Carrie (2013) d. Peirce, Kimberly (USA)
The tagline, “You will know her name” speaks to the very problem inherent to revisiting such iconic material: We already do know Stephen King’s seminal telekinetic protagonist’s name, and she has already been immortalized in an Oscar-nominated turn by Sissy Spacek as directed by a near-the-top-of-his-game Brian De Palma. Even if viewers have never seen the full feature, they’ve seen the highlight reel. But the post-millennial remake trend continues, and despite director Peirce and screenwriters Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre’s best efforts to the contrary, the results are redundant at best and tiresome at their worst.
There’s no denying Chloe Grace Moretz’s talent as an actress, but here Peirce asks her to gild the “ugly duckling” lily by having her cower and quake throughout the entire first act. What made Spacek’s incarnation resonate was that she seemed like a real person, one damaged by years of abuse and emotional neglect. Moretz’s performance never stops feeling like just that: a performance, and an overplayed one at that.
While Julianne Moore wisely avoids trying to emulate Piper Laurie’s operatic madness as religious zealot mother Margaret White, keeping her public psychosis to a dull underlying rumble, she never transcends the thin material and is left frantically twitching in lieu of anything else to do.
Perhaps younger viewers will relate more to this updated version than I could, especially if they haven’t seen the 1976 original. All the characters text each other on their iPhones (just like us!) and Carrie’s first period in the girls locker room shower is now captured on video and posted on YouTube within minutes of it occurring. They might also enjoy the shimmery special effects, with Moretz wizarding things about as the control over her telekinesis grows.
But for this ol’ Doc, it all feels hollow and artificial, with CGI standing in for actual thrills – a common complaint from this quarter nowadays –d with the show-stopping prom scene a maddening cacophony of keyboard stunts. (That meticulously manicured pig’s blood splash? Ugh. The painted-on cracks in the asphalt? Gah.) For all the publicity about Peirce and her team attempting a faithful reinterpretation of King’s novel, De Palma’s 1976 game plan is followed step-by-step, ticking off all requisite set-pieces while adding in bigger booms when the opportunity arises.
Though still a tormented, misunderstood social outcast with a deepening rage against her peers, this Carrie White is more akin to X-Men’s empowered mutants, such that we cheer at her vengeance rather than reel in fear over what havoc will be wrought when she finally snaps. Maybe that’s what the kids want these days, but we should all be glad that De Palma, Spacek and Laurie did it first, because there’s no way this version would ever (or will ever) achieve “classic” status.