REVIEW: Carrie (2013)

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 Shoddy remake not work the cellulose it was printed on. ( ★ Directed by Kimberly Peirce.)

The Steven King novel, Carrie, and the 1976 Brian De Palma film based on it, were wonderfully chilling takes on the horrors of burgeoning adulthood in the fish bowl of high school.

Given that being a teenager is so much more fraught these days, you’d expect director Kimberly Peirce’s do-over might have something new and insightful to say about the crumminess of attending an American high school today.

Instead, her Carrie treads familiarly cruel and senseless ground, albeit with a predictable phone-cam twist.

When a group of teenage girls taunts class-weirdo Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moritz), and posts video of the attack online, the ring leader, Chris (Portia Doubleday) is banned from attending senior prom.

Her best friend Sue (Gabriella Wilde), appalled by what they’ve done, plans to make amends by having her popular, sports star boyfriend Tommy (Ansell Egort) take Carrie to prom in her stead.

But Carrie has secrets, and when Chris makes a final stab at her dignity during the prom, Carrie snaps and takes a terrible vengeance of her own.

Given how powerful an image Carrie White creates it’s surprising Hollywood took so long to remake of Brian De Palmer’s 1976 classic film about the bullied teen who manifests awesome powers and wreaks revenge on her tormentors.

2012’s Chronicle, about a group of boys who develop superpowers that promptly go to their heads, comes close, but King’s creepy, tragic tale of the overpowering tumult of teenage hormones still takes the cake for scares.

Becoming a woman could not have found a more apt metaphor in the ugly duckling girl with powers she can’t control or understand.

De Palma’s original adaptation of the novel was an organic and legitimately chilling film, aided in no small part by the otherworldly face of Sissy Spacek as Carrie.

But the modern version, hampered by a weak lead in Moretz, seems bizarrely squeamish around the topic of female sexuality – the girls are never naked and sex appears either a chore or less exciting than extreme violence.

It sets this modern Carrie up as a horror film made for coddled teenagers, unlike the original, which was a horror about teens made for an adult audience.

With a weirdly moralising tone of Peirce’s film seems to side more with the puritanical ranting of Carrie’s mother Margaret (Julianne Moore) than the teenagers.

The life changing and often life ending consequences for being ‘‘bad’’ are visited upon the teens like senseless acts of God.

In DePalmer’s Carrie, the violence is a result of unacknowledged emotion and the maelstrom of teenage passions, in Pierce’s they’re at almighty slap in the face from above.

Even Carrie’s powers seem explained, overly so, as actual divine punishment, and although Peirce falls short of confirming whether the divinity in question resides north or much, much farther south, the finale has an Old Testament punch that’s hard to deny.

All of this might have been fine, except it feels forced, heavy handed and shoddily put together, with pacing all over the place and cheap special effects that do little to sell the drama – not at all what you would expect from the director of Boys Don’t Cry (1996), which seemed to capture teenage desperation so perfectly.

Sadly, Carrie also does little for Chloe Grace Moretz except highlight her shortcomings as an actor.

She seems incapable subtlety or real vulnerability and doesn’t stand up to comparison with original Carrie Spacek at all.

In the end Carrie seems like nothing so much as series of missed opportunities, for great frights, great roles for women and great social comment – something 70s horror used to do with ease.

If one good thing comes from the film, let it be Carrie dragging the current mania for remaking already perfect films back to hell with her.


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