Directed by: Kimberly Peirce
R. 99 mins
Based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King, this is a remake of the 1976 classic horror film starring Sissy Spacek and directed by the legendary Brian DePalma. With hardly any changes to the source material, this film follows introverted Carrie (Chloë Grace Moretz) – a young girl who, upon discovering her first period in the showers at her high school – is hazed by her peers to an extreme degree. It doesn’t help that her mother (Julianne Moore) is a Christian fundamentalist who sees Carrie’s transition into womanhood as a terrible sin. As the bullying continues, Carrie discovers that she possesses telekinetic abilities, which gives her the power to move objects *and people* with her mind. While this re-imagining of an almost perfect horror film is grievously unnecessary, I had hoped that Miss. Peirce would bring a female gaze that Mr. DePalma may not have been able to capture. Her previous work (Boys Don’t Cry) would suggest that she has a talent for tackling female self-expression, gender and adolescence but unfortunately she only scratches the surface here.
Naturally, this film received an R rating and while there are some gruesome scenes, the film seems to tip-toe around for ages instead of hitting us with some real depth. And in terms of scares, there aren’t many; Carrie is more cringeworthy rather than jump-out-of-your-seat slasher flick. Then again, the script was penned by one of the writers from Glee so… What could have been a disturbing tale of bullying and its consequences is instead an overly stylish and uninspired tale of vengeance severely lacking in the raw energy that made it’s predecessor so affecting. But perhaps the most noticeable difference is that Carrie is actually empowered by her powers.
When we finally arrive at the infamous prom night, Moretz conducts her vengeful wrath while writhing around in an almost sensual manner. Her ecstatic control over her abilities is vastly different from the stoney-faced expression of Spacek’s Carrie, who seemed possessed rather than in control. This Carrie has both light and dark sides – which are, understandably, thrown off balance when bullied by a series of cruel teenagers. Her struggle is something that many young people could relate to and in an age of cyber-bullying and teen suicide, this film proved to be quite unsettling for me. It is by no means a perfect film, but the young boys in the theatre next to me who laughed at almost everything having to do with female adolescence and *real* problems that *real* women endure every single day is exactly why this film is disturbing in it’s own way. It may not be the most horrifying thing you’ll see this October, but my stomach was in knots the entire time watching this young girl be tortured to the sound of boys snickering at her pain.
Carrie’s story *should be* a painful reminder that she was fortunate enough to be able to fight back against those who harmed her, but the same cannot be said for so many victims of bullying.. while Peirce hasn’t changed much to the original, her choice to focus on the social-media aspect of bullying is especially important for this generation who will grow up learning about such tragedies as Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook. Sadly, Peirce spends far too much time identifying with the witnesses to Carrie’s humiliation rather than Carrie herself. This standoffish approach is what makes it so difficult to really sympathize with both Carrie and her complicated mother. There are moments, yes, but DePalma’s version really got inside their damaged psyches and dared the audience to look away. Ultimately, the talented cast and reliably powerful material isn’t enough to save Carrie from feeling tragically redundant; we don’t get any of the backstory we yearned for in the original and the painfully linear storytelling makes what could have been a fresh remake, predictably bland.