Dir. Kimberly Peirce
Awkward teenage daughter of a religiously fanatical mother is bullied and then taken to the prom out of guilt, sympathy and perhaps kindness. She also happens to have the psychic ability of telekinesis. Brian De Palma did justice to this familiar Stephen King novel in the 70’s and now we have a new version: prom-blood for the generation Y.
The acting is actually competent, although none come close to the brilliance of Sissy Spacek or Piper Laurie from De Palma’s original. Chloë Grace Moretz is too young to be Carrie White and Julianne Moore tries too hard to be understated, sadly losing the genius black-comedy element of Laurie’s Margaret White. Humour which is desperately needed in this doomed tale is poorly absent and instead Moore’s character compulsively self-harms by slicing her hairy legs.
The bit players are the ones who shine here. Gabriella Wilde (Sue Snell) and Ansel Elgort (Tommy Ross) are honourable, but it’s Judy Greer who really stands out with her naturally soft interpretation of the gym teacher Ms. Desjardin, but only until she reads the same or similar hard-ass lines that Betty Buckley did so well in the 1976 original; and herein lies the film’s biggest problem. One would have hoped Kimberly Peirce would have pushed new material or elements which first time around weren’t implemented from the novel; this does in fact happen, but we have to wait until the prom. Before then, unfortunately, and despite the more than passable acting, it’s largely a ground-hog day.
This is a remake just as much as it is a book adaptation and comparisons are inevitable, but as a viewer, this deja-vu will make you more pi**ed than Carrie White ever was. That and Moore uttering “little girl” every moment, as if in some alternate dimension she has become Hanibal Lecter and Moretz, Clarice. If this doesn’t suck enough in the first 45 minutes or more, there’s also little of the feelings of suspense De Palma once instilled; the first time we see Carrie use her powers little fuss seems to be made of it and you can also forget the tense music and sneaky camera work before the gory bucket pours. Heightened drama was always the way into Carrie White’s tale of woe.
The prom disaster is pretty spectacular, however; CGI is used fairly neat and tastefully. Carrie is also a bit meaner here and it seems allowed as she does in fact look younger; because of this we route for the poor sweetheart to throw all her toys out. More so because Portia Doubleday’s Chris Hargensen is a shade meaner (though not as iconic as Nancy Allen’s) and after all, “what DID Carrie White ever do to you?” Good dramatic music kicks in and now we begin to see the changes from De Palma’s film and the nuances that weren’t before used from King’s novel. Too bad it’s only now, we as viewers, are interested in the film. If only the first half were a bit more of a spectacle as opposed to a square dance; even the satisfying death of Chris Hargensen isn’t enough to make up for this lapse, is it?
Not only does Carrie (2013) open as a cut-and-paste job with smart phones (bar Julianne Moore’s too-much-too-soon birth scene), but the loss of De Palma’s creative spirit is sorely felt. Hands-up, his trademark use of split-screens is often camp and self-aware, but surely, most would take that over the constant fast-cuts it seems are overly prevalent in modern cinema. In fact, with a part re-traced script, over-emphasis on blood (Julianne Moore’s self-mutilation was overkill) and the general lack of re-imagined dialogue, “fast-cut” is a tempting word to use in summing up this controversial return to senior-prom. However, there is light from the disco ball, and the film’s redemption is in its energetic second half. The psychological allusions of King’s bloody-prom story being introduced to another generation is also, surely, a good thing. Just don’t expect anything as complete or artistic as 1976’s unforgettable invitation.