Carrie (film review)
1 hr. 39 mins.
Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Alex Russell, Ansel Elgort and Judy Greer
Directed by: Kimberly Peirce
MPAA Rating: R
Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)
It is certainly asking a lot to buy into the shoddy remake of Brian De Palma’s 1976 macabre masterpiece ‘Carrie’ but there is no real crime in having director Kimberly Peirce’s (‘Boys Don’t Cry’, ‘Stop-Loss’) updated instalment co-existing with the memory of yesteryear’s classic freak show. Or maybe there is reason for applying the handcuffs to Peirce’s decision to deliver a flat and flavorless rendition of Stephen King’s timeless creepfest?
Naturally, Peirce is not the only filmmaker guilty of trying to rehash and repackage a vintage goose-bump gem and apply it to the contemporary slash-and-dash genre so instrumental in today’s cynical cinema. Actually, ‘Carrie’ is not a bad horror flick despite having the obvious task of being compared and contrasted to the superior original blueprint. Still, it is seriously lacking in the thrills and chills department as Peirce does not deliver anything that distinctive or weirdly impish to regard this toothless thriller as unique or calculating in reference to other fear-inducing fodder that we have seen countless times before. Peirce’s ‘Carrie’ does incorporate the adage about bullying practices so prevalent in the headlines and the modern-day technical special effects favors this version which goes without saying.
Most frightfest fans are familiar with the premise of ‘Carrie’, courtesy of the aforementioned King’s transfixing 1974 novel and the De Palma big screen adaptation that scored big-time Oscar nominations for Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie (Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore have the dubious task of portraying the complex daughter-mother tandem in this movie). Social outcast Carrie White (Moretz, ‘Kick-Ass 2?) is the awkward and unaware high schooler whose bodily functions set off a panic inside her while dressing in the girls’ locker room. Carrie is mystified about experiencing her period and soon is the target for humiliation from her peers.
In particular, vicious siren Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) publicly exposes Carrie’s embarrassment to the on-line world. Chris’ misguided and cruel actions result in gym teacher Ms. Desjardins (Judy Greer taking over the role for Betty Buckley in the first film) preventing her from attending the prom. Thus, the bitter Chris is determined to get even for Ms. Desjardins’s brand of discipline and guess the ultimate pawn that will be on display when Chris hatches her sinister plan to get even with revenge…one Carrie White!
As for mopey Carrie’s isolated persona, this can be attributed to Margaret White (Moore) — an unstable and fanatical Christian fundamentalist whose wacky beliefs and dysfunctional derangement are so evident in Carrie’s inability to cope with her confusing adolescence as she enters young womanhood. The only defensive resource that Carrie has to shield her from the continual cruelty of her academic existence at school and from the menacing manipulation of the mother Margaret is the gift of supernatural powers that she possesses. Carrie is timid and hides under her mass of scattered curly hair but her being armed with telekinesis tendencies is definitely a recipe for disaster waiting to overflow at the brim.
Basically, ‘Carrie’ pretty much follows the road map of bad things to come with the same premise intact (not to mention some recycled dialogue to boot). Carrie receives the pity treatment from classmate Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) when Sue urges her boyfriend Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort) to escort the sheepish Carrie to the prom. The conniving Chris and her boyfriend Billy Nolan (Alex Russell) slaughter a pig and that ghoulish stunt becomes the disturbing point for the nightmarish happenings that pushes an anguished Carrie over the top until her gloomy wrath is unleashed. Plus the hair-raising showdown between Carrie and mother Margaret in the aftermath of the poisonous prom devastation ignites.
All this is well and good as it is expected but somehow Peirce’s follow-the-dots method to De Palma’s nostalgic terrorising and twitching still pales in comparison to the old style tension-filled tactics that yesterday’s ‘Carrie’ so eerily captured initially. The question begs the inevitable inquiry: why even bother trying to replicate a heralded chiller when you refuse to at least offer a challenging sense of dramatic spin or interpretation that could possibly give this revised manic film a toxic merit of its own? Unfortunately, Peirce’s ‘Carrie’ feels uninspired and lazy while never having the depth to tweak this fear fable beyond its flaccid copycat convictions.
For the most part, Moretz’s Carrie White is serviceable as a compelling specimen whose battered soul and tattered spirit is the mark of a tortured individual looking to tap into her breaking point courtesy of a critical world she had been deprived from so inexplicably. Moore’s Margaret White is much more contained in her religious ideology insanity than Laurie’s brilliantly whacked-out take in the original movie. The supporting players are sufficient in what they provide to the material but they will not let us forget the portrayals of the explosive actors whose shoes they try to fill any time soon.
There needed to be more shock-inducing significance poured onto this callow ‘Carrie’ besides the standby bucket of pig’s blood dumped on her exposed noggin.
NOTE: Focus of New York film critic Frank Ochieng is a member of: