And just like the Devil keeps coming back, so do Carrie remakes.
We all know the story of shy Carrie White. Living in the house with her religiously fanatical mother, bullied by her school mates and finally invited to the prom which goes horribly wrong. Because another thing about Carrie is - she has the power of telekinesis. And that's what makes her someone you really do not want to bully.
I'll never understand the obsessive need of remaking movies that not only already exist in English language versions, but in addition are the masterpieces of the genre. Despite its shameful imdb ratting (seriously, what the fuck?) Brian De Palma's first adaptation of Carrie is not only the classic of horror genre but one of the most important horror movies ever made. It's been 37 years and the film has not aged - De Palma's unique approach to the story still feels fresh and the film remains a technical marvel - with all the CGI, with all the tricks available today I doubt there are many directors who could recreate the masterpiece that is the prom sequence from original film.
But what made De Palma's movie ever more special was how authentic, even in this hyper world of his movie, the relationships and people felt. You genuinely felt for Carrie, you kept rooting for her. You saw her pain when she was bullied and you hated the bullies. You were scared of Margaret White and you were scared for Carrie when she was around her mother.
The biggest problem with this remake is not the hilariously miscast group of actors or the fact the director, Kimberly Peirce, who despite being responsible for Boys don't Cry clearly lost her talent (I've seen commercials that were directed better than this Carrie), has no idea what she wants to do with this story - it's the fact that this retelling of Carrie doesn't provoke any emotions. Well, except for anger that you lost your time and money. And genuine embarrassment for Julianne Moore.
And it started promising - for the very first time in adaptation of Carrie we were shown the moment Carrie was born. The camera slowly moves up the stairs and shows us Margaret White, convulsing in pain on the bed. Then we see little baby between her legs. Margaret grabs scissors and before killing the child she looks at her daughter, puts down the scissors and hugs Carrie. That's it. That is the only fresh (and not ridiculous) thing this remake brought to the table.
The infuriating thing is that if the director and the writer actually followed the film keeping roots in that scene and focused more on the relationship between Margaret and Carrie they would have made a good movie (with different actors, though). Instead of the promised reimagining of the novel we simply got almost exact remake of De Palma's film - without his skill, without the great performances, without imagination and pretty much without everything that made his movie so special.
In the original film Laurie and Spacek really did feel like mother and daughter. Here you don't get a feeling like that. Moore delivers terrible performance - I was genuinely embarrassed for her. She was trying to recreate what Laurie did and she failed. The chemistry between her and Moretz is so off you never feel differently than watching two actresses trying to imitate two legendary performances and failing miserably.
The film also fucks up the dynamics in the story. Chris is being shown in more favorable light here - her psycho boyfriend pushes her towards some things instead of the other way around, the town is not afraid enough of Margaret, there is not enough emphasis put on Christianity and how it is perceived through Margaret's actions - that might have been very interesting given modern setting.
But the worst part is the bullying and Carrie's revenge. The biggest change in this retelling of the story is the fact Carrie is completely aware of what she is doing when the prom massacre is happening. I have not read the novel, but in 1976 and 2002 versions Carrie went into a trance - her power was being unleashed and she was just standing there. It was very easy to continue to see her as innocent and sweet after she snapped out of it at home and started crying.
But not here. I'm not exactly sure what the hell they thought they were doing but showing a heroine of the movie take bloody revenge and commit mass murder because she was bullied is not a reasonable thing to do. No, wait. It's fucking insane. With all the school shootings nowadays do we really need a film that shows bullied girl triumph over bullies by killing them? Yes, the bulling was bad in the film. But it was not bad enough for me to watch Carrie take pleasure in killing these people and feel it's justified.
Because what Carrie experienced wasn't as bad as in other versions - here there were several people that were nice to Carrie not just Tommy, Sue and the teacher - the negative side of things is not negative enough. And the fact Carrie takes so much pleasure in killing those people is not justified - it's not even an accurate progression - because of the masterfully timed prom sequence in 76's version the blood drop was enough - it was one drop of humiliation that tipped Carrie over the edge. Here her outburst - though it has the right triggers - does not feel believable because Peirce has absolutely no idea how to build tension and how to show tension rising in Carrie.
The whole prom massacre is another failure. As I mentioned there is no tension, but the fact is that even if you think this remake is a bad idea, you'll probably see it just to check out what they did with this iconic scene. Well, that is actually a huge let down too. Carrie, 2002 TV version, had awful production values but they managed to pull off the massacre scene MUCH better than this studio movie did.
Not only is the sequence too short - it's completely devoided of finesse and imagination which made it so powerful in De Palma's film. Worse yet - it keeps cutting to different things - Chris trying to escape, Sue on the phone - instead of keeping the focus on Carrie, we are continuously distracted in 5 minutes sequence, which also makes it feel shorter. The big climax is like something that was cut down to match kids with ADD attention span.
That's not all - we see the blood drop FOUR times. Four. Why? That was probably Peirce's way of showing how terrible the act was. I guess when you lack skill and imagination repetition is the only hing that is left. And it gets even worse - in this version Carrie actually flies. She flies off the stage. Then she actually stomps her foot and breaks the road. Earlier in the movie she can make the lock in the door red hot. It's a damn mess, people.
And then there is the waving with the hands thing. What make the trance thing and Carrie's power in previous films so chilling is that she basically controls them with her mind. And that is what telekinesis is - controlling objects with your mind. For some inexplicable reason Moretz is using her hands in many scenes, especially during the prom scene. It looks like X Men spin off.
And then the film started being insulting. I gather Chloe Moretz is a big fan of Black Swan. She mentions that movie a lot. It will take you exactly two seconds to see what my favorite movie is - just look at the header. Now, Moretz tries, she does, and given the right material she could create lovely performances. But this is not the right material. Not only does vengeful Carrie wave her hands around - she quietly hisses just like Natalie Portman did when she was Black Swan. It's clear to me Moretz was inspired here and saw the moment Carrie breaks as her own Black Swan moment, but given how uneven that movie is and how unjustified and badly portrayed that break was, it's just awful, awful to witness.
The early promotional material promised a version that will be closer to the book - I'm given to understand there Carrie doesn't just stop at the school but destroys many buildings in the town. Hell, even with the low productoon values they did that in 2002's version. Here, even though you could see some of that in the first teaser for the movie, the events play almost exactly like they did in De Palma's version.
Before Carrie gets home and the finale, which was actually even worse than the massacre, happens there is one good scene in which Carrie kills Chris. Minus the hands thing and silly effect in which Chris's face goes through the window in slow motion, I did like that scene. That kill for me was the only justified one given how things played out in the movie.
The finale though....Jesus. The film was beyond saving by then, but they really buried it in the last few minutes - it's really, really bad when the most retarded things in the movie happen in the ending, as the ending is more often than not one of the things you remember best about the film. Carrie, right before throwing Sue out of the house, tells her that Sue is carrying a girl. That's right. Carrie's hands in addition to being like a torch and invisible lift are also capable of performing ultrasound.
And then Sue visits Carrie's tomb. When she goes away the tomb starts cracking. As rock music plays in the background. I'll tell ya - the first time I saw De Palma's Carrie, Carrie's hand grabbing Sue scared the shit out of me but this time I was genuinely terrified. By the awfulness before me.
As you see there are so many problems with Carrie that the casting of Chloe Moretz is not even that big of an issue. It's an astoundingly bad decision, but there are decisions much worse that were made in the process of making this movie. Moretz tries but she needs to choose different roles instead of capitalizing on someone else's success and doing the remakes or just going for cheap shocks with the swearing, violent, overly sexualized roles.
As for Moore the less is said about what she did here, the better. There are tons of puzzling additions to Margaret - self mutilation, knocking her head on the wall...none of that is properly developed in the movie. The young cast varies from boring to terrible. In fact the only person that was cast well was Judy Greer as Carrie's compassionate teacher. She did a good job and her scenes were the only ones that felt authentic to me.
This is not a bad movie. It wasn't boring, which is a big plus. Moretz is not suited for this part but I did admire the fact she at least tried to do something with the role. But overall - the studio is to blame for how mediocre the film turned out. It's fairly evident they meddled a lot in the process. I'm sure the big executives are the only reason pretty and well known Moretz was cast instead of someone who would genuinely fit the role.
I'm not saying I'm against making new versions of Carrie - there was an idea early on to cast Jodie Foster as Margaret White and I'd love to see that. Also either one of the actresses I wrote about here would make a wonderful Carrie. Throw in the right director, try not to copy what De Palma did, because it's not possible and properly explore at least one of the many themes in the story and you have a good movie. But that Carrie does neither of those things.
Carrie (2013, 100 min)
Plot: 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.
Lawrence D. Cohen (screenplay), Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (screenplay)
Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde