Jeni Morris reviews Carrie, the 2013 adaptation of the 1976 classic horror film based on Stephen King’s book by the same title.
Back in October 2013 when this film was released (Halloween —how appropriate), I ignored it. I figured it was yet another remake of a classic horror flick, yet another adaptation of a Stephen King novel. Plus, it was another film about an insecure teenage girl with a serious identity crisis (though Carrie’s is definitely worse than most). Sometimes when you enjoy the original and then see the remake, you feel robbed, not just of your brief moment of escapism but also of a few quid. I decided I didn’t want this to happen again.
Despite this resolve, I gave in to temptation. Regardless of how painful it is to watch such movies, one can always wreak vengeance by writing a biting review that butchers the new adaptation the way it butchered the original film. Such satisfaction can be delicious. I can certainly complain about how the film was probably made to ensure a profit and how it emphasises Hollywood’s lamentable lack of creativity. Moreover, I can state that the infamous prom night scene at the end of the 1976 version easily tops this version. No offence to Chloë Grace Moretz (Carrie White of the 2013 version), but her screams, gesticulations and angry glares shrivel in comparison to Sissy Spacek’s Carrie, standing blood-drenched on stage, physically static, muscles stiff and tense, but her hypnotic wide-eyed stare communicating her electrified emotions.
However, to compare the two is not entirely fair. Firstly, it was an unnecessary remake rather than an unnecessary sequel (that would be scary). Secondly, perhaps one should judge remakes on their own merit rather than weighing them up against their predecessor. So I aimed to assess it as a stand-alone film.
Besides Moretz as the eponymous character, the other well-known actor starring in this piece is Julianne Moore (of The Big Lebowski, and The Kids Are Alright) who plays Carrie’s self-loathing, puritanical maniac of a mother. A talented and daring performer, one can see why Moore was cast in the role, and yet she goes so woefully underused that we are left asking why her character is the way she is. Indeed, all the characters are pretty superficial and come off as clichés and stereotypes, especially when viewers —because of the previous production— know there is depth to their personalities left little-explored by screenwriters Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and Director Kimberly Peirce. For instance, chief bully Chris (Portia Doubleday), comes off as nothing more than an evil, vindictive rich Daddy’s girl one might see in other Hollywood flicks —horror or otherwise. Furthermore, all the characters look as fake as they are, like extras from the far more terrifying High School Musical films. This applies in part to Carrie as well. Moretz is too in control of her body to completely illustrate the naivety and awkwardness of her character. One is all too aware that she is pretending to be shy instead of being so.
Carrie, as a character, is meant to be unique beyond just her telekinesis. A narrative about the insecurities of adolescence, a coming-of-age tale with no sunshine-and-daisies conclusion, Carrie is the story of a girl struggling to come to terms with who she is in relation to others around her. The film does explore this, but it sacrifices large parts of it in favour of cheap Hollywood tricks. There is a profusion of close-ups, continual usage of slow-motion (which is more likely to get a yawn than a yelp), and over-the-top death scenes mixing violence, crashing, clanging and flinging things around. It actually reminds one of action films of late, such as Kick-Ass, Batman, or X-Men. Hang on a second —is this Carrie or Carrie the Telekinetic Superwoman on a bad hair day? It ticks a number of boxes describing a clichéd action film. Consequently, it sacrifices its individuality, opting to conform rather than stand out, and so losing its shockability. This conformity defeats the point of the film, the point of Carrie herself.
One highlight of the film, though, was Judy Greer (Arrested Development and Archer) as the gym teacher, Miss Desjardin. Otherwise, the best thing I can say about this film is that it might encourage people to see the original version if they haven’t already.
Image Credit: All rights owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/ Screen Gems