Review: Why The ‘Carrie’ Remake Fails

Senior Contributor
10.18.13 18 Comments

I went into this movie with an open mind, or at least tried to. It’s fair to say that there’s no one way to tell a story, and there have been remakes of classic horror movies that work on their own merits. This, unfortunately, is not one of them.

All The Sexuality Has Been Stripped Out Of It

Part of the reason the original Carrie worked was that it was constantly commenting on sexuality. The opening, for example, riffs heavily on ’70s softcore tropes before taking a sharp turn into horror. And a running theme in the movie was sexual manipulation; the girls in this high school don’t take action directly, but use sex and the potential for it to manipulate others. Carrie’s mother has been taught that sex and the enjoyment of it is wrong to such a degree that she can’t handle the fact she enjoyed having sex with her husband. And if Billy weren’t hot, Carrie wouldn’t be at the prom.

To give you an idea of how deep this theme runs, the saint in Carrie’s closet is a sex symbol of sorts within the Catholic Church. Being set in the modern day, after forty years or so of social progress, it’s understandable they wanted to step away from this, but they resort to ripping on religion and high school bullying instead, which kind of misses the point.

The Actors Are Left Adrift

Chloe Moretz and Julianne Moore probably aren’t going to get Oscar nominations for this movie, but damn if it’s not for lack of trying. One thing this movie does get right is the abusive relationship between Carrie and Margaret White, and Moore in particular really stands out as a woman who really thinks she’s doing the right thing. As awful as she gets as a character, Moore manages to make the one line from the movie everybody knows heartfelt and even a little heart-breaking.

That said, you can feel them straining. The script is so hidebound by the book and the movie that Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa can literally give them nothing new to work with. They earn their paychecks, here, and what heft the movie has is largely thanks to these two.

The rest of the cast really suffers, though. Portia Doubleday can’t really find anything new in Chris Hargensen, so she’s basically just a sociopathic bitch, and the rest of the cast is from a CW show. The idea that these are a bunch of kids in Maine is pretty laughable.

Kimberley Pierce Is Not Brian DePalma

Pierce, as a director, has two films to her credit, mostly anchored by strong performances instead of her visual acuity. Unfortunately, aside from a few shots in the movie, that means a lot of this is flat. DePalma is, whatever his faults, stylish; Pierce isn’t. And you miss it, intensely.

The Running Time Up To The Finale Is A Slog

Everybody knows how this plays out, of course. But where DePalma made it an uncomfortable, inexorable tragedy, the remake turns it into a slog. Honestly, you’d almost prefer it as a play; Moore and Moretz work best onscreen and to be honest, their depiction of an abusive relationship is the only time this movie comes alive before the finale.

The Finale Doesn’t Add Anything New

Probably the most damning thing is that the most explosive moment of this film feels a bit trite and by-the-numbers. Carrie undeniably goes on a rampage; her small town hardly escapes unscathed. But it feels canned and predictable; you sat through the hour of acting, dumb people, now have your fireworks.

Is Carrie a truly bad movie? Nah. It’s middling. If it didn’t so deliberately remind you of the 1976 version, nearly constantly, or if it were the first adaptation, it’d probably be getting better reviews. But it does, and unfortunately, that makes it a lesser film.

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