I’m not sure what the intentions were when it was decided to remake the classic 70s horror movie Carrie, based on the novel by Stephen King. Usually the filmmakers crow that they are going to go the original source material, vs. remaking the movie. Or perhaps they believe are reimagining it for a modern audience. But the only thing new Kimberley Peirce’s movie seems to have added is a little bit of cyberbullying to the mix in this tale of a sheltered teen losing her shit, and burning her high school down with the powers of her mind.
Carrie (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a mousy (but undeniably kinda cute) high school girl with no friends. She’s the type of weird kid who, when it comes to sharing a poem in class, reads a dark passage from the Bible. She slouches when she walks, clutching her books to her chest (perhaps to hide her “dirty pillows” of adolescence, as her mom calls her breasts with disdain). In PE, she is the kid who hopes she never has to touch the ball when it comes her way. So when Carrie completely freaks out, wailing that she is dying and “it hurts” when she finds blood between her legs during a shower sequence in gym class, the other girls turn on her like a pack of snarling dogs. This scene of Carrie getting pelted with tampons and pads on the shower floor, while the kids chant, “Plug it up!” in undeniably cruel, no matter how you look at it. But in this version, the lead bully, Chris (Portia Doubleday) of course takes a video with her phone, and puts it on the internet.
Carrie’s school life goes from bad to really sucky. But the incident seems to have unleashed a power within her. She can move things with her mind. Sensing something new in her daughter, her mother (Julianne Moore), makes sure Carrie gets plenty of prayer time locked under the stairs. But there is something now unleashed in Carrie that gives her enough rage to start fighting back. Doesn’t matter if one of the bullies Sue (Gabriella Wilde) has a guilty change of heart and asks her sweet jock boyfriend Tommy (Ansel Elgort) to ask Carrie to prom. Doesn’t matter than Carrie finally seems to have a single friend, even if it is her gym teacher (Judy Greer). What matters is that we all know that Carrie’s powers have grown so strong that it will just take one… more… thing…. and all hell will break lose. (aka: The. Worst. Prom. Ever.)
Carrie isn’t an awful movie, but if you have seen the original, with spacier, spookier Sissy Spacek as the lead, and out-of-her-gourd nuts Piper Laurie as her religious freak mom, it is hard to see the point. In this version the freakiness, if anything, is slightly toned down in an attempt to flesh out those characters, making it a little less believable that they would act so very extreme when the time arises. It is kind of harder to believe that a girl like Carrie, who can do research with a computer at her high school library, would be so completely completely clueless at the onset of her period. And, like many remakes, it offers some more gory, slow motion ends to some of the characters, well, just because they can.
Maybe this film will seem fresh to those that don’t know the story. Maybe the original was so groundbreaking (down its “I’m not dead yet!” zinger of a shock), that it now seems unoriginal when presented as new. As it is, I would suggest seeking out the 1976 film instead to see how it is done.
Special features include a feature commentary by director Kimberly Pierce, deleted/alternate scenes, as well as an alternate ending with more of an outlandish Alien-like vibe (that turns out to be a dream). Among the more interesting behind-the-scenes featurettes are one on how real fire was used for the prom scene, with new techniques (and goo) that keep the actors from being burned (yikes!). Finally, there is a fun extra that had gone viral, promoting the film (“Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise“) where a coffee shop is set up in advance for a fake customer to flip out and go all Carrie-like (think pictures falling, furniture flying), to the horror of the unsuspecting public. Good times!