Carrie is a serviceable remake, although it’s ultimately an unnecessary retelling of the 1976 classic’s stronger, more resonant themes of religious control and a teenage outcast. The story opens and closes in a different fashion from the original, giving us a look at Julianne Moore’s insane religious zealot Margaret White, birthing Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz) and feeling the evil coming forth. It’s a striking scene that establishes a much different tone than expected, one grounded in horror conventions that have emerged in the past 37 years. Peirce has created a world that’s heightened, in a way; characters are excessive stereotypes now, the film includes a few too many bloody scenes that deter from the supernatural horrors of the original, and the direction provides us with unnecessary book ends to a film that was already remarkably strong on its own.
For those unfamiliar, the story follows Carrie White, an outcast in high school who has her period for the first time in the gym showers and becomes the laughing stock of the school. Thinking she’s dying and writhing on the floor like a child (one of the many instances where Carrie cannot seem to act on her own, relying on a maternal figure for help), the girls do not offer to help but laugh at her and record a video to post on the Internet of the incident. They throw tampons at her, and Ms. Desjardin (Judy Greer) comes to the rescue. The other girls are punished, with resident bad girl Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) being suspended from school and prom; seeking revenge, particularly after Carrie gets asked to prom by Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort; he’s dating Sue, a girl who convinces him to take Carrie because she feels bad about the incident), she works with her boyfriend to ruin Carrie’s prom night.
Pig’s blood and a horror classic abound from there. The problem with 2013’s Carrie is that it follows the original, well, religiously, never straying far enough to send a new message about its inherently dense subject matter. Moretz is very strong in the lead, demonstrating her potential as a leading actress in pretty much any genre, but Moore is even better as the mother. She’s filled with love buried deep beneath her religiously-based craziness, and Moore sells it completely. The supporting performances are fine, nothing spectacular, but the element of the film that speaks to the source material’s greatness is the prom scene leading up to Carrie’s wrath. There’s a sweetness to its developments, the delicacy of Carrie and her nature; Tommy is even more humanized here. Yet the film’s obvious message with an epilogue at the ending effectively says, “Bullying is bad,” and doesn’t let the work speak for itself. It’s not as refined as the original, and sends a less effective message with what should’ve been better resources.
Grade: ★★★ (out of 5)