Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Judy Greer, Portia Doubleday, Gabriella Wilde, Ansel Elgort, Alex Russell, and Julianne Moore
Written By: Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Directed By: Kimberly Peirce
The remake of Carrie isn’t quite a shot-for-shot carbon copy of the original film in the way that Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake of Psycho was, but it’s pretty close. It’s surprising that the filmmaker’s didn’t attempt more of a “reimagining” but instead recycle almost every plot point instead of modernizing the story for 2013. The film is well made, the performances are good, and it’s fairly entertaining, however it’s hard to overlook how unnecessary it all seems.
One of the issues with the film is the casting of Chloe Grace Moretz in the title role of the awkward outcast. There’s nothing wrong with Moretz’s performance, but she’s too pretty an actress to be believable as the town freak whom all the popular girls ridicule. The filmmaker’s do their best to “ugly” her up by draining all the color from her face and giving her a dried out frizzy hairdo, but in any American high school in reality, Moretz could be the head cheerleader. She happens to be one of the best up-and-coming young actresses of her generation and is able to carry the film admirably, but Moretz’s casting alone is a glaring example of how “Hollywoodized” this remake is. There’s nothing that feels dangerous or innovative about the movie, but instead it feels like an excuse to tell this story to a new generation. Hollywood must assume that today’s teenagers would find the idea of watching a movie from 1976 too off-putting. Unfortunately, that might be true.
Despite being based on source material from a novel by Stephen King, the 2013 Carrie more closely resembles Brian De Palma’s film adaptation. Moretz stars as Carrie White, a shy loner who is ostracized by her peers and sheltered by her deeply religious mother. Julianne Moore is effectively creepy as Carrie’s mother, the mentally disturbed Margaret White. Moore doesn’t quite ham it up as the bible thumping, god-fearing Margaret, but instead paints a more realistic portrayal of mental illness.
The scenes between Moretz and Moore are perhaps the best acted of the film, but it’s the scenes with the “mean girls” that are the most campy and entertaining. Portia Doubleday is pitch-perfect as “meanest” girl Chris Hargensen who rallies her classmates to taunt Carrie while she’s experiencing her first period. While the recreation of the famous “period in the shower” scene is way less edgy than it was in the original, it’s a testament to Doubleday’s performance that you truly despise her character and eagerly await her demise.
Judy Greer is also a standout as gym instructor Ms. Desjardin, one of the few people who are sympathetic towards Carrie. Desjardin’s attempt to take on a motherly role with Carrie by supporting and encouraging her as opposed to real mother Margaret locking Carrie in a closet and forcing her to pray, makes for an interesting character dynamic. The others who are compassionate towards Carrie include popular kids Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) and Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort). Throwing in kindhearted characters is essential to the suspense of the prom scene where all hell breaks loose, as there are in fact some characters we’d rather not see get decapitated by flying debris. But again, if you’re familiar with the fate of these character’s from the original movie, it drastically diminishes the tension.
As far as “the moment you’ve all been waiting for”, the prom scene is somewhat of a disappointment. It’s not a total failure, but if there was any opportunity to knock one out of the park, it’s in Carrie’s final unleashing of her telekinetic rage. At least the filmmaker’s don’t tone down the bloodshed and do in fact embrace the R-rating, but director Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry) handles drama better than action, so the sequence isn’t nearly as viscerally exciting as it should be. There are a couple of inventive deaths and solid spurts of gore, but on a technical level the scene is a letdown. The prom is still the highlight of the movie, but the mayhem isn’t choreographed all that thrillingly, preventing the finale from being a true “showstopper”.
If you’ve never seen the original Carrie, then you will probably enjoy this remake a lot more than those who are familiar with the first film. Essentially, this movie is like listening to a cover song of a superior artist’s work. Although it’s rarely scary, Carrie still manages to entertain, but it’s hard to really appreciate a movie when you know what’s going to happen every step of the way. Had the filmmaker’s taken this general premise and revamped it into a new story, setting, characters, etc., this might have been a worthwhile retelling of a teenage revenge horror/fantasy. But as is, the 2013 Carrie is mostly an uninspired attempt to cash in on a renowned property.