Piers Marchant’s take on Carrie

October 17, 2013

There’s another review in this week’s MovieStyle; consider this our official position.

Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Ansel Elgort, Portia Doubleday, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Rating:R,for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content.
Running time: 100 minutes

By Piers Marchant for blood, dirt & angels

And next up as the latest remake from the modern horror pantheon is this update from the Brian De Palma directed 1976 original. I’m not so much offended by the audacity of a modern film studio to remake the movie because it’s such a classic, I’m more troubled by the fact that they chose to remake such a silly movie in the first place.

Carrie-CrackedMain-dropI know I speak heresy to many horror enthusiasts, but the truth is the original film, based on an early Stephen King novel about an outcast teen girl with a dominating religious nut-bag mother who is just discovering her telekinetic powers as some of her cruel classmates set her up for a horrible prom night hoax, despite its classic status, is pretty dopey. Yes, it has a ridiculously amusing mixed-bag cast — where else would you see Betty Buckley, Nancy Allen, a young John Travolta, Piper Laurie, and the incomparable Sissy Spacek all spending quality screen time together? — and it does have its money scene with a blood-drenched Spacek finally psychically lashing out against her high-school tormentors, but in-between that you have a bunch of silly high-school histrionics and a near-camp ultra-religious mother with which to contend. The fear factor is practically nil until the end, and even then is mostly washed over with her blood-soaked psychic tantrum.

Still, the one thing the original has is Spacek, an actress particularly gifted at taking you by surprise with her mousy looks and oft-fierce demeanor. As the perpetual outcast Carrie, laughed at and jeered by her peers for being so obviously under the thumb of her truly demented mother, Spacek brought just the right kind of fragile pathos and gripping need: We believed in her downtroddeness to the point where, when the infamous bucket of blood comes raining down over her head, we long to see her finally released from her introversion and let go the psychic hounds of hell upon her classmates.

The remake stars Chloë Grace Moretz, a dutiful young actress given to do most of her emoting with wide-eyed balefulness and her ever-flaring nostrils. She would be a perpetual Academy Award winner on the Disney channel. The problem is she’s a good deal more limited by her professionalism than she might realize. So measured and calculated are her interpretations, there’s very little room for them to breathe. She doesn’t inhabit her characters so much as exhibit them.

She’s also a good deal more traditionally beautiful than Sissy Spacek, much more likely to be the gorgeous, blonde cheerleader than the demoralized and despised outcast of which she’s been cast. When Carrie finally agrees to go to the prom with a prominent, good-looking boy (Ansel Elgort), her transformation from scared, disheveled pupa to gorgeous, shimmering butterfly is almost instantaneous. Without that edge of desperation, that ironic vulnerability, the shock of Carrie’s finally shedding her mother’s imposed reticence doesn’t carry half as much power.

Director Kimberly Peirce knows a thing or two about adolescent angst — she directed the excellent Boys Don’t Cry, about Teena Brandon, the Nebraska teen who convinced a group of her peers that she was, in fact, a man until they found out the truth and took horrible revenge for her deception — but this film can’t find the right position between De Palma’s campy original and a more believable set of circumstances. After all, in the day and age of social media shunning, the teen antagonizer Chris (Portia Doubleday) wouldn’t need to plan terribly elaborately for a pitiless destruction of Carrie. It wouldn’t have to involve any sort of pig blood, prom fixing, or elaborate scheming. She could absolutely devastate the girl with some embarrassing photos, a few barbed quips, and a couple of cruel keystrokes.

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