Kimberly Peirce’s take on “Carrie”, that opened this past Friday, October 19, is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a respectable adaptation of the Stephen King novel for a new audience. And it made 18 million this past weekend (http://abt.cm/172gXP6). Nonetheless, the worth of any remake lies truly in how it stands up to its predecessor artistically. So, with that in mind, let’s compare this new version to the 1976 classic of “Carrie” and see how close it comes.
Both who’ve essayed the role on the big screen are wonderfully talented actresses. And they each render their Carrie empathetically. Spacek however seemed to be Carrie, where you can see Moretz acting the part. In fact, Peirce fudges right off the bat by giving Moretz a bad red rinse to make her look odder. Spacek looked unusual to begin with. Her abundance of freckles, ghostly white skin and humongous eyes all gave her a true uniqueness. When her Carrie is told she’s pretty by Tommy, it’s more of her inner beauty that he sees. When Moretz is told it here, it’s because frankly, the actress is a knockout. And Moretz is way too over-confident when destroying the town. You’d expect that from Hit Girl, but not Carrie.
Piper Laurie vs. Julianne Moore
Moore was scarier as Sarah Palin. Here, she’s incredibly stoic and one-note. Didn’t Moore realize that Carrie’s mother is Medea or Cruella de Ville, a villainess an actress should have some fun playing? Yes, there’s a bullying element to the character, and religious wacko’s do a lot of harm, true, but this is a horror movie. It’s supposed to be fun too. Piper Laurie purred even snide lines like, “Your dirty pillows are showing.” And when Moore confesses she liked the sex that led to her pregnancy, there’s none of the carnality that Laurie’s mad mom exalted in by her confession. Less is Moore here.
Brian De Palma’s direction vs. Kimberly Peirce’s
If anything, Peirce is too restrained, especially for a horror movie. She treats Stephen King’s great pulp fiction as if it’s the Matthew Shephard story. Her “Carrie” is too straight. Heck, she even rushes the destruction of the prom, and that’s the set piece! And since Peirce was so willing to re-do her friend Brian De Palma’s classic (http://bit.ly/1a3jeff), why not find more ways to differentiate it? She repeats tons of dialogue verbatim, most scenes feel way too close to the '76 movie, and Peirce even does a riff on the ‘shopping for prom tuxedos’ scene. Adding cell phones and social media is new, but it isn’t enough.
Look, I don’t think De Palma walks on hallowed ground (http://exm.nr/1bZSgGN), but his “Carrie” is a classic, and his direction was wicked and witty. Peirce can be a great director as “Boys Don’t Cry” proved, but she’s whiffed this one. It needs to be wilder and entertaining. And why didn’t she pay homage to De Palma’s classic split screen effects? That made his “Carrie” killer.
Old school teens vs. new school teens
Not one teen in this new one makes much of an impression. No one comes close to registering the saucy mischief of Nancy Allen as Chris, or the wide-eyed regret of Amy Irving as Sue Snell. The best Peirce can summon that seems novel are two twin characters whose personalities begin and end in their DNA. And the new Tommy is so earnest and dull that when he gets clunked by the empty pail, it has little impact. When William Katt died in the ’76 version, you felt the utter tragedy of the prank gone horribly, horribly wrong.
Prom apocalypse vs. prom fire
Yes, that’s how these two set pieces could be characterized, as the 1976 version took no prisoners. Everyone in the old school version perished in the flames. In this one, it looks like only the baddies bite the big one.
1976 special effects vs. 2013 special effects
Okay, this one the new version wins, only because visuals have come so far. But having Carrie fly during her revenge gilded the lily. After such levitation, bringing her house down with telekinetic powers seemed almost anticlimactic.
The old ending vs. the new ending
This is the problem with remakes. The original ending of Carrie, where she reached out and grabbed Sue from beyond the grave, was so jolting that it spawned a dozen rip-offs in subsequent horror films. Peirce opted for her own ending here, to get miles away from the predecessor, but her idea is to have Carrie remain actually alive under the dirt. That strikes me as completely wrong. The original ending was Sue’s bad dream, suggesting that the teen girl would never get over her guilt. This one lamely sets up Carrie’s return for a sequel. Yawn.
Some remakes deepen and darken the material for a modern time, like this year’s take on “Maniac” (http://exm.nr/12aFy13). Yes, this “Carrie” nods towards the hot topic of bullying, but it just isn't enough to justify re-doing. All in all, this "Carrie" just seemed so very…unnecessary. And it lacked genuine terror or thrills. Next time, I’d like to see a director of Peirce’s caliber execute a new version of a horror tale that could use some refining, like 1981’s “Funhouse.” Imagine what could be done to intensify and add side show grit to that cheaply made thriller. It might even be fun. Unlike this new "Carrie".