By Shane M. Dallmann
Before I get to the movie, let’s remark on some of the previews attached to it, which included remakes of two films I managed to catch in the 80s. I didn’t recognize the first one as a remake of ABOUT LAST NIGHT until the title popped up at the end (although I do remember the original ABOUT LAST NIGHT was probably the single most inappropriate title they could have paired up with LABYRINTH at the drive-in); but did I ever recognize the remake of… ENDLESS LOVE? Por que? “Butter!” Then there was I, FRANKENSTEIN, which looks like another super-overblown UNDERWORLD-type deal… but my jaw DID drop open when someone enunciated “Frankenstein must be destroyed!”
Okay, first things first: why remake CARRIE and why would I go see it? Straight up. A great adaptation of DRACULA starring Max Schreck didn’t mean that they shouldn’t have tried it with Bela Lugosi; nor did the Lugosi film mean that they shouldn’t have tried it with Christopher Lee. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration at all to suggest that Stephen King has had as much cultural impact on the genre scene as Bram Stoker himself, so these adaptations are going to keep happening. And this one has Chloe Grace-Moretz and Julianne Moore, and was directed by Kimberly Peirce (BOYS DON’T CRY). So the ingredients for a potentially great film are there, and this one can’t pass under my radar like a CHILDREN OF THE CORN redux. It’s a major title that I simply had to see for myself.
This isn’t the first CARRIE remake, either, you may recall. There was a TV-remake with Marguerite Moreau–I seem to recall it was decently done, but the only thing I really remember about it is how it changed the ending to leave the door open for a potential series that never happened. Just as well. Then there was THE RAGE: CARRIE 2… again, not badly made but nothing to linger in the memory, either.
This new CARRIE, however, serves as a close remake of the Brian DePalma classic (which holds up as well today as it ever did) rather than a fresh approach to the material: Lawrence D. Cohen still receives top billing on the screenwriting credit of this adaptation. That means that I don’t have to rehash the story for you, right?
The additions are a mixed bag. The film now begins with Carrie’s birth; and it’s a truly intense scene that raises high hopes for the entire project. And thankfully, despite having mostly the same dialogue, Julianne Moore is far too intelligent and experienced to attempt a mere Piper Laurie impersonation: as a result, her Margaret White is probably the best thing about the new movie (not that any of the performances read poorly in themselves). Giving Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) more active involvement in the stockyard sequence was a smart move, as was the topical addition of cyber-bullying; on the other hand, we’re given far too much extra dialogue between Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) and Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort) to spell out their motivations for trying to help Carrie (as if we couldn’t figure things out for ourselves). This also leads to a gratuitous plot distraction (which I won’t spell out) which suggests that somebody has confused telekinesis with telepathy. There’s also a very good non-DePalma-derived take on the sequence in which Carrie departs for the prom despite the frantic protests of Mama.
This, of course, brings it down to Carrie herself. Now, Grace-Moretz was certainly NOT miscast in the role when it comes to her acting talent… however, the filmmakers commit a fatal error right from the start by simply refusing to allow her to appear dowdy, frowsy or in any way unattractive. Chloe Grace-Moretz happens to be a beautiful young lady; and that means that in this version, Carrie White is a beautiful young lady from the moment we first see her; making the sequence in which Ms. Desjardin (Judy Greer) suggests “a little makeup, a curl in your hair, etc.” quite ridiculous. There’s virtually no transformation process between the bullied, repressed youngster and the prom queen, and you can’t help but make note of this for the entire running time of the film.
Did I say that was the fatal error? Sorry… you ain’t seen nothing yet. Sadly, the new CARRIE goes straight to hell the moment the bucket disgorges its contents. First, we’re shown the impact from three separate angles in a row (as if this were some sort of Jackie Chan stunt); and from there, though the ensuing carnage ITSELF is gruesomely effective, my sympathy for the plight of Carrie White soon gave way to embarrassment for the genuinely talented Chloe Grace-Moretz herself as I watched her rolling her eyes, grinning maniacally, waving her arms like an orchestra conductor, and eventually levitating. Yes, I said “levitating.” Okay, there’s still some strength left in the final showdown between Carrie and Mama, but by that point it was far too late for the movie to recover.
Now you don’t have to skip the CARRIE remake simply because it exists. You can skip it because I took the hit for you. You’re welcome.