In this third installment of Stephan King’s novel Carrie, Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass) gets to play the introverted, pushed-to-the-limit teen. As talented as Moretz is, I couldn’t see her performance as anything more than her playing the role – unlike the 1976 original where Sissy Spacek was Carrie.
King’s first novel has been made into a movie, a television made for movie, an unneeded sequel and now a movie again. I didn’t bother with the television adaptation of the story, but I was curious about this remake. Moretz is an incredible actress and she manages to maintain has a certain variability about her that turns into vulnerability. Her performance almost works.
From the start of the film, director Kimberly Peirce seems to be attempting to match the uneasy horror and suspense of Brian De Palma’s original take on King’s novel. The film opens with Carrie’s mother, Margaret (Julianne Moore) alone in her bed giving birth to Carrie. The scene is intense, disturbing and so far over-the-top it becomes laughable.
Margaret has a much bigger impact in this take on Carrie, and Moore does her best to make sure the character walks the fine line between actually loving her daughter and being the worst mother in the world. At times, her performance manages to be better than Piper Laurie’s original take on the looney mom, but other times she is so far over-the-top it ruins any chance of being scary.
The remake’s plot updates King’s story (welcome to the age of cell phones and YouTube), but follows the original film’s blueprint fairly closely (some of the opening shower scene seems almost shot for shot with De Palma). Carrie is a shy, sheltered (her mother home schooled her until the state forced her to let Carrie attend public high school) and massively bullied at school.
The bullying is taken to the next level when Carrie is tormented in the shower by the other girls throwing tampons at her and shouting “Plug it up.” Mean girl Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) even films it on her phone and posts it on YouTube for the world to see. Instead of comforting her daughter, Margret says Carrie’s period is proof that she is full of sin and shoves her in the “prayer closet” for her to ask God’s forgiveness.
As horrible as the event was, Carrie starts to notice that she has telekinetic powers and starts to research and train her ability. Carrie also gets a friend in Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) – who was part of the girls humiliating Carrie in the shower, but felt bad for her when things got out of hand. Her pity for Carrie puts her at odds with her friend Chris, but Sue knows she is in the right. She even wants Carrie to experience something good in high school and convinces her boyfriend (and star athlete) Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort) to take Carrie to the prom instead of her. Anyone familiar with the Carrie story knows how prom ends, but for those unfamiliar I won’t spoil it in the review.
Although the film has massive flaws and doesn’t live up to the original, Peirce and company manage to make the bullying and abuse of the Carrie character just as disturbing. Moretz makes the audience feel for Carrie and the abuse she suffers. She could be any shy girl, and has no one in her corner. Her mother has moments where she seems to be able to get past her own beliefs to help her daughter, but they quickly turns to further abuse as Carrie is forced to pray her scolded for her “dirty pillows” being on display. At school, Carrie’s only hope is the girls’ athletic coach, but even she is limited by a system that seems blame Carrie for being so strange.
With that said, the fact that Chris and her friends receive no real punishment for the bullying of Carrie and how the school totally disregards Carrie’s torment is a huge flaw. I think the plot might have worked for a 70s time period, but producers/writers felt the need to update it, but the bully seems too extreme to go so unpunished. Chris is suspended and banned from prom, but in today’s world criminal charges would have been filed for the assault on Carrie in the shower.
The film also fails when Carrie gets her revenge. Her powers are amped up to the extreme in this version of the story with Carrie tossing cars all about, and almost seeming like she walked out of an X-Men movie. The scenes with her mother work and Moretz is incredible in both wanting her revenge for all the abuse her mother has given her, but also feeling regret and love for Margret. The final scenes between Moore and Moretz are easily the best moments in the film and give a glimpse of how good the movie could have been.
On Blu-ray the film looks incredible, and comes with decent features – including an alternate ending.
Stepping into a role that was so defined by Spacek’s performance in the 1976 version is no easy task, but Moretz does a decent job in the role. The film has moments where it matches the scares of the original film, but is so far over-the-top it becomes laughable. It isn’t a horrible movie, but is an unnecessary remake of a film that still holds up today.