Carrie (2013) Movie Review
Written by Ted McCarthy
Directed by Kimberly Pierce
Written by Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguierre-Sacasa
2013, 100 minutes, Rated R
Chloe Grace Moretz as Carrie White
Julianne Moore as Margaret White
Gabrialla Wilde as Sue Snell
Portia Doubleday as Chris Hargensen
It’s easy, especially as a horror fan, to get pissed off about the slew of remakes/re-imaginings that plague our beloved genre. Not to say there’s never been a decent revamping of a classic horror flick, but for every Dawn of the Dead and Let Me In (which I thought was unnecessary but still very well done), we get an Elm Street, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Wicker Man, Omen, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot that is churned out to make a fast buck off a known property. However, in a discussion on a recent episode of SlasherCast, my weekly horror roundtable podcast, I was presented with a new and very simple way to approach this epidemic: as much as we may kick and scream, remakes aren’t going away anytime soon. So instead of getting pissed off, just grit your teeth and review each movie on its own merits. It’s not easy, but that’s what I’m going to try to do with Carrie, which, while not destined for the classic status of the original, definitely stands head and shoulders above those aforementioned cash-ins.
The story, originally written by Stephen King before being adapted by Brian DePalma in 1976 (then again in a 2002 made-for-TV movie), is the same. Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz) is the least popular of the least popular teenagers at her high school. She also happens to be telekinetic, able to move things with her mind. Her mousiness and social ineptitude stem directly from the abuse she receives at the hands of her overbearing religious zealot mother Margaret (Julianne Moore, acquitting herself very well in the role Piper Laurie owned in DePalma’s film), and make her a prime target for pranks and merciless bullying from her classmates, especially Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday). After Carrie’s ignorance of her own body leads to a horrendous humiliation in the girls’ locker room at the start of the film, Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) decides to try to make some kind of restitution by asking her boyfriend Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort) to take Carrie to the upcoming senior prom. But Chris’ hatred for Carrie knows no boundaries, and so she sets in motion a plot that culminates in the unleashing of Carrie’s telekinetic powers upon her tormentors.
Right off the bat I’ll admit that the production and acting are all excellent. Directed by Kimberly Pierce (Oscar nominee for Boys Don’t Cry), the film looks great from a technical standpoint. The acting, too, is all first rate. Moretz’s Carrie feels a little more real than Sissy Spacek’s portrayal in DePalma’s film, though Spacek was certainly no slouch in that one. There are a couple tweaks to Moore’s version of Margaret White, including her being self-mutilator, that I appreciated and thought added an extra layer to her psychosis. Even the supporting characters are better than they needed to be. My favorite of all is Judy Greer as Ms. Desjardin, the school gym teacher and Carrie’s lone friend and confidante. Known by many as Kitty from TV’s Arrested Development, she plays it straight as a tough but loving woman whose efforts to protect Carrie from the cruelty of her peers are tragically unsuccessful. Elgort takes the goofy boy toy role that William Katt had in the original (minus the bright blonde mop of hair) and makes him equal parts cool and sweet, and Doubleday is tremendously evil as the queen bitch out to ruin Carrie. There are a few other updates to the film, like Chris’ recording of Carrie getting her first period and uploading it to YouTube, that add some relevance in today’s world, where cyberbullying is a growing concern among young people.
The biggest issue with Carrie is unfortunately its basest issue, which is that it never steps out of the shadow of its source material. It can get gussied up with fresh faces and a modern soundtrack (that’s going to sound embarrassingly dated in about two years), but the vast majority of its scenes are near-exact recreations of the ones we saw or read before. There are whole scenes and passages of dialogue that seem to almost literally have been copied and pasted from the original film (which, granted, is an extremely faithful adaptation of the novel), which sometimes works but sometimes comes off as very wooden and unrealistic in a present day setting.
Having watched the original and read the novel shortly before seeing Carrie 2013, I couldn’t ignore my feeling that I had already seen almost everything that it had to offer. But I think I can best explain my conclusion this way: If you’re a fan of Shakespearean theater, you can see several versions of Hamlet performed by several different casts. You know the story is going to stay the same, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be done well each time. There are no surprises in Carrie, but it’s still a solid retelling of a classic story, and will almost certainly sit well with audiences approaching it for the first time.