There’s not a lot to say about Kimberly Peirce’s update of "Carrie," except that it’s pretty much perfect. And let us bow once more in grateful reverence before Tabitha King, who fished what would become her husband’s first published novel out of the trash bin where he’d discarded it as unworthy and unredeemable.
What on earth might our literary and cinematic lives be like had she not seen something Stephen did not? Maybe he would have been published eventually anyway, but then again who can say, and what other trajectory might his work have taken? I shudder to think of it…
But back to modern day, ringing with as much human cruelty as ever, but empowered by technology neither King, nor we, nor Brian De Palma could scarcely have imagined circa 1975. Peirce keeps the story solid, and grows it into a tale for current times.
The story’s familiar: oppressed, outcast Carrie White lives under the thumb of her religiously fanatical (and doctrinally misguided) mother. Forced to wear modest (e.g., “weird”) clothes, she’s labeled “Crazy Carrie” by the local tweens and offers great grist for the mill of the school’s mean girls. When Carrie ~ uninformed by her arguably wackadoo mother as to the workings of female anatomy ~ gets her first period in the locker room shower after gym class, it seems the beginning of the end for her. And perhaps, in fact, it is…
So the huge question is, of course, why remake "Carrie" at all? The 1976 version starring Sissy Spacek remains one of the horror genre’s most revered fellows; indeed, even though we knew a successor drew nigh, we ranked it number 21 over at We Got This Covered on our Top 100 Horror list (my entries are numbers 80, 19, 7, and 2). Additionally, it’s been reiterated several other times across small screen and stage. Did anyone ask for this? Does anyone want it?
Dunno. But director Kimberly Peirce ("Boys Don’t Cry") wanted it, and Screen Gems must have run its numbers, and here we are.
And they were right.
Peirce’s "Carrie" brings King’s timeless tale into full 21st century vibrancy, complete with modern fashion, social media, video sharing, and CGI. (A fellow screener wondered if the CGI might’ve been overdone; personally, I wasn’t unduly distracted, though I could see his point). However, these alone bring it current but don’t make it anything special.
What earns this "Carrie" respect is its stronger sensibility. For whatever reason, King’s heroines in the 70-80’s often found themselves portrayed as mindless simpering weaklings who flee like fawns when faced with upset. (I kid you not, I was actually kind of rooting for Wendy to get the axe, so embarrassing was she to my gender. But onward.)
Sissy Spacek did fine job of what was asked of her (and a more than fine job in every other role of her career), but it’s Chloë Grace Moretz who now owns this character. Under Peirce’s control and Moretz’s portrayal, Carrie holds her backbone come what may. It may slump at times, and she may doubt the world and her place in it, but she never doubts herself. Now that’s a King heroine. (And for the record, when NBC presented "The Shining" under Stephen King’s openly reparative control, the real Wendy kicked some serious a**.)
This Carrie cowers before the hostility coming at her from every angle, but she never internalizes it as being something about her. She knows she’s not a “whole person,” but that awareness de facto indicates that it resides within her. When her mother “quotes” fabricated scripture that condemns her, Carrie adamantly rejects it, firing back actual scripture that confirms God’s love and her own worth. Moretz’s Carrie may be under someone’s thumb, but she’ll give it a good bite so it hurts a bit while pressing. Not to mention she’s quite a generally delightful individual. Not a monster, just a girl.
Equally exceptional to Moretz is Julianne Moore as Carrie’s mother, Margaret White. Rather than the near-caricature under De Palma’s helmsmanship, here Margaret bears just enough vulnerability that we can connect with her on an however-minimal human level, understand Carrie’s enduring if tormented bond to her. Moore lets us see the anguish that drives the obsession, while maintaining every ounce of Margaret’s menace.
Given these performances, apart and in chemistry, today’s "Carrie" is quite wonderful for its intended audience, and retains the tragedy so compelling in King’s work. It’s not for everyone but nor does it purport to be, and beyond the obvious indictment of bullying it doesn’t offer anything to carry forth. But it’s modern and enduringly chilling, and Peirce gives it a solid, intimate, urgent feel that serves the story well.
Given some genuinely frightening shots, I’m very glad that "Mama" “viraled me out” "Bourne Legacy"-style regarding my sensitivity to preternatural posture visuals. Moretz the mighty ain’t to be messed with.
Story: Update of Stephen King' classic, in which oppressed outcast Carrie White unleashes telekinetic terror after being pushed too far by the cruelty of her classmates.
Genre: Horror, Drama
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Ansel Elgort, Alex Russell
Directed by: Kimberly Peirce
Running time: 100 minutes
Official site: http://www.carrie-movie.com/
Houston release date: October 18, 2013
Tickets: Check Fandango, IMDb, or your local listings
Screened Oct 16th at the Edwards Grand Palace theater in Houston TX