Written By Lawrence D. Cohen & Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Directed By Kimberly Peirce
Every Halloween season, horror fans flock to movie theaters with the hopes of finding a new fear-filled classic to call their own. This October, however, is a different story. The big hits of the year, The Conjuring and Insidious: Chapter 2, have already been released and the Paranormal Activity franchise has chosen to take a year off. This leaves Carrie, a remake of the 1976 Brian De Palma classic, as the lone horror wide-release of the month.
Advertised as a ‘reimagining’ rather than a remake, Kimberly Peirce’s version of Carrie tells the story of high school student Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz). She’s an outsider and doesn’t fit in, mostly due to her overbearing and religious zealot mother (Julianne Moore). After a locker room incident involving the popular female crowd, Carrie begins to discover that she may have telekinetic powers. What will Carrie do with said powers? Well, she’ll just make sure her fellow classmates have a prom night to remember.
- Chloe Grace Moretz – It should come as no surprise to anyone that Ms. Moretz delivers a solid performance in the role of Carrie, and that’s no easy task given Sissy Spacek’s original acclaimed interpretation of the role. Moretz is certainly one of the most promising young talents in the film industry and she does her best here to make her Carrie stand out from amongst the crowd. Although with the material she is given she never really gets a chance to take the role in a completely different direction, she gives her Carrie a conflicted heart that is easy to relate to.
- Interesting Subject Matter – If you’re a fan of the original film or Stephen King’s novel on which it is based, then you know that the story of Carrie White is an interesting tale filled with religious iconography and a killer climax. The story holds up all these years later and is perhaps now more timely than ever, given the anti-bullying culture prevalent in today’s schools.
- Does Nothing To Separate Itself From Original – When it comes to horror remakes, often the most successful take the original concept and put a new spin on it for modern audiences. Zack Snyder did this with his Dawn of the Dead remake, but with Carrie director Kimberly Peirce seems fine with telling the exact same story. Although there are a few moments here not present in the original, they come and go without much thought and don’t specifically add anything to the on-going narrative. While Peirce is clearly a talented filmmaker, when you’re not doing anything interesting to set your remake apart from the original, it’s hard for the audience to be invested. The problem with this ‘reimagining’ is that it doesn’t use its imagination at all.
- Lack of Character Development – One of the most interesting aspects of Carrie is its characters. Carrie White is an outsider that most audience members can relate to, while her mother’s overbearing nature, although perhaps not to these extremes, is something a lot of us have experienced in our own lives. The thing about this remake though, is that scenes come and go without a specific focus. Brian De Palma’s original did a great job of placing us in Carrie’s world and helping us to understand this lonely girl’s very real fears. While Peirce’s update has many of the same scenes, they function differently. Peirce sets the stage but doesn’t develop the characters in a way where we absolutely have to see what happens to them next. Sometimes the worst thing a film can do is set up an interesting situation with interesting characters and then fail to capitalize on it. This is one of the many problems with Carrie.
- Supporting Performances – I’m not looking for a lot when it comes to performances in horror films, but when a solid central performance is surrounded by a barrage of mediocrity it’s incredibly noticeable. Such is the case with Carrie. Although Julianne Moore is a supremely talented actress, she does nothing here to suggest that Piper Laurie’s original performance wasn’t all we needed. Moore is over the top, much like Laurie, but without that gravitas that made the original performance so entertaining and gave it some actual weight. The high school cast surrounding Moretz is even worse. I understand that these girls are supposed to be caddy and totally different than Carrie, but it doesn’t mean they have to be so one note that it’s infuriating.
- Computer Effects – They can do better, much better.
When the trailer first hit for the Carrie remake, I was actually surprised that it looked like it could be one of the better recent horror remakes. It had a cast with an acting pedigree, not to mention a talented filmmaker at the helm. After seeing the Carrie remake, it’s disappointing to think about all the talent that was wasted on such a completely unnecessary and lackluster ‘reimagining’. It’s not a particularly bad film, sporting a good central performance and interesting subject matter, but sometimes the most frustrating cinematic experiences are ones that are just painfully average. Failing to capitalize on the original’s strengths and timely subject matter that really could have made a mark on today’s high school culture, Carrie fails to take its coveted spot as the only horror wide-release of October and do anything original with it.
The best horror remakes are ones that do something different to set themselves apart from their predecessors. Unfortunately, Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie does everything the same.