Carrie: A Remake Not Worth the Blood or Bother

Despite the best efforts of Chloë Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore, this new film shows that sometimes a good girl should stay dead

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Michael Gibson / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Screen Gems

Somehow, I thought this one had promise: a remake of Carrie, the 1976 Brian De Palma film of Stephen King‘s first novel. Two enticing stars, Chloë Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore, in the roles created by Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie: the telekinetic teen and her crazy evangelist mom. A new script by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, a writer-producer for Big Love and Glee, under the direction of Kimberly Peirce, whose 1999 Boys Don’t Cry poignantly addressed a teen girl’s sexual confusion and earned a Best Actress Oscar for its star, Hilary Swank.

Having sat through Carrie, I now wonder: Why do we even bother to hope, when cynicism is the only appropriate armor to wear to the remake of a favorite film? Why did these talented folks decide to take on Carrie when they had nothing innovative to bring to it and, by refrying the same blood sausage, risked invidious comparison to the original? To put it another way: If the most modest expectations cannot be met, indeed must be crushed, then What Is Life?

(FIND: Carrie on the all-TIME Top 25 Horror Movies list)

Not that De Palma’s movie is exactly deathless. Only breathless: a film-school junkie’s mid-’70s essay in split screens and agonizing slow motion. (If every shot in the 98-minute movie were shown at normal speed, it would last hardly an hour.) But King’s story, in the screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen, had the puissance of stereotype transformed to archetype: a lonely girl, mocked and abused at school, gets a dream date for the prom and, when doused with a pail of pig’s blood, twists the curse of her telekinesis into revenge on all who wronged her and a few who didn’t. The movie is one long menstrual apocalypse; and the last scene initiated the now mandatory trend of giving viewers a final scare to keep them shivering on the way home.

With fearless acuity, and pitch-perfect performances in the key of scream, Spacek and Laurie played the melodrama as high tragedy, of a diseased couple whose enmity is trumped only by their pathetic love. Carrie’s tormentors were played by a cast of young comers: Amy Irving and William Katt as the “nice” kids, Nancy Allen and John Travolta as the vicious ones. A triumph of art direction (by Jack Fisk, soon and still Spacek’s husband), the 1976 film splashes a Jackson Pollock riot of bright, all-American colors all over the prom: blue for the decorations, white for the translucent skin of Carrie White and red for the blood spattered on her.

(READ: Richard Schickel’s 1976 review of Carrie by subscribing to TIME)

Since then, Carrie has been revived or embalmed in a 1988 Broadway musical (book by Cohen) that achieved classic flop status, a 1999 movie sequel (in which Irving played her teen character 20 years later) and, now, this. It’s as if the hand of Carrie White’s corpse, jutting out of her grave to grab Irving’s arm at the end of the original film, were orchestrating these later versions as a zombie army whose existence demonstrated only that, sometimes, a sweet dead girl should stay that way.

(READ: Richard Zoglin on the 2012 “revival” of Carrie: The Musical)

Moretz, the pre-teen darling of critics (including me) for her roles in Kick-Ass and Let Me In, was 15 when she shot the movie last year, 11 years younger than Spacek in 1976. Two-time winner of the MTV Movie Award for Best Bad-Ass, she is growing up fast; her full, pouty lips now have a kissable face attached to them. Unlike Spacek, who could projected the raw innocence of a gawky, geeky Star Child, Moretz is too conventionally attractive to play the outcast — who wouldn’t want her as a prom date, and not from spite?

(FIND: Chloë Grace Moretz on TIME’s 2011 list of Best Actresses)

Moore, the recipient of an Emmy (for playing Sarah Palin in Game Change) and four Oscar nominations, lends her authority to mad Margaret White, who believes that Christ’s blood is healing but every woman’s menstrual blood is the curse of Eve. To punish herself for this sin, she claws her arms raw; to punish Carrie, she locks the girl in the ground-floor closet. Moore doesn’t embarrass herself, but she lacks Laurie’s deranged contralto majesty. And because the movie denies Carrie the final gesture of love toward her mom, Margaret is reduced to simply being Carrie’s final villain-victim.

We get the same evocations of Jesus on the crucifix and Saint Sebastian perforated with arrows. In fact, virtually ever scene in Peirce’s film is a pallid duplicate of De Palma’s. The only additions are that the movie begins with Margaret giving birth to Carrie, and nearly killing her with a pair of scissors; and that the bad girl Christina (Portia Doubleday, who has a lovely cameo in Spike Jonze’s her), now posts Carrie’s school-shower freakout as a viral video. Neither Doubleday nor lanky Gabriella Wilde, in the Amy Irving role, can match their predecessors.

(READ: Corliss on Portia Doubleday in Spike Jonze’s her)

After Carrie’s transformation on prom night, when the event is called off due to high body count, she goes walking through the town’s streets like a Godzella unchained. De Palma showed Spacek dispatching Allen and Travolta with a killer gaze that sent the bad kids’ car into an eight-turn rollover and a quick burst into flames. Peirce draws out the comeuppance, delaying Carrie’s climactic confrontation with her mother. It’s just unnecessary, like the rest of the movie.

(READ: Gilbert Cruz’s definitive interview with Stephen King)

By coincidence, the same night I saw Carrie I tuned into Comedy Central for South Park. We were told that the South Park Studios had suffered a blackout and no new episode would be shown. Instead, we were treated to a rerun of the 2001 masterpiece “Scott Tenorman Must Die,” in which fourth-grader Eric Cartman is hoodwinked by a ninth-grader, as Carrie had been by her classmates, and schemes wicked revenge. (“Oh, let me taste your tears, Scott! … Oh, the tears of unfathomable sadness!”) Cartman’s powers are of malevolence, not telekinesis, and Trey Parker had devised too many narrative twists to waste time on slo-mo cinematography. Even so, the episode’s climax has a gross-out splendor that equals or exceeds that of De Palma’s Carrie, and is parsecs beyond what Peirce summoned for the remake.

It’s been a while since Parker and Matt Stone have scaled such heights, but re-seeing “Scott Tenorman” reminded me that from great irresponsibility can come great storytelling power. So I forget about Carrie; I embrace South Park; and, once again, I live in hope.

23 comments
MatthewBalasis
MatthewBalasis

Wow, unbelievably pretentious wordplay. Mr. Corlis perhaps believes the New Yorker beckons, lol. Puissance? Had a student written this I'd suggest he put the thesaurus down. The key of scream? ugh. I haven't seen the movie, but the review should come with a barf bag. 

GeorgeEdwardJimenez
GeorgeEdwardJimenez

I completely disagree with this review. Having been a rabid fan of  the original 1976 "Carie" as well as the 1992 TV remake (and the novel), I'd say was quiet impressed. The previous Carries portrayed her as in shock and catatonic.  Chloe Grace  Moritz played a kinder Carrie, while at the same time being he most angry and fiercest!. Both Chloe and Julianne Moore did their own takes on their respective characters The special effects were great without looking too CGI-sh. This film was made as *remake*;; not a replica,,,and caters to a 2013 audience,

GeorgeEdwardJimenez
GeorgeEdwardJimenez

This is the stupidest revie I've read. Having been a long time super of the original 1976 film, as well as the 1992 TV version, this one made quite an impression. Great special effects (while not being too CGI-ish). Both Chloe and Julianne expressed their own takes of their own. The latest Carrie portrayed a kinder Carrie, while in the mean time turning out to be *angriest* and *fiercest* (as opposed to be catatonic. The latest Carrie wasn't just in shock, she was enraged! And it was nice to see that most of the actors actually looked as teeneagers as opposed to 25+ year-old actor playing teenagers.


sarahsassy822
sarahsassy822

This review is inaccurate and harsh. Carrie 2013 was better than 1976 or any other attempts. It is placed in modern day, which is different, but Julianne Moore is SO MUCH BETTER than Piper Laurie because she shows the true character of Margaret White, a thoroughly psychotic woman. Yet she is sympathetic to the audience, something that the insane need to be. She has major flaws, but we are still able to sympathize with her. We see the love she has for Carrie behind the psychosis. We see that she actually tries to be a good mother but is overtaken by her erratic behavior.

I will admit that Chloe Grace Moretz could have done better. We know that she is talented, especially in killing roles--have you seen the first Kickass? But I think that as the audience, we don't completely understand her character. We don't see why she is odd until the telekinesis shows. We are told that she has deemed that people will go to hell, or so Chris says, but we don't see it. But by the end, we do get to know her, and I think that the character development throughout is worthy through recognition. 

The Carrie 1976 is perverted and makes women as a whole seem evil. We spend several long moments throughout the movie seeing women's legs and seeing Sissy Spacek basically caressing herself when she showers off the blood. But Kimberly Pierce does not pose women as evil, like Stephen King in the novel. King shows the evil in Billy, and Pierce emphasizes it further. Chris is partially controlled. Would she have gone through with it without Billy? Probably not.

The fact that it was set today instead of in the seventies was a big change, but I think it worked. Girls are a LOT meaner today because of technology. It still held some of the '70's essence, with Margaret White's old car and brief corporal punishment by Miss Desjardin. It also made the younger generation able to connect as well as the older generation--aka the original fans of this movie. They have seen their kids go through bullying, and the younger generation has lived through it.

Additionally, people are always complaining that the movie is not true to the book. Carrie 1976 is a lot less true to the book than Carrie 2013. I hate when movies are different, and because this movie is 95% true to the real-time story (not the Carrie White Commission story) is a real accomplishment.

There was a brief reference to the SNL movie Superstar, when two girls are trampled to death at the prom. Superstar constantly references the Carrie 1976 (since the film was released in 1999), and the reference in return was great.

I am very displeased with your review, Richard Corliss. Don't assume you know everything about the book, 1976 version, and 2013 version. You are ignorant of the advantages of this movie. What would you say if there wasn't a Carrie in 1976?I'm not going to even bother to argue your comparison with Boys Don't Cry. I hope you have a fall-back job, man, because your reviews are nothing more than inaccurate.

Raphaloujo
Raphaloujo

Who CARES! Carrie 2013 was the best remake of Carrie 1976 to date. better than the previous attempts. And the idea that everyone in the media keeps throwing around, that Moretz is too pretty is such bull!! Pretty people get bullied as well. Bullying is not respective of person. And for many to make that statement implying that Spacek was not attractive is bullying in itself. The 2013 cast did an excellent job, and this movie was worth the wait, and worth my few dollars paid to see it.  Leave it to the critique to NEVER be fully satisfied with anything. Instead of being critical, why don't they put their energy into making films that will be appreciated and liked. 

 This film was about 96% accurate in remaking from the original, with a few added adaptations to make it more current and relatable for today's youth! the problem is that people are caught up in comparing everything, and being critical and judgmental from the start; so much so, that they build a film up to be disappointed. This is why I go alone! 

go see the movie people, and go with an open mind!

HonestBrokerBoston
HonestBrokerBoston

No one can top the original. I don't understand why anyone would even try. They should technically or visually upgrade the original, if possible, and re-release it for Halloween for some year.

CRandallBrotherton
CRandallBrotherton

**1999 Boys Don’t Cry poignantly addressed a teen girl’s sexual confusion and earned a Best Actress Oscar for its star, Hilary Swank.**

Buddy, if in this day and age you still think transexulity is being sexually confused, then your take and/or opinion on just about anything else is really suspect.

"Boys Don't Cry" was based on a true story.  You can tell the difference in origin of a screenplay between a true actual event and supernatural fiction, right?

Do you have a fall-back job skill? Because, clearly, this isn't your best choice for employment.

AlysRaeclon
AlysRaeclon

I didn't make it past "1999 Boys Don’t Cry poignantly addressed a teen girl’s sexual confusion". Just because you call something "poignant" doesn't mean you can completely disrespect the meaning of the film. Have zero confidence in this reviewer.

SB9999
SB9999

The reviewer lost credibility w/ the mis-discription of Boys Don't Cry ("1999 Boys Don’t Cry poignantly addressed a teen girl’s sexual confusion" - what?!) -- if that's what you came away with from that film, I have no trust at all that you will have anything cogent to say about Carrie.

JoshuaSweeny
JoshuaSweeny

1999 Boys Don’t Cry poignantly addressed a teen girl’s sexual confusion" That is in no way an accurate portrayal of what 'boys dont cry' was about. Brendan Teena was transgender. The author of this article should fix that glaring fail of a description. Someone call the editor and have them flogged.


MustangCali
MustangCali

The reviews are correct. This is a mind numbing and terrible remake. It didn't need to be made. The original with Sissy was wonderful and no remakes will ever compare. 

SimbaandTaz
SimbaandTaz

Anyone that criticizes this movie is either out of their mind or has not seen it... This movie is an edge of you seat thriller with great special effects and even greater acting

MichaelDoyle1
MichaelDoyle1

Anyone who has read the novel knows that Carrie DOES in fact destroy the town itself. Her punishment is not simply for the kids who teased her, but the community that has made outcasts of her family. She has been encoded with the ideal of righteous wrath that is so glorified in her religion and in our culture (see every movie where the main character must murder the villain), and she acts as a living embodiment of it. 

mom2boys
mom2boys

Your review lost all credibility with the following sentence.  " The movie is one long menstrual apocalypse"...

MikeBrooks
MikeBrooks

There was a remake that preceded this one that seems to be the TV networks' favorite; it, too, pales in comparison to the original, which is now a classic.  

The only chance this movie has is its pre-Halloween release.  They should only hope that no one re-releases the original now.


sarahsassy822
sarahsassy822

Oh and by the way, if you knew anything about Jackson Pollock, he wasn't a paint splasher. He did paint "drips" in different areas of the canvas. This may seem harsh, but this review doesn't even deserve publication if you are that dense about all types of art and culture.

DaisyFung
DaisyFung

@Raphaloujo your review makes me want to watch it. loved the original but not so much the remake in 92'. Definitely agree with you that all types of people get bullied. Pretty people get bullied by not so pretty people, smart people get bullied by those not so smart, etc. and vice versa.

YOHOkallykoe
YOHOkallykoe

@mom2boys Nevermind the fact that they spelled Godzilla wrong, as well as added past tense to things they shouldn't have.

CharleyCvercko
CharleyCvercko

@mom2boys Unfortunately, it's an accurate description. In King's deranged mind, menstrual blood is the fuel that powers the entire proceedings.