enjoy it again because you’ll only be getting a half-hearted version here.