Rating: 3 / 5
“You will know her name,” the poster slogan shouted in bold type.
Yes, we do, especially those who like Stephen King’s novels. It’s Carrie White and we have “met” her before on screen in an earlier incarnation.
Those familiar with movie classics will remember Brian De Palma’s 1976 film about a teenager with telekinetic powers who exacted revenge on her bullying classmates and oppressive mother.
De Palma’s take on King’s novel was so spellbinding that it defined the horror genre and earned lead actresses Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie Academy Award nominations.
Enter 2013 and the film gods decide to give the story another cinematic whirl, enticing a new generation of horror moviegoers with stars such as Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore who have the unenviable task of filling Spacek’s and Laurie’s shoes, this time, under the direction of Kimberly Peirce (‘Boys Don’t Cry’).
Carrie is an antisocial outcast who lives with her over-protective, over-religious and very unhinged mother (Moore).
After gym class one day, Carrie has her first menstruation and panics because she doesn’t know what’s going on. She asks her classmates for help but it backfires and the locker-room uproar eventually leads one student to plot something bad.
One of the girls, Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde), remorseful for what she did in the locker room, asks her boyfriend Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort), to ask Carrie to the senior prom, but this plan also goes awry.
There is a lot of expectation on director Peirce, whose critically acclaimed debut feature earned its star Hilary Swank an Oscar Best Actress statue.
Instead of reimagining the source material with fresh new eyes, Peirce’s ‘Carrie’ echoes De Palma’s more than it needs to, and the result pales in comparison because it is completely drained of the former’s twisted humour and outrageousness.
This new ‘Carrie’ so anaemic it needs an infusion of blood.
One example is the shower scene in the locker room. De Palma’s version had all the elements designed to shock and make you squirm.
Peirce’s take, though equally as shocking to those who have never watched the scene before, is insipid and several shades of red paler.
So it’s up to the leading actors to make ‘Carrie’ their own, but none seemed to be able to step up to the plate.
Known for her roles in the ‘Kick-Ass’ movies and ‘Let Me In’, Chloe Grace Moretz seems right for the part of the sweet, shy and socially awkward Carrie White, and does a decent job of it.
The 16-year-old probably comes closest to capturing Carrie’s journey into womanhood, but unlike Spacek’s authentically awkward performance, Moretz just comes across as too confident for the part.
Academy Award-nominee Julianne Moore is batty enough in her turn as Margaret White. While it is not Laurie’s fire-and-brimstone kind of deranged, Moore effectively turns in a gripping portrait of a woman consumed by her faith.
NOT AS CHILLING
The supporting cast is as King wrote them to be, as well as all the props for the pivotal climax scene, albeit with a new swathe of paint for a new generation of audience.
As for the gore, this ‘Carrie’ stays quite tame until the grand finale, although it has to be said that the teen’s climactic confrontation with her mother was disappointing.
Despite the director’s exhortations about this film being true to the source material, there is no sight of King’s chilling ending.
The horror genre has evolved and been redefined so many times since 1976 that making a new ‘Carrie’ that is just as scary is going to be a challenge, and indeed it is.
King’s novel is both tragic and horrifying, where you root for Carrie as a victim and fear her as she is consumed by her own powers. This remake has none of that.
Instead, it is a formulaic horror flick that rushes to the final act. It just emphasises the point that the original movie is very good, and still probably is.