US | 2013 | Directed by Kimberly Peirce
Logline: A meek, adolescent girl, with a religiously fanatical mother, and a victim of bullying at school, discovers she has powerful telekinetic powers.
Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation from Stephen King’s brilliant debut novel is a movie of its time, yet despite the various elements that date it, it is still a superb example of cinematic suspense wrapped around a portrait of abuse and revenge. The cast were perfect: Sissy Spacek as the shadow that exploded, Piper Laurie as her insufferable mother, Amy “My Name is Susan Snell” Irving, William Katt as heart of gold Tommy Ross, Nancy Allen as pretty bully Chris, John Travolta as her Billy brawn, and Betty Buckley as poor P.E. teacher Miss Collins.
As a rule I’m not one for remakes, certainly not of movies that hit the mark the first time around. However, there are exceptions to the rule, and in the case of Carrie, I became excited about seeing the remake as I realised how much topical relevance there was within its narrative, and how it could be given the modern bullying treatment with kick-ass style.
I was very wrong. Kimberly Peirce’s remake is a complete and utter missed opportunity. Some dude called Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has been called upon to update Lawrence D. Cohen’s original screenplay adaptation, and it’s flat as a pancake. Now, it’s arguable I know, but this is the remake that Diablo Cody should’ve been hired to write, or at least to provide dialogue and characterisation. Okay, so I hated Jennifer’s Body (2009), but her work on Evil Dead (2013) was good, and her screenplay to Young Adult is excellent. Her hip feminine angle would’ve been perfect for this vehicle.
Whereas Brian De Palma’s Carrie has style to burn, Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie is artless. You’d be hard pressed to recognise the same dramatic intensity evident in Peirce’s debut feature Boys Don’t Cry (1999), even with the likes of Julianna Moore in the role of Margaret White, Carrie’s mother. Mind you, she was pushing shit uphill in the shadow of Piper Laurie’s performance.
Chloe Grace Moretz showed promise as a child actor, but having seen her in Let Me In (2008), Kick-Ass 2, and now this, I realise she has a limited range. I kept thinking of numerous other actors who would’ve played Carrie White with far more conviction. The annoying - and I’m sure deliberate - casting switch of having a tall striking blonde play the role of Amy, and a short less striking brunette play Chris (De Palma’s version has it the other way around) frustrated me no end, yet I had to let that one guy, since most of this Carrie’s audience won’t have seen the original, and if they did, they’d probably be laughing all the way through it.
And therein lies The Rub. Contemporary audiences watching this Carrie will no doubt enjoy a tale of extreme supernatural revenge, and not roll their eyes at the nude-less girls' changing room scene, the anti-climatic prom night, or later still when Carrie's powers enable her to split the road open.
As for the original movie’s most famous shock … fuggedadoubit!