Just when I thought we were getting away from remakes, another one rolls into theaters. However, it is a story that I think could have had a very beneficial update to bring it a modern environment. With bullying now bleeding over into online social networking, the victim has very little chance to escape or get a break from the contant taunting and teasing. Carrie is a story that has multiple layers to it so it isn’t surprising that we have seen three reincarnations (Let’s be honest, Carrie 2: The Rage was more of a remake) of the infamous Carrie story. Brian De Palma’s adaptation may be considered a classic of the genre but I think everyone can agree, it feels out of touch and could definitely use a re-dressing.
2013’s Carrie stars Chloe Moretz Grace as the title character, Carrie White, with Julianne Moore as the ultra-religious Margaret White. We are treated to an opening scene that while it doesn’t really add too much to the story, feels welcome and gives the impression that director Kimberly Peirce will deliver a product that may not be like its preceding adaptations. While this would be the point of the review where I would quickly summarize the story, you know the story. The opening scene is the only major difference from previous adaptations. While the 2002 remake starring Angela Bettis used a new screenplay, by Hannibal’s Bryan Fuller no less, Peirce’s film uses the original screenplay from Lawrence D. Cohen from the 1976 De Palma film. Yes, Cohen’s screenplay gets a little modern reworking by scribe Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (“Afterlife with Archie” and the upcoming The Town That Dreaded Sundown remake) that injects a scene or two and rewording to factor in cell phones & modern technology.
Maybe it is more of a personal gripe, but the story seems like there is tons of potential to provide commentary on high school bullying and belief in religion. Peirce doesn’t really go off the beaten path here, which is a shame. What’s even worse is while the film is supposed to be an updated version of the tale, it feels like a backstep for the genre. This film fits firmly surrounded by other anemic mainstream teen horror films from the 90’s. While De Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s story is more of a sensory celebration of exacting revenge onto high school bullying, the thing that makes De Palma’s film stand out is the direction, Piper Laurie‘s performance, in addition to Spacek’s fraility and Pino Donaggio’s iconic, melodramatic score. The worst thing about 1976’s Carrie is the screenplay. Characters are not fleshed out and, on the page, there is barely any emotional tie to any of the girls that tease poor Carrie White. That’s why using the weakest thing from the 1976 film confuses me.
Chloë Grace Moretz as Carrie White tries to make the actress go against type, but it never works. What makes Chloë Grace Moretz such a great contribution to film is the fact that she is a young, strong woman. It is apparent that, as long as she continues, she has a very potential future as an actress. However, the role of Carrie White is not for her. There are hints in the film that once Carrie learns of her gifts, there is a definite feeling that Moretz emotes that feels diabolically gleeful. However, when the iconic prom scene comes up, all that is lost. Julianne Moore tones down the religious fanaticism from Piper Laurie‘s performance. It is a welcome change but doesn’t feel as strong as Laurie’s interpretation. The strongest attributes of the film are from Gabriella Wilde who plays Sue Snell and newcomer Ansel Elgort as Tommy Ross. There feelings towards trying to help Carrie’s social status feels very genuine.
Before you look at me and say, “Why do you keep comparing it to De Palma’s film”, it’s because the audience has the unique and rare ability to compare De Palma’s film and Peirce’s film since they are using the same screenplay and decide which one you like more. For people who haven’t seen the De Palma film or the TV remake or even the ridiculous 1999 sequel, maybe you will find something you might like of this film. 2013’s Carrie is not made for horror fans, it is a product for teens that want a horror film in October. Let’s hope that if someone else decides to adapt King’s tale, they not only adapt scenes never adapted to film but also try something different.