Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

November 14, 2013

"Carrie" a relatable, technological update of teen angst, cruelty

Rob Cox
Greensburg Daily News

---- — FROM THE DEN AT WOLF THEATRES— It’s tempting to simply dismiss “Carrie” as another unnecessary remake.

But although this high school horror flick about a bullied teenage girl with telekinesis and a whack-job, hyper-religious mother does indeed fall into the “unnecessary” category, it’s a mistake to completely dismiss it.

Both the 1974 Stephen King book upon which this film is based and “Carrie’s” first cinematic interpretation in 1976 by Director Brian De Palma have, in some ways, become indelibly woven into modern pop culture. Sound like an overstatement? If I say “pigs’ blood,” what comes to mind? How about “Carrie at the prom?” How about “they’re all gonna laugh at you?”

“Carrie’s” legendary status is what makes this remake perplexing. Why would a mainstream filmmaker – in this case Director Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry”) – want to create a remake that’s a proverbial “red-headed wanna-be” before shooting a single frame? Obviously, Peirce came to the source material believing she had something new to add. She mostly fails, but DOES succeed in subtly updating the material for a modern, technologically-obsessed culture.

She also succeeds in making these characters feel real and vibrant to a degree that even surpasses, to some extent, the De Palma film. The scenes wherein we watch Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz) being bullied by her classmates are awkward and painful. Peirce does an impressive job portraying the pain of being an awkward, isolated, browbeaten teenage outcast. In fact, I found myself embarrassed for Carrie and her classmates, even wanting to look away from the screen at times.

Pierce also manages to up De Palma ever-so-slightly in her handling of teenage do-gooder and “it” girl Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde). Following the infamous shower scene (another of “Carrie’s” iconic moments), Snell feels so guilty for her role, she convinces boyfriend Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort) to ask Carrie to Senior Prom instead of Sue herself. Wilde’s performance creates an empathy for Sue’s remorse and genuine desire to make amends that De Palma’s film lacks.

Of course, Carrie ultimately accepts Tommy’s invitation, accompanying him to prom; unless you live under a rock, you likely know how THAT turns out. Chief bully Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) is roughly equal to her 1976 counterpart (Nancy Allen) and maybe a bit crueler. Then again, 2013 Hargensen has technological tools of cruelty not available to ‘70s-era Chris, which she takes full advantage of, another aspect that makes this remake at times difficult to watch.

Likewise, Julianne Moore’s portrayal of Carrie’s crazy mamma is on par with Piper Laurie’s 1976 portrayal.

Peirce’s remake lacks the surreal, dreamlike quality of De Palma’s film, though, and although Moretz is serviceable as the tormented Carrie White, she’s no Sissy Spacek. Likewise, this remake’s infamous Prom scene is competent enough, but to a degree, its higher-quality visual effects are more detriment than advantage; there was a point I found myself thinking of Carrie White as just one more incarnation of the X-men.

Bottom line, if you’re a horror-movie fan and haven’t seen the original “Carrie,” you’re apt to greatly enjoy this film. Taken on its own merits, Peirce’s film is watchable and entertaining. If you HAVE seen the original, though, it’s impossible not to continually compare the two (as I’ve done here), and this version doesn’t stack up. That’s fair enough, because De Palma’s version IS indeed a genre- and legacy-defining masterpiece.

Peirce’s film simply doesn’t infuse the source material with enough cinematic distinctiveness to justify its existence. Alas, 20 years from now, people will likely STILL be talking about De Palma’s film, while this version will probably be long forgotten.

Rating: Bark

Score: 70/100

Runtime: 100 minutes

Rated R for language, sexuality and intense, gory violence; not suitable for the pups

Rating System Explained: Rabies = 0; Yip = *; Bark = **; Howl = ***; Lone-wolf howl = ****; Leader of the pack = *****

Contact: Rob Cox 812-663-3111 x7011