MOVIE REVIEW: Carrie
SPOT.ph blogger Paul Daza on the remake of the bloody 1976 Stephen King horror story.
(SPOT.ph) STORY: Carrie is a reimagining of the horror classic directed by Brian De Palma in 1976, which was based in turn on the first (published) novel of Stephen King. This 21st century remake has Chloe Grace Moretz as Carrie White, a socially awkward high school girl brought up by a deeply religious mother (Julianne Moore). When Carrie menstruates for the first time during a water polo class with her schoolmates, she has no idea what's happening and even thinks she's bleeding to death. One of the meaner girls, Chris (Portia Doubleday), makes fun of Carrie's ignorance and even posts a video of the incident online. But not all of Carrie's peers are mean. Feeling guilty about how the girls made fun of Carrie, Sue (Gabriella Wilde) has her handsome boyfriend Tommy (Ansel Elgort) ask Carrie to the prom. She agrees to go, unknown to her, Sue, and Tommy that Chris plans to humiliate her (Carrie) further with a prank involving pig's blood. But what the school doesn't know is that Carrie has telekinesis-the ability to move objects with her mind. And it's a power that will turn their prom into a bloodbath.
The new prologue and 21st century script updates. If memory serves, the 1976 Carrie began with the title character already a teenager, minutes away from menstruating for the first time. The remake, however, starts with Margaret White (Julianne Moore) giving birth to Carrie in an unnerving, frightening, and suspenseful sequence that colors the story's central mother-daughter relationship in ways the original never did. The scriptwriters further enrich the character of Carrie's bible-obsessed mother by giving her a bone chilling self-mutilation scene that also has no equivalent in the De Palma version. Before the first act is over, Carrie's tragic tale is brought squarely into 2013 by the use of smartphones and Internet videos as vital ingredients to the story.
Chloe Grace Moretz's age. I found out only recently that Sissy Spacek was already 26 years old when she played the teenaged Carrie in the 1976 original. And so, when news broke that the 16-year-old Moretz (whom I've admired since she played a child vampire in Let Me In) would don Carrie's prom dress in the remake, I was excited to see what a real teen actress would bring to the table. And I wasn't disappointed. Moretz approaches the role differently from Spacek, Moretz's interpretation being less of an alienated weirdo than Spacek's mousy social outcast. Moretz's Carrie, for instance, isn't afraid to engage in a war of Bible verses with her mother, something Spacek's Carrie never did.
Kimberly Peirce's more subdued direction. The new Carrie is directed by Kimberly Peirce, who in 1999 directed the Oscar-winning lesbian drama Boys Don't Cry. Like Carrie, that film (which was based on a true story) was also set in a small American town and showed how violence and death are inevitable by-products of bullying and intolerance. It's primarily due to Peirce's indie sensibility that the new Carrie feels more real and intimate compared to De Palma's glossier and more cinematically striking opus. Look no further than the notorious prom sequence itself to see how different Peirce's visualization is from De Palma's. Where De Palma's climax was a flashy, glittery, over-the-top spectacle with split-screens and striking cinematography, Peirce's version is less stylized and more economical in terms of production design and camerawork. And while I'm sure that Peirce's approach will have its detractors, I'm glad that her Carrie has a more personal vibe than De Palma's excessive Hollywood tour de force. Don't get me wrong, De Palma's Carrie is one of my favorite horror flicks. But as a Carrie fan, I'm happy that there are now two tonally different movie versions of a story that I enjoy, each one the product of a gifted director's unique vision with its own pluses and minuses.
The intrusive CGI. The first Carrie was released several years before computer-generated imagery (CGI) changed movies forever. And so, to depict Carrie's telekinetic powers in 1976, the filmmakers had to resort to old-fashioned camera tricks like using "invisible" wires to levitate objects and cutting away just before the wires became visible. Now, filmmakers have computers do all the movie magic. Ironically, however, CGI makes the viewing experience less magical. Two scenes in the remake mar the low-budget intimacy that director Kimberly Peirce successfully cloaks her film with for the most part: the scene where Carrie is practicing her telekinetic gift in her bedroom and the shots showing mean girl Sue trying to rid the world of Carrie once and for all. The culprit in those shots? The obvious use of CGI.
Moretz's poses. In some shots where she's using her mind-over-matter powers, Chloe Grace Moretz turns her head and strikes an action-figure pose with her hands, reminiscent of Jean Gray from the X-Men franchise and Moretz's own Hit-Girl character from the Kick-Ass movies. Carrie White is no superhero so why does Moretz make her pose like one?
Chloe Grace Moretz & Julianne Moore are NOT Sissy Spacek & Piper Laurie. If this new Carrie is your first encounter with Carrie White and her mother Margaret, you'll probably be impressed by the superb portrayals of the actresses who play them, Moretz and Moore, respectively. But if you've seen the 1976 version, there's no way you'll concede that Moretz & Moore are better than their cinematic predecessors, Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie. The clothes, hairstyles, and even some of the camerawork from De Palma's film may be dated, but Laurie and Spacek's work as the tragic mother and daughter remain indelible, one of those rare instances when two actresses from a horror flick were rewarded with Oscar nominations.
IN BRIEF: Those familiar with the 1976 original will find this remake wanting, but for the rest, especially much younger viewers who aren't familiar with the character, Carrie will provide enough adolescent angst and bloody retribution as you'd expect from moviedom's first coming-of-age horror flick.
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 spots