I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge fan of Brian DePalma’s Carrie from 1976. There is a whole lot of annoying religious mumbo jumbo, finally capped off with some decent kill scenes. But when I learned that this remake was coming out, and Chloë Grace Moretz would be playing the titular character, I was pretty excited. Moretz is one the finest young actresses on the planet, and I absolutely loved her rendition of Abby in another recent remake, Let Me In (2010). I figured if anyone could make me enjoy the story of Carrie White it would be Moretz. Even though she is excellent in this film, everything else around her is below average, dragging the film down as a whole.
There are a lot of scenes, and even lines of dialogue, that are lifted directly from DePalma’s film. This normally wouldn’t be a complaint for me in a remake, but it just doesn’t work in Carrie. It’s jarring to hear the same lines spoken by teenagers from the ’70s being repeated by characters that are supposed to represent today’s teenagers. There is a disconnect here that is never fully corrected. There are moments where director Kimberly Peirce adds in some modern touches, like filming the opening shower scene and then posting it to Facebook, but she never goes full hog with them, and it feels half-baked. It makes the film feel lazy, and pointless.
As I mentioned, Moretz plays a wonderful Carrie White. The only problem I had with her is that, unlike Sissy Spacek, Moretz is a traditionally pretty young woman, and I just found it difficult to believe that she would be shunned by the rest of her classmates in such an extreme way. This may be due to the fact that I am so far removed from high school, though, and just don’t remember how cruel people can be for no reason. The other characters in the film, aside from the obvious Tommy Ross, are just an unlikeable lot. I have no desire to spend even 5-minutes with them, let alone the 100-minutes that we get together. Julianne Moore is solid as Carrie’s mother, playing up her repulsiveness well. But again, I just genuinely loathe the character so much, that it’s hard to sit and listen to her when she’s on-screen.
I usually try to review a film on its own merits, even if it is a remake, but the filmmakers did so little to separate this version from DePalma’s that it just seems right to compare and contrast the two. For example, one thing that bothered me was the fact that Peirce tries to gain sympathy for Carrie by changing up some small moments in the third act. This humanizes the character, but doesn’t ring as true as DePalma’s Carrie. As an audience member, I’m left feeling cold after seeing a Carrie flick no matter how you end it, so you might as well go all-in and leave no character worth sympathizing with.
That’s the major problem with Carrie: it is just a retread of what we have already seen (and read) in past films, and what it does do differently just isn’t very good, or is utterly pointless. I still found myself wanting to hit fast forward until the infamous goat blood scene just so I could see the aftermath. Frankly, that is the only part of Carrie – any of them – that is worth watching. It’s a slow, lackluster story with a decent finale loaded with some cool kills, and nothing more. Even as a lifelong remake fan, I can’t find myself recommending Peirce’s Carrie for purchase. A rental should suffice.