Oh horror remakes, you continue to be such a strange beast. Although less prevalent then perhaps they were a few years ago, horror remakes still don’t seem to be going anywhere, though I suppose that also applies to remakes as a whole. Some of them manage to scrape by because they simply emulate their original counterpart (Friday the 13th), some fuck things up completely (A Nightmare on Elm Street) and some actually justify their existence by taking elements of the original and changing them. The Maniac remake from yesterday is a great example of this. It took the idea of following the killer, and took it all a step further by actually having it take place from his perspective the entire time.
Then you have the remakes who stick so close to the original that their existence is somewhat baffling. Carrie falls directly into that category.
I don’t think I really need to get into the story of Carrie since even if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie (there’s three versions of it already if I’m not mistaken, including the “sequel” The Rage, which let’s face it is really just another remake) I’m sure you know the major plot beats. So let’s do this quickly. Carrie White (here played by Chloe Grace Moretz) is a young girl who is a social outcast in her high school. She was originally homeschooled by her intensely religious mother (Julianne Moore) so much of the world is a complete mystery to her. This is highlighted in an early scene where she gets her first period while in the communal shower after PE class. She freaks out at the sight of the blood, presuming that she is dying. Her classmates begin to throw tampons at her, video tape the entire thing, and then eventually upload it online. When I first watched it, it felt far-fetched but you know what, now that I’ve typed that out I completely that teenagers would be shitty enough to do such a thing so I’m on board.
The idea of introducing social media into the mix did provide some initial promise and seemed like one way that this remake could play around with the Carrie story. However aside from the video upload, and a quick glimpse at a fake Facebook-esque profile the villains set-up for Carrie, they really don’t do anything with this idea. It’s dropped almost entirely, which is too bad.
So Carrie starts to discover that she can move shit with her mind and begins studying and developing her abilities. She starts out moving smaller items and eventually is able to levitate her bed several feet off the ground while she is on it. I did take some issue with all of this as it felt like she discovered and subsequently mastered her abilities far too quickly. In the original it was all about the uncontrollable explosion of her powers in the climax, but here she is a telekinesis pro by about halfway through the movie. A lot of it feels rushed, as though they were simply charging towards the climax.
Oh yeah and then shit goes real, real bad at the prom. That about sums everything up.
The main element worth talking about is the acting, at least in regards to the two leads. Moretz is great as Carrie. I know when she was first announced a lot of people felt she wouldn’t work because she is “too pretty” (something I won’t comment on since I’m pretty sure she’s like 16-years-old) but they do a good job of making her look “frumpy”, which pretty much means she wears overalls a lot. She plays shy and vulnerable very well, and she is so damn charming when things start to go her way that she start to hope that maybe things will work out ok for her. Of course it’s inevitable that it won’t, so her performance makes the outcome a little more tragic.
Moore is also great as her Mom in a role that can very, VERY, easily go way too far over the top. She manages to strike a good balance between being completely crazy but also relatively grounded, and her keep things low key helps to make the character more of a legitimate threat. You know she’s capable of some raw shit, so there is some solid tension generated when you keep waiting for her to suddenly explode. Good stuff.
The supporting characters don’t fare nearly as well, though that has far less to do with the acting, which is fine, than it does with the writing. Primarily it’s the two villains who suffer. They are so completely over the top evil that they come off as cartoon characters. Their reasons for wanting to make life hell for Carrie are so razor thin they practically don’t even exist. These characters definitely could have used some depth, maybe show them a little on the fence about whether or not they should actually go through with their awful plans. Instead, they are one note and laughable.
The characters of Sue and Tommy, the two kids who are sympathetic to Carrie, fare better with Tommy being a pretty charming dude. Judy Greer is also pretty good as the PE teacher who provides what little comic relief the film contains.
The biggest issue with this movie though is that it’s so close to the original film that it may as well not exist at all. All of the major plot beats are there and they rarely switch things up at all, so the proceedings play out almost exactly as you expect. For anyone who has read Stephen King’s original novel, you know that the scope of the climax is far larger than in the original film. The teaser trailers for this remake promised to deliver on that, however it’s nowhere to be found here. The prom scene is still pretty effective, though the CGI gore lessens some of the potential impact. Essentially if you’ve seen 1976 Carrie, then you’ve seen 2013 Carrie.
Carrie is a perfectly serviceable movie but it doesn’t justify its own existence. It’s so close to the original that I don’t know why people found this to be necessary. If you haven’t seen any previous version of Carrie then by all means check this out as it’s still a pretty good story. Otherwise eh, you probably don’t need to bother.