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Meet the new telekinetic, same as the old telekinetic: “Carrie”

November 12, 2013

Carrie-remake-2012-Poster

The answer is no, none at all.

Sorry, but I have to assume that the first question coming from any vertebrate upon seeing a review of the new theatrical remake of Carrie has to be, “is there any reason to remake this?” And you have your answer. Look, Carrie is a justifiably classic movie—maybe not the scariest movie ever made, but it’s a straightforward enough story and a film that has aged well. So no, you’re probably not going to improve upon it. But you know Hollywood: new ideas are, like, way hard. And they might not work. Why not just make it easy on everybody and remake something that already worked? I mean, it’s not like we’re getting paid to be creative or anything. And besides, kids today won’t watch anything made before 1993. Right? Well, that’s the logic, anyway. The crappy, crappy logic that gave us this.

Okay, so Carrie…wait, have you seen the 1976 version? Okay, then you’ve seen this movie. No, I’m not kidding—it’s not basically the same movie, it’s the same freaking movie! Except there’s an iPhone in it. That’s pretty much the major change. Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz) is the weird girl who lives with her religious nutjob mother (Julianne Moore) and develops telekinesis. Her classmates make the real big mistake of humiliating her at prom, and she goes totally bitchcakes and kills pretty much everyone. Fin.

Well, if the movie doesn’t make any substantive changes to the story, then what are we left with? Well, we’re left with some very good actors (Moretz, Moore, Judy Greer as the kindly gym teacher) putting in committed performances in a vast wasteland of tedium, and director Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry) comparing poorly in the suspense department to Brian De Palma.

"Lesbian Gym Teacher" looks good on her

“Lesbian Gym Teacher” looks good on her

That’s too bad, too. I mean, as a story Carrie doesn’t have a lot of meat on its bones—basically it’s a long build to the final, cathartic conflagration—but it’s very rare that a major studio movie has a woman directing a cast almost totally comprised of women (the men are few and largely inconsequential). Yet, the male screenwriters haven’t given Peirce or her cast to do anything new or different, so what’s the damn point?

On top of that, damn near everyone is criminally miscast. Moore and Moretz are both extremely talented actresses, but both too Hollywood beautiful for their roles. The original made good use of Sissy Spacek’s unconventional looks—basically a long, beanpole of southwestern earnestness—and Piper Laurie’s brilliantly campy/gothic tendencies. Moore can’t tamp down her natural intelligence for the role. As Carrie, Moretz is far too attractive for the part, and the filmmakers don’t seem to want to make her ugly, plain, or unsympathetic.

Ugh. Go back to your cave, freak!

Ugh. Go back to your cave, freak!

Additionally, the sting of Carrie gets lost in a post-post-Columbine world. I mean, nowadays alienated teenagers don’t need telekinetic powers to sow chaos and bloodshed and have nviolent revenge on their classmates. They just need a parent with a really accessable firearm.

Peirce made a legitimately great film with Boys Don’t Cry (aided in no small part by a brilliant performance by Hilary Swank), but that wasn’t a genre film. It was a blistering meditation on the casual brutality of Midwestern provincialism as it intersected gender identity. The new Carrie gives Piece nothing like that to chew on. It’s a screenplay designed for a different filmmaker, and, unsurprisingly, Peirce doesn’t know what to do with it (though, to be fair, there’s so little new, I’m not sure who wouldn’t make a wan retread).

But the movie makes some other, more basic mistakes. Carrie’s final fury doesn’t play out like an uncontrolled explosion of fury, but instead has Moretz waving her arms like Yoda showing Luke how to raise his X-Wing, begging the question why she wasn’t more selective in who she killed. I mean, some of those people she just met at the dance.

Really, mass killings in high schools wish they looked this good.

Really, mass killings in high schools wish they looked this good.

Likewise, bullying has become a hot topic in American culture as a whole and high schools specifically. I mean, shit, kids are being arrested for putting nasty stuff online. Would any high school in 2013 just shrug off the torments Carrie White endures with a couple of wind sprints?

The intersection of fundamentalist religion and corporal punishment has also become a subject of much examination. Carrie, however, just imports the originals somewhat generic Bible-thumping whackadooism. This article on Slate is more horrifying than any scene of Moore banging her head against a cupboard.

The scariest part is that she could still make a credible Republican party candidate.

The scariest part is that she could still make a credible Republican party candidate.

So…long answer is still No. No, there is no reason to remake Carrie. Short answer is just no.

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