Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass), Julianne Moore (Don Jon), Judy Greer (Archer), Gabriella Wilde (The Three Musketeers), Ansel Elgort (Divergent), Portia Doubleday (Youth In Revolt), Alex Russell (Chronicle)
Director: Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry)
Writers: Lawrence D. Cohen (Carrie ) and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Glee)
Runtime: 1 hour 40 minutes
Release Date: 18 October (US), 29 November (UK)
The original Carrie, directed by Brian De Palma in 1976, is considered today to be a classic in the horror genre and one of the best adaptations of Stephen King’s work. It may be a little dated by today’s standards, but it is still genuinely thrilling and features a wonderful performance from Sissy Spacek. Now, just like every horror film under the sun, it’s gotten a remake. Does the film justify its existence, or would you be happier living in the past?
If you’ve seen the original Carrie, you’ve seen this one for the most part. Other than some slight updates to modern day and an extended climax, it is beat-for-beat, note-for-note an exact replica of the original film; I swear even half the dialogue is ripped straight from the De Palma version. I can understand that they respect the original, but the best remakes tend to take the original material and give it a new spin; they may add some details or change up the scenario or characters slightly. Here, there’s nothing new for existing fans to make it worthwhile. It’s not quite Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, as at least it isn’t shot-for-shot the same film, but it is a few steps away from it. And even then, a lot of the changes don’t really shake things up much. In this version, Carrie’s incident in the shower is filmed and put on YouTube. You’d think this might make the film more relevant and add a new dimension to her torment. But all it does is extenuate the problems that are already there; it merely adds a bit more fuel to the fire but nothing that seriously affects the final outcome. However, I will say I was impressed with how the climax at the prom has been expanded into a much larger scale event; the advances in technology since the original has allowed the filmmakers to go really nuts and create a much more devastating finale. It almost makes sitting through the first hour of the film worth it. Almost, but not quite.
Chloe Grace Moretz is one of the best young actresses working today, and I was curious to see how she would tackle the role made iconic by Spacek. Unfortunately, as much as she tries, Moretz doesn’t manage to pull it off. Not to speak badly of her acting ability; she’s very good and does manage to convey a lot of empathy and sympathy through very little dialog. But I found she wasn’t quite weird enough in appearance. Spacek had an almost alien look to her, constantly wide-eyed and afraid of herself and her surroundings. Moretz just looks like your typical teenager, but with messy hair and a frumpy dress. And when she comes out of her shell and goes to prom, any sense of her being weird gets washed away and she becomes too normal; even Spacek still looked odd during those scenes in the original. But Moretz still comes across as Laurence Olivier when compared to the banality of the majority of the cast, who are all either bland or exaggerated beyond belief. Wilde and Elgort are pretty standard as Sue Snell and Tommy Ross, going through the motions with little else to do. Judy Greer feels wasted as Ms. Desjardin; her usual comic wit and personality are absent from a role that could have been played by anyone. But the real sour spot comes from Portia Doubleday as Chris Hargensen. Sure, Nancy Allen’s performance was a bit OTT back then, but here it is just plain ludicrous. Her levels of despicableness are beyond cartoonish to the point that you just can’t see this level of behaviour happening in any kind of reality. Getting pissed that you can’t go to prom? Understandable. Having you and your boyfriend plan a cruel prank as payback? A bit much, but not totally improbable. Trying to run her over with a speeding car?! Now you’re just being ridiculous! Even Norman Bates would look at this chick and say, “B*tch, you’re crazy!” But what ultimately saves the film on the acting front is Julianne Moore as Carrie’s mother. Her performance is a bit more subdued but is just as creepy as Piper Laurie’s portrayal of the character. The scenes between her and Moretz really work, but still some elements come across as unneeded. Did we really need to see her job and that she self-harms? I think she’s crazy enough already.
As mentioned before, the main thing that makes remaking Carrie seem like a good idea is the opportunity to ramp up the climax. And the effects team has done a good job of it, really making that last reel sizzle and provide some much needed energy in an otherwise pointless movie. The film isn’t shy on the blood either, and if they used CG blood at any point then it’s probably the best CG blood I’ve ever seen. But in all other areas, everything seems pulled back. The cinematography is much blander, the score isn’t as memorable, and they’ve removed all nudity. Considering the opening shower scene in the original was so iconic, and the fact they easily could have gotten away with it considering they’ve got an R rating anyway, the removal of the nudity alone sums up how much the film feels less like a filmmaker having something to say about the material and more like a studio wanting a marketable film based on an established property.
Watching the remake of Carrie is like replacing your phone with a newer version of the exact same phone: it may have a few new things in there, but it serves the exact same purpose as the old one and what’s new doesn’t add much. Perhaps if I’d never seen the original, I’d be more forgiving of this film considering that most of its problems can stem right back to the original. But that is the root of the problem: I have seen the original, and if given the choice I’d pick it over this version every time.
FINAL VERDICT: 5/10