Film remakes can be tricky—especially remakes of classic horrors. For a film like Carrie that’s been around for nearly 40 years, there’s naturally going to be a large fan base, meaning it’ll be hard to please everyone. Some people will want a completely new spin, some will throw a fit if it doesn’t stay true to the original, and some will be entirely beyond pleasing because they think a remake shouldn’t happen in the first place. With all that in mind, let’s look at Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie.
I would love to be totally objective about this film and look at its stand-alone merits, but let’s be real: I can’t. The original Carrie is one of my favorite classic horrors, so of course part of me is constantly going to be weighing it against its predecessor. And I’ll admit that classic horror remakes rarely sit well with me. Of the 13 Creepy Classics I listed in a couple posts for Spook Series 2013 (see Part One here and Part Two here), all but a few of them have remakes, and I’m pretty sure I dislike every one of them. I understand why people do remakes—they want to reinterpret the film for a new generation, they hope to have similar success, blah blah blah. But some films just shouldn’t be touched. Is that the case with Carrie? Unfortunately, I think so.
Synopsis: “A reimagining of the classic horror tale about Carrie White, a shy girl outcast by her peers and sheltered by her deeply religious mother, who unleashes telekinetic terror on her small town after being pushed too far at her senior prom.” –Borrowed from my favorite movie site, IMDb.
The Good: If you like the original, you will probably appreciate the fact that much of the plot and dialogue remain very similar. In fact, I think some of the dialogue might even be taken from the original line for line. But there are also some changes that I like. The modernization, for example. Carrie’s biggest bully, Chris (Portia Doubleday), sends an ominous text to bring Sue (Gabriella Wilde) to the prom. The locker room scene (yes, it’s still in there) is recorded on a cell phone and posted online. It adds cyber bullying to plain old bullying, amplifying a topic that is probably more relevant today than it was in 1976. The effects, of course, are pretty cool—lots of telekinetic destruction. We actually get to see Carrie use her powers much more, and they’re certainly impressive. The actors are all pretty solid, too. Chloë Grace Moretz does a good job with the painfully shy and awkward title character, whom we both pity and fear. Julianne Moore gives a disturbing performance as her psychotic mother, Margaret, a woman who subscribes to a very twisted version of Christianity. Judy Greer’s Mrs. Desjardin is likeably feisty and protective of Carrie. None of the characters are a far stretch from the original, which is likely a comfort to diehard fans. The end is slightly different, but it’s creepy, and I appreciate that the film does something new rather than stealing the very memorable final moments. Favorite scene: One character’s attitude is slightly tweaked, and I’m glad for it. Carrie’s crush, Tommy (Ansel Elgort), is nice to her from the start, which isn’t the case in the original. There’s a scene in an English class where Tommy originally makes fun of Carrie, but here he becomes her defender, and it’s very sweet.
The Bad: Since so much remains the same, this remake often feels fairly pointless. Why revive a classic if you aren’t going to do something fresh? Half of me appreciates the effort to stay so true to the original, but the other half wishes the film had shaken things up a bit. Without any kind of major changes or risks it just feels bland. And the minor changes the film does implement are unsavory. The opening scene, for example, is awful. I don’t want to ruin it, but it involves Carrie’s mother, and it’s gross and over-the-top. I realize I’m a serial user of the description “over-the-top,” and for that I apologize, but that is the perfect way to describe Moore’s portrayal of Margaret. Piper Laurie’s interpretation feels naturally creepy; Moore’s feels somewhat forced. Margaret is perhaps slightly more developed as a character, having a full-time job and a nasty nervous habit (which I won’t spoil), but it’s not enough to make her more interesting or terrifying. There are lots of other things I could mention—an unnecessary tidbit involving Sue, a ridiculous scene involving Carrie and a sports car, the fact that we see the exact same moment at prom repeated from three different camera angles (you can probably guess what moment), etc. Things like these might make you pause and think the film is focusing its energy in the wrong directions. Least favorite scene: In the original film, Sissy Spacek’s Carrie is in a somewhat catatonic state while she wreaks havoc at prom, but Moretz’s Carrie seems to relish in the destruction. I don’t love the change. It makes an anti-hero moment downright villainous, which doesn’t seem right or natural for poor, sweet Carrie.
To Sum It Up: I neither hate nor love this film. I guess you could describe my attitude as “meh.” If you like the original, you may enjoy seeing a modern take, but don’t expect the remake of the decade. Nobody was begging for a new Carrie, and now that it’s arrived, nobody really seems to care. If you feel like going just for the sake of the Halloween season, go to a matinee. Otherwise, I’d say wait for the DVD.
My Grade: C