Directed by Kimberly Peirce
Bullying is nothing new. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were cruel cave paintings of some poor kid being mocked by his fellow Paleolithic teens. It became more prevalent in public schools, and now it’s practically epidemic with the added element of smartphones and the internet. (In fact, even as I type this review, there is yet another special on cyber-bullying on HLN’s “Raising America.”) Many victims wind up seriously injured, mentally scarred, and, in some cases, dead.
It’s not light subject matter.
Which is why I am pleased to report that the Carrie remake takes the material seriously, and what’s more, it stays true to the Stephen King novel. The story follows Carrie White, a shy, withdrawn teenager whose extreme religious upbringing by her psychotic single mom has made her an outcast among her classmates. She’s mercilessly teased, and it’s through these stressful trials that her supernatural telekinetic powers begin to emerge. The question is: Will she use them to protect herself or to harm others?
The first cinematic adaptation, released in 1976 and directed by stylistic virtuoso Brian De Palma, remains a classic and a timeless favorite to this day. While there was a negligible 2002 TV movie remake, this version is the first big-time adaptation in over 35 years.
So, how did they make it count?
First of all, an accomplished female director with a passion for telling the stories of unusual characters, Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry, Stop Loss), was brought on. They got a screenwriter who knows teens and religious family dynamics, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (“Glee,” “Big Love”). Strong actresses filled out the roles – Julianne Moore as Margaret White, Chloe Grace Moretz in the title role, and Judy Greer as the P.E. teacher who takes Carrie under her wing.
While Sissy Spacek was 26 when she originated the role of Carrie, and even though Moretz is an actual 16-year-old, Spacek still owns. She had an innately fragile, waifish, deeply contemplative quality which Moretz does not. Moore and Greer fare better, though they also act in the respective shadows of Piper Laurie and Betty Buckley. (The best casting is that of Gabriella Wilde in the role of Sue Snell.)
The story is updated to include the all-encompassing evil of cyber-bullying. The humiliating school gym shower incident, in which a confused and bleeding Carrie is told by a mob of mocking girls to “Plug it up! Plug it up!” is shot on a cellphone and uploaded to the internet. The video goes viral. Now, not just those in school know Carrie got her first period; everyone knows.
Fortunately, not much time is spent on the advent of technology. It’s acknowledged, but this is still an account about people, how teenagers interact, and of course… Carrie, her crazy mom, and that bloody prom.
The horror scenes – the showdown between Carrie and Margaret, the bucket of pig gore, Carrie’s telekinetic revenge – are all well done, and not a single punch is pulled. This movie is rated R, and by the time it’s over, you will know why.
Given the fact that it’s been 35 years since the first, and knowing how popular Moretz is, I don’t begrudge the new Carrie’s existence at all. The studio obviously took care in doing it justice, rather than just trotting out yet another remake in name only. People who haven’t seen the original will love it, and people who have seen the original should at least like it.
3 1/2 out of 5