The “remake thing” has been prevalent for so long, I’ve now determined that remakes fall into two categories. There are remakes for them and remakes for us – “us” meaning the seasoned horror fans who have likely seen it all.
In the former category, you have remakes that are literally straight re-tellings with little to no differences between the original film and the redo. These are usually safely told, not taking any risks to deviate from the previously explored material and sticking to what works. They’re usually for someone not familiar with – or who have never seen – the original film. The remakes for “us” deftly embrace the tone of the original, maybe alter some things yet stay true to the heart and perhaps have something new to say.
This modern adaptation of Carrie is definitely one for “them.” It’s a beat-for-beat remake of Brian De Palma’s 1976 film starring Sissy Space and Piper Laurie, but it’s a totally harmless remake. My only major complaint is that director Kimberly Peirce misses the opportunity to put her stamp on it and make this a thoughtful commentary on modern-day bullying.
Carrie maintains the story of young Carrie White, a timid teenage girl who discovers she has telekinetic abilities. If she’s not contending with the a vicious group of fellow students, she’s doing her best to appease her religious wack-job mom, Margaret. When Carrie becomes the victim of a mentally and physically harmful prank, she explodes with revenge, using her telekinetic skills on anyone in her path.
Chloe Grace Moretz is rather good in the role, using her body language skillfully to evoke a young woman who is uncomfortable in her skin and who is uncomfortable socially. When the shit hits the fan, so to speak, her execution of the power she wields is appropriately dramatic and a welcome departure from what Sissy Spacek had done. The carnage she unleashes is gleefully violent and amplified from what some of us are used to in the De Palma film. Julianne Moore is certainly crazy as Margaret White and depicts her unhinged persona pretty darn well; it’s all in the hair and the way she holds herself. The self-mutilation is gnarly, too.
Where Carrie staggers, however, is in its failure to bring anything new to the film’s themes. Sure, it updates the level of bullying. At one point during Carrie’s tampon assault, a girl records the whole incident on her phone and the video is threatened to go wide on the web. Okay, that’s modern and true to the times. Given today’s climate of bullying and the fact that it’s now a nation-wide focus – surely the script (by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and original Carrie film scribe Lawrence D. Cohen) could have called upon new ways to capture that rather than cling so safely to the original film motions.
But again, this is a criticism coming from someone quite familiar with the original film. I was seeking maybe a tad more. For a newbie to the material, this gripe probably won’t resonate. The remake does a fine job emotionally pushing you through the story so that by the time the prom sequence occurs, you’re ready to see Carrie exact her vengeance.
Where Carrie also misses the mark is in its finale. The final moments are awfully preachy, as if to hammer home a point we’ve already reached well before Carrie’s visit to the prom. Still, its watchable. Harmless, like I’ve stated. It doesn’t carry the visual punch of De Palma’s film, but it gets the job done without being a mess like other remakes we’ve seen.