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Remakes of classic movies make me believe that young people today are so blindly led by pop culture that Hollywood has to tell them what to like, since it can be assumed that they can hardly look back past 10 years for good quality entertainment. This remake of Stephen King's book and Brian De Palma's 1976 film is both another addition to this irritating trend of unoriginality and a decent re-interpretation that is a shade or two smarter than the average remake.
As many of you know, Carrie is the story of the tormented misfit Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz), who faces her bullying classmates, her oppressively religious mother Margaret (Julianne Moore), and her own incredible telekinetic powers that she uses to reap revenge on one ill-fated prom night after suffering from yet another mean-spirited prank at her expense.
The biggest flaw of the remake and of any remake is that everyone already knows the original story. Most remakes follow the original very closely (like the infamous shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho), making them seem even more unnecessary. Unfortunately, Carrie falls into this trap and hits every mark made by the original movie, thus killing any suspense or feelings of investment. However, Carrie has the distinction of being both a remake of an earlier movie and an adaptation of a novel. So this version of Carrie follows the original novel more closely albeit slightly by expanding on Margaret's backstory and giving the gym teacher her original name.
The other major change in this version is a modern update that inserts camera phones and YouTube into the story. To the film's credit, these things help make the story relevant to today's world by adding an element of cyber-bullying to the plot: one of the girls films the infamous shower scene on her phone and posts it online. It shows how easily (and permanently) a girl's reputation can be ruined and how something like this can deepen a victim's pain. But it also acts as a damning piece of evidence against the main bully Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday).
This Carrie is about the same length as the original yet it feels more rushed, like a bunch of high school students giving amateur performances of Shakespeare as quickly as possible so that they can leave. The concepts in this story may be inherently interesting, but it almost doesn't matter if the film is presented poorly. Although the more clever ideas of Carrie shine through, the overall presentation is pretty dull but at least it doesn't drag. With that said, the strongest performances do come from Moretz and Moore, who manage to adequately convey the tragedy and horror of their characters.
Despite the fact that this is advertised like any other horror movie, the film actually has much fewer cliches than its peers. There is a bare minimum of jump scares, which run way too rampantly in other horror remakes, and it was really refreshing to watch a horror movie without the constant fear of the film jumping out from behind something and going "boo." The CGI can be a bit excessive but at least it doesn't overpower the movie. The creepiness element of Carrie is the twisted relationship between Carrie and her mother, which is full of both love and abuse on both sides.
It has none of the subtlety of the original but it is obvious so that the film's theme, which is centered on the horror of womanhood from childbirth to menstruation, could be more clearly understood. The issues of female gender are handled well enough thanks to the mature guidance of its director Kimberly Peirce, best known for directing the critically acclaimed film Boys Don't Cry (1999) starring Hilary Swank. Carrie, in all of its forms, is essentially about a newly mature young woman embracing the full power of her femininity and taking ownership of her own authority in the form of her telekinesis. In both films, this power is used by Carrie as a way of asserting herself and making her stubborn mother listen to her. Like any other teenager, Carrie acts out and is completely fueled by her emotions and after terrible mistakes are made she is left with agonizing regrets. But unlike other teenagers, Carrie's mistake is the murders of innocent people and her hands are stained with their blood, which is a strong recurring image in both horror movies and female life. This impulsiveness and remorse can explain how we can forgive Carrie, who manages to remain innocent and fragile, for her crime.
Although Sissy Spacek will always be the quintessential Carrie, Chloe Grace Moretz offers an interesting take on the role by making Carrie White a little stronger and slightly more defiant. When we see Carrie defying her mother, you get the sense that Carrie has spent most of her life living in fear of her mother and meekly obeying her. Now that she is a woman, she starts to openly challenge her mother's religious teachings and personal choices.
Carrie is a decent remake: less theatrical, more modern (for better or worse) occasionally smart, but ultimately generic. Nevertheless I believe it is worth looking at, if only once. Either way, if the film makes you be afraid of going to prom, then at least it did one thing right.