With Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Alex Russell. Written by Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Directed by Kimberly Peirce. Rated R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content. 100 minutes.
Remakes are not inherently evil, but there ought to be a reason for them. Since the original movie still exists and can be seen, why do we need another version of it? That was the question before the makers of CARRIE, an adaptation of the Stephen King novel about the repressed teenage girl who discovers she has telekinetic powers which was memorably filmed by Brian De Palma in 1976.
For those new to the story––presumably the viewers this was made for––Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a high school senior being raised by a mother (Julianne Moore) who is a religious fanatic. Mom believes sex is evil, thought she was dying of cancer when she was pregnant, and almost murdered Carrie at birth. In the scene that sets the stage for the film’s conflicts, Carrie experiences her first menstruation in the girl’s shower and freaks out, thinking she’s dying. She has no idea what’s happening to her, and the other girls taunt and humiliate her.
This is one of the two sequences which are different from the earlier film. First, in the De Palma movie the scene was very much about what feminist film critics call “the male gaze.” We’re invited to ogle the nubile beauties in the flesh as if the camera is a boy who snuck into the girl’s locker room. In this version, directed by Kimberly Pierce (“Boys Don’t Cry”), we quickly get to Carrie’s hysteria and––new thing!––one of the girls filming it on her cell phone.
The story then proceeds pretty much as before, with bad girl Chris (Portia Doubleday) being suspended by kind gym teacher (Judy Greer), while kind girl Sue (Gabriella Wilde) feels guilty and gets her boyfriend (Alex Russell) to ask Carrie to the prom. We know that Chris is planning revenge which will involve copious amounts of blood and that, as a result, all hell will break loose. We’ll leave the story there for those who haven’t seen it.
There are a number of differences in the last half hour of the film, most notably not using a split screen during the prom climax (a technique used often by De Palma but not part of Pierce’s style). Then there’s the ending. The ending of the 1976 film left audiences screaming and was considered one of the big shock moments in the movies at the time, although it has been often copied since then. Rather than try to duplicate it or improve upon it, Pierce and her screenwriters don’t even try. There is a “surprise” twist, but it’s one that proves largely irrelevant unless they’re planning “Carrie II.” (It’s not like anyone remembers the 1999 sequel, “The Rage: Carrie 2.”)
The bottom line on this is that while the performances are okay, there’s nothing here that’s a standout. Moretz and Moore have done better work elsewhere, while Doubleday and Wilde do what they can with their bad girl/good girl roles. What we end up with is the most unnecessary remake since Gus van Sant’s peculiar shot-for-shot remake of “Psycho” in 1998 which, oddly, also featured Julianne Moore.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide has just been released. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.