Happy Halloween: Carrie (2013) review
Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Gabriel Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Ansel Elgort, Alex Russell, Barry Shabaka Henley
Note: Some spoilers ahead!
One word that's been frequently used to describe the Kimberly Pierce directed adaptation of Stephen King's Carrie is “unnecessary.” Many film buffs consider the 1976 version, directed by Brian DePalma, to be a masterpiece, and you'd be lucky to find anyone who'll even talk about the 2002 TV movie starring Angela Bettis. Given how many fans the original movie has, and how sick people are of remakes in general, Pierce sort of has to be commended for being ballsy enough to even tackle the project in the first place.
Personally, I have nothing against remakes if there was something in the original that could be improved upon. With that said, I have to confess something: I did not like the DePalma movie all that much. That was no fault of actress Sissy Spacek; she was phenomenal as the title character. The problem was with the sketchy characterizations, DePalma's underwhelming directorial flourishes, and a wildly over-the-top performance by Piper Laurie. In my defense, I actually watched the movie twice, both times with the intent of embracing it, but I just couldn't. No matter how hard I tried, I just...didn't....like it.
Now to commit an even graver act of cinematic blasphemy: This updated version of Carrie is actually pretty good. The screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa adds a couple of new and interesting layers, and while some may think she's “too pretty” for the role, Chloe Grace Moretz turns in a spot-on performance as Carrie White, capturing her character's insecurities and fears as well as could be expected. Besides, it's not really fair to say that she's too pretty to be a convincing social outcast. Anyone who's read about the real-life tragic stories of Phoebe Prince, Sarah Lynn Butler, and, more recently, Rebecca Sedwick should know that being beautiful doesn't necessarily exempt you from being bullied.
The movie has a pretty horrific opening scene, with religious basket case Margaret White (Julianne Moore, in a frightening performance) writhing on her bed, alone, and praying for death. She believes that she's dying of cancer. What's actually happening is that she's giving birth to a baby girl. At first, she contemplates stabbing the child with a pair of scissors. Then, she hesitates, and embraces her new born daughter.
Years later, Margaret's daughter Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz) is now a teenager in high-school and mercilessly bullied by her peers. Things take a turn for the worse when Carrie experiences her period for the first time whilst showering in the girl's locker room. Because her mother never talked to her about such things, Carrie freaks out and thinks she's bleeding to death. She pleads with her fellow classmates, and they respond by mocking her and recording her misery on a camera phone (one of the students actually sinks so low as to post the video on the web).
Everyone involved in the incident is punished by gym teacher Ms. Desjardin (Judy Greer) with a week's worth of extensive exercising. Fellow classmate Sue Snell (Gabriel Wilde) feels remorseful about the part she played in the incident, and tries to make amends by convincing her boyfriend Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort) to take Carrie to the upcoming school prom. Unfortunately, spoiled brat Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) gets suspended from prom when she rebels against Desjardin's disciplinary actions, blames Carrie for it, and plots a cruel act of vengeance against her on prom night.
Anybody who knows anything about King's story knows exactly where all of this is going. Coinciding with her humiliating incident in the locker room is Carrie's discovery that she can move things with her mind. She reads up on it and begins experimenting until she's able to master her powers. So, when Chris and her boyfriend Billy Nolan (Alex Russell) decide to punk her by pouring a bucket full of pig's blood on her after she and Tommy are named the prom king and queen, Carrie uses her powers to unleash some hell. Actually, in a really nice touch, it isn't just the pig's blood incident, but also her concern for her date Tommy after he's injured by the falling bucket (or killed; he honestly looked dead when he hit the ground) that finally causes her to snap.
One of the biggest fears for many movie goers was that the climax was going to overuse CGI effects. Thankfully, that isn't a problem here. Oh, they're certainly used, but they blend seamlessly with the live action, and Pierce's approach eschews the irritating split-screen technique DePalma used in the original (which robbed the climax of some of its power) and is all the more riveting for it. Pierce also extends the showdown between Carrie and Chris to great effect, and concludes it on a grueling and haunting note.
The climax, however, is not the only reason to see this film. Pierce approaches the story and its theme of school bullying with a great deal of seriousness. Desjardin's disciplinary actions are not played for laughs this time, and the scene where Chris and Billy acquire the pig's blood is actually quite disturbing, especially since Chris doesn't hesitate to slaughter a few of the pigs herself. The scene where Chris's father argues with the school principal over his daughter's suspension is very well handled, and shows how some kids can get away with bullying a lot of the time because their parents are too protective of them, and refuse to believe their children are capable of such evil.
Carrie has a couple of missteps. The final scene between Carrie and her mother does veer into overkill a bit (the original did do it better), the twist involving Sue's character feels a little forced, and the film's final shot (which is, for some reason, accompanied by hard rock music) is nonsensical and kind of lame. Yet even with those faults, the movie is carried nicely by some very strong performances. Moretz and Moore are terrific, as is Judy Greer as the kind-hearted Ms. Desjardin. Wilde makes for a sympathetic Sue, and Elgort is immensely likable as the good-natured Tommy. Doubleday turns in a surprisingly layered performance as the otherwise monstrous Chris, and Russell succeeds in making his Billy into a pretty malicious figure.
Moretz recently talked about how passionate she is on the issue of bullying, and how two of her brothers were mercilessly bullied because they're both gay. Bullying is such a serious issue in this country right now, and that in itself justifies a remake of Carrie. The story deals with themes that are as relevant today as they were then, and Pierce treats those themes with the seriousness they deserve. As you the watch the prom scene, you can't help but feel a touch of sadness. There's the promise of a new and happier start for Carrie as she bonds with her date, his friends, and Ms Desjardin during the night. If only her tormentors had left her the hell alone.
Final Grade: *** (out of ****)
What were your thoughts on this film ? :)
Other Critics on Carrie (2013)
- Mark Reviews Movies: CARRIE (2013)
- Reelviews Movie Reviews
- Dustin Putman's Review: Carrie (2013)
Carrie (2013) - 3/4 Stars - A coming-of-age morality play, a vividly textural horror film, and a disquieting cautionary tale in the form of a supernatural thriller, 'Carrie' has much to impress and debate.
My Other Reviews :)
- Happy Halloween: House of Wax (2005) review
Not a good movie, but entertaining if you don't expect much from it.
- Happy Halloween: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) review
A classic horror show! :D
- Happy Halloween: John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) review
A solid adaptation of John W. Campbell's Who Goes There?
- Happy Halloween: Halloween (1978) review
A horror masterpiece! :D