Kimberly Pierce, the director of the newest incarnation of the supernatural thriller Carrie, likes to think of the film as less of a remake and more of a reboot or a reimaging of the tale about a rejected, lonely teenager with supernatural powers. The problem with that idea is that it’s all a play on words.
Reboots and reimagings are still remaking a film that has already been made. At times, some elements are different, but the heart of the movie is still similar enough to be compared to the source material. This is why Pierce’s Carrie fails miserably. In borrowing from the original Carrie and removing other elements to make room for new elements, you have a mish-mashed Frankenstein Carrie that reminds you enough of the original to be miserable watching it, and has enough newer elements to make you question how the story even works on this new ground.
While I don’t want to compare the two films, the main characters all have the same names and basic characteristics, so I don’t have much of a choice. In fact, the silliest names and people are changed. For instance, P.J. Soles’ iconic character Norma is no longer a part of the new film. Instead, a few friends that have no discernable differences join Chris (Portia Doubleday) and Sue (Gabriella Wilde). They are there doing laps and going to class, but really they serve as being the same girl. They have no personality and I couldn’t even tell you their names without looking them up on IMDB.
Both Sue and Chris have the same romantic entanglements with the same characters from the original film, at least in name. Sue is the far more satisfying reincarnation of the two actresses. Chris’ character strays from the original from being a self-absorbed teenager to a maniacal sociopath of considerable privilege; able to break the law at will without suffering any considerable consequence, at all. She is taken too far and the actress isn’t able to carry the load. Unfortunately, it shows and it affects the finished product.
Unfortunately, gone are the ruffled shirt tuxedos and in there place are jokes about Tim Tebow. For the record, this is one of the biggest problems with Carrie. In bringing her into the 21st century everything becomes far more unbelievable and awkward. It’s clunkier and unsatisfying as a whole.
The famous bathroom scene in the beginning of the film is similar enough to recognize from the original. The differences here though are that the event is filmed and put on sites like YouTube. In the office, we learn that Carrie was recently homeschooled and her mother, being the religious zealot that she is, obviously did not teach her about her period.
Okay, that’s fine and good. However, not too much later in the film, we find Carrie using the Internet relatively independently. I found it hard to suspend that much disbelief that a homebound wallflower who didn’t know she would have a period or what it was, could run to the Internet easily enough to look up supernatural powers and telekinesis. It didn’t seem likely and it was just one instance where a reimaging in this new modern age does not work.
The performances of Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore are generally fine, but that’s not enough to carry an iconic film and make it worthy of a remake. The Aaliyah-esque (see Queen of the Damned) movements Moretz performs when she is using her special powers at the prom removes any good work she performed earlier in the film, essentially making her performance a mere caricature of the original.
There is also the matter that Moretz is not necessarily homely. The entire essence of Carrie is that she is this young, social awkward, sexually immature girl that almost parallels the ugly duckling. At the prom, she becomes the swan, to disastrous consequences, none of which are her own fault. Sissy Spacek, a woman that is by no means unattractive, was made to look very dowdy, and Moretz never pulls it off with the same grace. It really just looks like they pulled her hair down over her face and let her go.
As Margaret White, Julianne Moore had some large shoes to fill. Piper Laurie was phenomenal in the original adaptation of Carrie. Moore was not completely disappointing but she came off more as a religious zealot and less as a mentally deranged child abuser working under the hands of God. Laurie’s performance was at such a higher level, it pained me to even think of what I could expect before seeing this. The result was not sheer disappointment, but I was not impressed either. In the annals of Moore’s work, this will never be a shining example of her ability. It will just be another film in which she performed.
In the end, Pierce removed the beauty and the psychological horror presented in Carrie and replaced it with cheap thrills, Hollywood tricks, and some big-bang special effects. You get what you pay for and in this case it ends up being a pretty film with no substance that could easily be called an embarrassment to the source material from which it was created.
Much of the promotional features tell people, “You Will Know Her Name.” I already knew her name and I liked the original far more than this. Some movies shouldn’t be remade. There was no way to make this film better than it already was. Pierce would have been better served, and likely more appreciated, making a modern day horror film about a girl with supernatural powers. It’s really what she made anyhow. Calling it Carrie and using elements from the story and the original film just made her film that much worse.