Those entirely unfamiliar with the 1976 Brian De Palma classic, the made-for-TV movie, or yes, the stage musical will likely find some merit in Kimberly Peirce’s version of Carrie, starring Chloë Grace Moretz in the title role. Everyone else will find this remake so disappointingly similar to the other adaptations as to question the need for its existence.
As originally told in the Stephen King novel, Carrie is the daughter of single mother Margaret (Julianne Moore), a dowdy Bible-thumper extremist who will dote on her “little girl” in one breath, and in the next punish her for an imagined transgression by locking her in a “prayer closet.” Margaret is so afraid of the pervasiveness of sin she home-schools Carrie until forced by the state to place her into the public system. Having been left unsocialized by her mother for most of her childhood, Carrie is an extreme wallflower in high school—chum to the sharks of teenage girl bullies. When she gets her first period in the gym showers and freaks out, the other girls mercilessly make fun, raining feminine hygiene products on her while main antagonist Chris (Portia Doubleday) films the humiliation on her phone, and later posts it online. (The brief presence of Internet technology is the sole noticeable difference or update to the story.) This sets off a chain of events during which Carrie learns of and develops her ability to move objects with her mind, and culminates in her being invited to the prom, which of course becomes less gala and more Grand Guignol.
After her star-making turns in Kick-Ass and Let Me In, Moretz would seem a natural choice for Carrie … on the surface. But while she is certainly entertaining, she’s not necessarily emotionally engaging. It’s admittedly a very subtle distinction, but one that can make a big difference, especially as the focal point of such a familiar narrative. With each role Moretz takes, it’s becoming clearer that she is most comfortable playing characters who are strong and wise beyond their years. In other words, she doesn’t do vulnerable, and vulnerable is what Carrie needs to be much of the time.
Julianne Moore, in frizzy hair and no makeup, is sufficiently creepy as the mother, and does actually earn a few fleeting instances of sympathy. But, much like the entire enterprise, her performance is nothing more than serviceable.
There’s nothing really wrong with this iteration of Carrie, it’s just that most everything that’s right can’t be attributed to the production itself. As long as horror is big business we will likely keep getting remakes for each new generation. Just remember that Hollywood needs to make them more than you need to see them.
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Writers: Lawrence D. Cohen, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Judy Greer, Ansel Elgort
Release Date: Oct. 18, 2013