Review: “Carrie” (2013)

Chloë Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore star in Kimberly Peirce's remake of "Carrie," here reviewed by film critic Danny Baldwin.When it was announced that Columbia’s new version of Stephen King’s “Carrie,” originally immortalized by Brian De Palma’s 1976 film, would be directed by Kimberly Peirce, there was reason to be optimistic. Peirce, who has made just one other movie since her groundbreaking 1999 debut “Boys Don’t Cry” (the overlooked soldier drama “Stop-Loss”), presumably would not have chosen to tackle such well-known material without her own unique angle planned. And that’s really all one can ask out of a remake: a fresh spin on familiar material.

Alas, Peirce’s “Carrie” shows few signs of an artist interested in making a work to call her own. Whether she originally intended for something different only to have her efforts thwarted by studio politics or she simply decided to try working as a hired hand for a change, we’ll likely never know. But outside of the film’s impeccably framed, highly mobile aesthetic and slightly more feminist perspective on King’s source material, Peirce’s auteurist influence does not show. The filmmaking elementals on display are undoubtedly superior to those of your average teen-geared horror pic, but the overall effect is not; this “Carrie” is just another Friday night camp-fest to watch and immediately forget.

The material alterations to the original film are minimal and hardly innovative. The violent climax is pared down, while the most noticeable addition screenwriters Lawrence D. Cohen (who also penned the De Palma film’s script) and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa have made is the integration of YouTube; antagonist Chris (Portia Doubleday) records Carrie’s (Chloë Grace Moretz’s) iconic shower outburst and uploads it for all the world to see. Could there be a more perfunctory appeal to Generation Z?

On a character level, Julianne Moore’s portrayal of Carrie’s Evangelical nut-job mother is the most divergent from that of an original Carrie cast-member—she’s less evil and more a victim of her own insanity than Piper Laurie’s Margaret—but this doesn’t stop her from coming across as a caricature. In light of her unfair and mean-spirited imagining of Sarah Palin in the recent HBO movie “Game Change,” one has to wonder if Moore was simply drawn to the character by a fundamental contempt for religious women.

Moretz, age-appropriate for the role of Carrie unlike the 26-year-old Sissy Spacek (and the supporting cast who surround her in this remake, for that matter), demonstrates great physicality when Carrie finally leverages her telekinetic ability for destruction, but isn’t particularly compelling before this point. As we previously learned from Kick-Ass and its sequel, Moretz is able to exude a kind of forcefulness rarely seen in a performer so young, and without Hit Girl’s mask, she’s able to use her face even further to her advantage in this respect, here. Alas, Moretz’s embodiment of Carrie’s tortured, naïve trajectory toward the fateful prom night is but a textbook iteration of teenage social and sexual repression.

The question that emerges with any remake is: “Why?” When I first heard that Peirce was directing Carrie, I was certain that even if I didn’t like the movie, I would have an answer. But I was wrong, as the film is lacking in both vision and execution. As one who isn’t particularly fond of De Palma’s version, either, I suppose I’ll just have to re-read the novel if I need a dose of Carrie White.