**1/2 out ****
Kimberly Pierce’s (Boys Don’t Cry) new movie based on Stephen King’s Carrie doesn’t do much of anything that wasn’t accomplished by Brian De Palma in 1976. I’m not saying that I’m a fan of the old movie or De Palma’s work in general. For those who love these things, I can tell you that the new movie poses little threat to replacing the original.
The story of a shy bullied high school girl living under terrifying abuse from her superstitious Christian fundamentalist mother is told with a typically modern cinematic approach. Like the original movie, it achieves a disturbing tone but it’s not quite as funny. Carrie’s development of telekinesis leads to a lot of digital special effects that would look pretty convincing if the camera didn’t try so hard to show them off. Because the effects of her powers lack subtlety, there isn’t much about them that come off as scary.
Pierce makes an honorable attempt to capture the forces working against Carrie in a realistic way. The sheltering insanity of Carrie’s mother isn’t too far off from some real stories I’ve heard. The theme of bullying is nothing new, but it has been a heavy topic in recent years.
The movie’s most relevant modern touch is in the beginning when Carrie has her first period in the shower after gym class and is not only taunted for screaming in ignorant confusion, but videoed on a smart phone and later displayed for all to see on YouTube. This current-day form cruelty was too obvious for the screenwriter, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, to pass-up. It is sad that even in a modern setting, there’s no one to tell poor Carrie, “It gets better.”
The film is rather well cast with Julianne Moore as Carrie’s crazy mom, who is the real show-stealer and may have outdone Piper Laurie’s Oscar nominated performance from the original. Chloë Grace Moretz plays a good version of Carrie but unlike Sissy Spacek, she has trouble looking plain. Spacek’s hidden potential for unconventional beauty in the 1976 version made a sharper contrast between her everyday school appearance and how she surprises people when arriving at the prom. Moretz, who has a talent for being sinister and awkward, is undeniably pretty in any of the movie’s scenes.
Judy Greer is wonderful as Ms. Desjardin, the gym teacher who tries to help Carrie. Her punishment of the girls in her class who humiliated Carrie, results in Sue (Gabriella Wilde) trying to atone for the wrongdoing by pressuring her boyfriend to take Carrie to the prom. However the girl with the smartphone, Chris (Portia Doubleday), plots an abominable revenge.
Before I ever read Stephen King’s The Shining, I could watch the Stanley Kubrick film or the ABC TV miniseries and see two dramatically different movies that had different takes on the same material. The problem with this new version of Carrie is a typical one. It will be compared to the old one more than it will be compared to the original novel on which both films were based. This isn’t an alternate adaptation of a book. It’s a remake of a movie based on a book.
This is by no means a terrible movie and I think it will be appreciated by anyone who appropriately wants to see a horror movie in October. It simply loses points with me for being unoriginal. Pierce, a respectable director, makes little attempt for this version of Carrie, to be her own.