Carrie (2013)
Screen Gems // R // October 18, 2013
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted October 17, 2013
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Brian De Palma's original 1976 horror classic Carrie was the first film adaptation of Stephen King's novel. It made serious waves in the film industry, as it even received a couple Oscar-nominations for Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie's exceptional performances. Even all of these years later, it still manages to be an effective motion picture that will never be forgotten. With the remake craze continuing, it was only a matter of time until Stephen King's novel received another adaptation. However, director Kimberly Peirce has taken it upon herself to tell the story of this teenage girl with telekinetic abilities. Curiosity will most likely be enough to bring fans of the original into theaters, but it might not be enough to bring very many newcomers. The plot works extremely well in a 1970s setting, but does it still make sense when it takes place in 2013? It all depends on how far you're willing to allow it to carry you.

Director Kimberly Peirce presents a reimagining of the classic tale about Carrie White (ChloŽ Grace Moretz). She's a shy girl in high school who was homeschooled and sheltered for her entire life. Now that she has been forced to walk hallways amongst peers, she has become an outcast. Her mother, Margaret White (Julianne Moore), is a deeply religious woman who is paranoid about her daughter being claimed by the devil. She often locks Carrie in the closet to pray for forgiveness. After suffering years of abuse, Carrie has discovered that she has telekinetic powers. However, these powers can be incredibly dangerous in a young woman who is pushed too far. It's only a matter of time before she breaks.

While this is a remake, there's only so much that can be done with the source material. The overall plot has remained exactly the same, but there are some notable differences scattered throughout the running time. The most obvious change is within the title character herself. Writers Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa have made Carrie a little bit more expressive. She's still fairly quiet, but she responds more times than not. There's a noticeable change in the aggression of her rebellion from relatively early into the picture. In the original feature, Carrie was clearly frightened by her newly-discovered abilities. In the remake, she appears to be quite pleased with them and begins testing her limits. The overall character feels entirely different, yet hints of the original character are present. I like the idea of taking it down a different route, but it shouldn't be at the expense of how someone so sheltered would react to having telekinetic abilities.

It's clear that the filmmakers aimed to see how the original story would work in a modern setting. However, it doesn't work very well. They tried to incorporate social media aspects, but they ultimately come across as being tacky ways of representing modern times. This could have been incorporated in a smarter way. Carrie is as much of a drama as it is a horror film. There's a solid amount of brutality that occurs during the final act, although it also has a more personal story underneath it all. There's a mother daughter relationship that heavily affects the plot. Even though Margaret is terribly abusive and paranoid, she has the best hopes for her daughter, for the most part. However, she isn't able to let go of Carrie and allow her to become an independent woman. Meanwhile, Carrie is going through a rebellious phase that leads to a lot of destruction, but she still loves her mother and doesn't want to disappoint her. The dark dramatic elements aren't as powerful as they could be, but they still work well.

Popular high school girls can be evil, and Carrie takes that idea a step further with Chris (Portia Doubleday). The filmmakers have incorporated a criminal aspect to her character, which creates higher stakes for all of the characters involved. Unfortunately, it diminishes the dynamics of high school, which would have captivated me a lot more. Peirce is attempting to place this story in reality, which has its benefits. However, the real treat of the feature doesn't come in until the final act. Audiences will be most excited to see how Carrie's prom night is adapted in this remake. However, the film builds upon itself rather well. Even with all of the issues, it had me caring about the protagonist, wanting her to succeed, and for the bullies to get what they deserve. Everything builds to prom, which is incredibly entertaining. It's a lot more brutal and extreme than the original, which is certainly fitting. This film's climax will have viewers sitting at the edge of their seats with their eyes glued to the screen. Unfortunately, the final couple minutes of the running time are consumed with a cheap ending that's worthy of an eye-roll.

Director Kimberly Peirce's intention was to bring star power into the lead roles of this remake and to establish careers for the young actors in the supporting roles. Well, part of that statement has come true. ChloŽ Grace Moretz plays Carrie White. I was concerned that she would be too young for the role, but she isn't bad. I've been a fan of Moretz for quite some time, and this performance hasn't changed my thoughts of her. She doesn't entirely fit in the character, but she does an acceptable job with the material. Julianne Moore is in the role of her mother, Margaret White. This is a solid casting choice, as Moore delivers the character's paranoia in an incredibly believable way. The supporting roles are filled with some actors you may recognize, but none of them are big names. Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Ansel Elgort, and more are surprisingly decent. As an additional note, Judy Greer is great as Ms. Desjardin. While none of the supporting performances are career-making, they're better than expected.

It shouldn't surprise audiences that CGI would be used, but I was hoping that it would look more convincing. The power is removed from the overall tone when scenes have an animated-look. The practical route is almost always more effective when it comes to the horror genre. A lot of the carnage that Carrie causes looks incredibly cartoonish, which pulled me out of the film. The prom night sequence is still a lot of fun, but it's impossible to take the effects seriously. Fortunately, the audio track is great. There's a hefty amount of bass that underpins Carrie's abilities, while the surround speakers get a real workout. The CGI work is disappointing, but Kimberly Peirce delivers a cohesive visual environment for the calmer scenes.

Fortunately, the pacing is extremely smooth. This isn't a long film, but the running time seriously flies by. The build-up to the prom scene is quite strong, even with the picture's serious issues. Remaking this film was unnecessary, but it could have been a lot worse. The plot is exactly the same as the original, but the filmmakers have delivered noticeable changes in the tone and character elements. For those who are wondering, it doesn't come close to being as strong as Brian De Palma's original. This remake is fun to watch, but you'll have difficulty connecting to any of the themes or ideas on a personal level, which is part of the reason why the original is so successful. You'll only find yourself caring for the protagonist. Carrie is worth checking out for the curious horror fans, but that's about it. Rent it.

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