A kinder, gentler Carrie
2 stars (out of four)
The new Carrie remake is literally a pallid imitation of the original.
Comparisons to the 1976 film by Brian De Palma are inevitable — let’s pretend the 2002 TV version never happened — and by virtually every measure, the latest is a kinder, gentler version. That’s surely not what the good people at MGM and Screen Gems were aiming for.
Based on the novel by Stephen King, the plot is now familiar territory for expectant audiences. Carrie White, a shy, awkward teenager, has a burgeoning gift: telekinesis, the ability to move objects with her mind.
Unfortunately, Carrie also has a fanatically religious mother at home who never bothered to explain certain rites of womanhood, including the onset of menstruation.
So when Carrie begins bleeding in the gym shower at school and fears the worst, she gets the opposite of support from her peers, who chant cruelly and pelt her with tampons. In the digital media age, her chief tormentor, Chris Hargensen, records the event on her iPhone for posterity, a move she’ll come to regret.
Remorseful classmate Sue Snell persuades her boyfriend Tommy Ross to ask Carrie as his date to the upcoming prom. After Miss Desjardin, the sympathetic gym teacher, bans Chris from said social event, Chris plots revenge with her boyfriend, Billy, involving a bucket of pig’s blood. And when Carrie is humiliated at the prom, she wreaks a terrible vengeance on those present.
Director Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry) does make one improvement over the original, casting actors who actually look like teenagers rather than young adults well into their college years.
And while Sissy Spacek as Carrie and Piper Laurie as her mother both earned Oscar nominations for their performances in the original, no one is holding out any hope that history will repeat itself here.
Chloë Grace Moretz portrays Carrie with the requisite doe-eyed innocence and awkwardness of adolescence and the stellar Julianne Moore presents us with a compelling portrait of evil — a tormented, self-mutilating woman whose good intentions are so clearly out of step with reality.
But the relationship — so central to the story — between mother and daughter simply doesn’t gel here, robbing the film of one of its essential pillars.
Ansel Elgort, who bears a passable resemblance of hockey superstar Sidney Crosby (only taller), does fine work as doomed golden boy Tommy Ross and Judy Greer is a feisty and compassionate Miss Desjardin.
But Gabriella Wilde as good girl Sue Snell is too tentative and easily outshone by Portia Doubleday as Chris, her deliciously wicked counterpart.
But Peirce’s biggest misstep is in the climactic scene that everyone is so eagerly anticipating, the carnage unleashed by Carrie’s telekinetic fury.
Bless DePalma’s blood-soaked sensibility, he presented a climax — employing split-screens for greater effect — that generated waves of cathartic pleasure.
By comparison, Pierce’s is restrained in all the wrong ways. Surely the CGI/ VFX capabilities of 2013, compared to the paltry bag of tricks available in the mid-1970s, could have been better employed to give the audience spectacle on a grander scale. Even the showdown scene between Carrie and her mother feels disappointing. Only in delivering well-deserved retribution to the evil Chris and Billy does Peirce outshine her predecessor.
Carrie 2013, filmed in the Toronto area, provides another cautionary lesson to studio decision-makers about the wisdom of remakes. If you’re going to do it, do it bigger, better and — in the case of horror films — bloodier. If not, don’t bother.