Movie Review – Carrie [remake] (2013)

When the new Carrie (2013) was first announced I was curious to see if director Kimberly Pierce could cull anything new or relevant for our modern era that Brian De Palma’s 1976 classic, due to the time in which it was made, could not. Her film Boy Don’t Cry (1999) dealt smartly with the heavy issues of self-identity, sexuality, and class identification – all themes which the story of Carrie White touches upon. When buzz for this film was first making its rounds, I recall cast members and those associated with the picture touting that this version would be closer to Stephen King’s 1974 novel. They claimed their film was not a remake of the original but a reimagining of the source material. However, considering this movie hardly deviates from the path laid by De Palma, except to insert references to social media, 2013’s Carrie can be safely stored in the vault of pointless and soon-to-be-forgotten remakes.

To be fair, Pierce has claimed that studio executives butchered about forty minutes from her film. This footage supposedly contains many elements from the book, such as the White Commission, and more gore. There is currently an online petition from fans meant to restore Pierce’s vision. Nevertheless, as it now stands the movie closely resembles De Palma’s, and the scenes which it mirrors only serves to highlight the original’s superiority.

I love the 1976 Carrie but I don’t think of it as one of the untouchable classics. The story is perfectly served to be reimagined for each teen generation, changed to make it relevant to their fears and anxieties. The original is a terrific, artistic achievement, but it’s very much a capsule of its time. The 2013 film, though, is more tailored to modern teens’ short attention spans and reliance on pop culture. The overuse of CGI makes the scenes of Carrie testing her powers more akin to an X-men movie or Matilda (1996) than to anything foreboding. Sissy Spacek’s Carrie had a growing awareness of her ability that never went too far until her climactic mental breakdown. But this new Carrie is quickly confident in her powers and is closer to the literary version in this way, but it is a confidence that undermines the character who we should be viewing as a tortured victim unable to see potential within herself.

Chloe Grace Moretz is a capable actress, but when compared with Spacek’s iconic portrayal we see just how miscast she is. She fails to exhibit the vulnerability essential to the character or illicit the pity that Spacek was able to cull. I’ve seen reviewers who praise her performance but it didn’t work for me.

Yet it’s in the prom scene were everything truly falls apart and any comparison made to the original film reveals just how brilliant and horrifying De Palma’s work truly is. By comparison, the new film is flashier but tension-free. Also, it can’t decide if Carrie is a monster or a victim as it tries to redeem her in odd ways, but if we were to replace her telekinesis with a gun the distinction would be clear – Carrie is a monster.

2013’s Carrie is not a horrible film. It has its merits. Julianne Moore does well, for instance. But the film fails to elicit an emotional connection and feels sanitized in a way that the original didn’t. Despite the CGI deaths, it feels like the rest of the movie is holding back, particularly on the performance end. It’s a perfectly fine workmanlike movie, but I prefer the artistry of De Palma’s.

Grade: C-