Three things crossed my mind during the end credits to the remake of Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s book “Carrie”: a memory of Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake of “Psycho,” the phrase “What for?” and a strong belief that this version’s director, Kimberly Peirce, blew the ending.
“Psycho” was boasted of as being a frame-for-frame remake of the Hitchcock classic, and it actually was. And though this “Carrie” isn’t exactly a frame-for-framer, it’s close enough to tie right into that second thought: What for? Why remake a movie without adding anything new or improved? Both films took King’s book about a terribly shy loner of a girl, raised by a single mom who is so twisted by her religious beliefs she’s sure that everybody but her and her daughter is one, big collective devil.
Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her mom Margaret (Julianne Moore) are nice pieces of acting, but a lot of people saw the first film, and there will be comparisons. Moretz doesn’t appear to be quite as haunted as Sissy Spacek did the first time around, nor does Moore seem quite as seriously whacked as Piper Laurie. Both are damaged goods, but Mom almost revels in that fact, while Carrie – the object of ridicule and scorn in her senior year in high school, and likely for many years before – is desperate to be thought of as “normal.” Normalcy, of course, shouldn’t involve Mom regularly shoving her into a cramped closet space to pray for her soul, but that’s the life the Bible-thumping Mom has handed to her. Mom also works as a seamstress, and has an affinity for sharp objects, to be used as weapons on others or to matter-of-factly abuse her own skin.
The film gets down to business quickly with a faithful recreation of the original’s infamous girls locker room shower scene which, since it takes place in a high school, gives new meaning to the term “first period.” It also swiftly sets up the relationships between innocent, naive Carrie and the students and faculty members that eventually trigger the powers she didn’t know she had.
For those who don’t know the book and haven’t seen the first film, the only important bit to be revealed here is that she’s capable of telekinesis, and other manifestations of the ability to move objects with the mind. But don’t make her angry. You wouldn’t like her when she’s angry.
The story is really a study of cruelty – of bullies and self-centered (or disturbed) individuals who would have others follow their way and only their way. Lord knows (oops, a religious reference) that teens have a tough enough time dealing with everyday life without these kinds of complications.
Page 2 of 2 - Carrie’s main foe (after her crazy mom) is Chris (Portia Doubleday), the school’s main mean girl, who has made a target of Carrie just because she’s kind of different. We also get a befuddled and wimpy school principal, a concerned gym teacher, another mean girl who turns good, and Carrie who, driven to extremes, soon discovers, researches, and starts practicing her powers against those who would do her harm. Our protagonist goes from being miserable to becoming happy to turning into one of those characters that makes a horror story a horror story.
A quick apology for saying that there’s nothing new about this version. The shower scene is caught on a smartphone and posted on the Web, and “Dancing with the Stars” gets a shout out. Other than that it’s familiar territory – less gothic and gaudy than De Palma’s and just a little more over the top in visual effects of mayhem.
The third thing that crossed my mind was the problem with the ending. Suffice it to say, the original’s caught audiences off guard. We got something we weren’t expecting, resulting in a wonderful communal scream. This one sets up the same ending, then pulls the rug out from under us. The audience I saw it with reacted with a communal groan.
Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.
Written by Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; directed by Kimberly Peirce
With Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne More, Judy Greer