More of an adaptation of the 1976 film than Stephen King’s novel, the latest “Carrie” fails to add anything of benefit to the classic horror story. The film disappoints as yet another needless remake that has as few thrills as a pitiful, made-for-TV movie.
For those unaware of earlier versions, the title character (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a teenager struggling between an obsessively religious mother (Julianne Moore) and the social scene of high school. Popular girls, led by Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday), harass Carrie when she experiences her first period while in the showers after gym class. When gym teacher Ms. Desjardin (Judy Greer) stops the girls and Carrie’s embarrassment and genuine fear generates sympathy, classmate Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) feels guilty for her behavior and is motivated to ask her boyfriend Tommy (Ansel Elgort) to take Carrie to prom as a way to make amends. Chris defiantly responds to the punishment from Ms. Desjardin by refusing to participate in the difficult physical classes, accepts suspension and denial of prom tickets, and uses her boyfriend, Billy (Alex Russell), to plot a bloody attack on Carrie at the prom.
What no one but her mother knows is that Carrie has harnessed telekinetic powers at the start of her physical maturity. Her mother sees evil in everyone she meets and believes the Devil has power over her daughter. When Carrie accepts Tommy’s invitation, her mother believes she has lost her forever and must stop her. Unable to keep her safe, Carrie attends the prom but will no longer stand to be a joke. When humiliated yet again, Carrie violently loses (or takes?) control.
Brian De Palma’s classic “Carrie” perfectly depicts the abject of horror films, with menstrual blood coating Carrie’s innocence with a disturbing, darker perspective. She’s quicker to lose control, but when you wipe away the tarnish she’s still a delicate, little girl. In this newer version, Carrie clearly relishes in the torment of her peers as she passes her judgment, but this enjoyment conflicts with her guilt supposedly felt in her final scene. She is no longer a good person; you don’t feel sorry for her as she delights in her new, vengeful power. In this update, Carrie very clearly attacks individuals, consciously targeting her retaliation rather than violently losing control due to shock and pain.
Modernizing the story doesn’t help to make it relatable; the behavior of the characters builds even more extreme stereotypes, hindering the film’s horror by making everyone into a joke. Director Kimberly Peirce attempts to bring a timely moral by having the main antagonist record Carrie’s shower scare and post it online, but the bully behaves too maliciously to be taken seriously. The teenagers act as modern cliché Hollywood presentations of popularity – snobby and scantily clad – but the more rural suburb setting and dated, sex-separated gym sessions with uniforms contradict this clique image of high school. It’s a disingenuous presentation using extremes to get its storytelling across but is laughable.
Despite Carrie’s more personal, torturous attacks on classmates at the prom, there is far less death and chills in “Carrie” than its bloody poster would suggest. Shockingly for an R-rated horror film, there is absolutely no terror. When she wreaks havoc on the auditorium, the panic is not felt. When she aims her anger at Chris, her wrath is deserved and could even be described as self-defense. Carrie is more vicious, but her actions are too understandable to be chilling. In both films, though, King’s key point of enacting cleansing judgment on the town fails to shrine through.
For a remake to be successful, it needs to improve on the original source by developing the story or using advances in technology to aid the storytelling. There is nothing added in this remake that improves upon the source material or validates the film’s existence. Moretz’s performance is comically bad, mostly relying on awkward poses and silly facial expressions of concentration as she flies around the room acting like a ridiculous witch. For those excited to see Julianne Moore in the role of Carrie’s mom, her character is extremely insane; her self-mutilation is an awful addition to the story and she doesn’t come across as a devoutly religious woman as much as she appears plain crazy. The only redeeming performances of the film come from newcomer Ansel Elgort as Tommy and Judy Greer as Ms. Desjardin, but even their charm can’t earn a “watchable” review for “Carrie.” The poster tagline states, “You will know her name,” but we already did.
Rating for “Carrie:” D
For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.
“Carrie” is playing across Columbus, including at Gateway and Rave Polaris. For showtimes, click here.