There are two types of remakes; the ones that take the general idea of the original film and use it as the basis for a completely new experience, and the ones that exist solely to update the original film for modern times, and modern audiences.
It’s because of the ones that belong in the former category that I’m constantly defending remakes to angry horror fans, and because of the films that fall into the latter that I can’t help but echo the ‘what the hell is the point?’ sentiment most will never be able to shake. Point being; there are as many good remakes as there are bad – and if you’re asking me, one of the main criteria of good remakes is that they bring something fresh and new to the table.
The bad news is that Carrie 2013 very much belongs in the latter category. The good news? The only real problem with the movie is that De Palma already did it.
Despite being book-ended by opening and ending sequences that offer up something a little bit different, Kimberly Peirce’s modern day re-telling of the tale of the weird young girl with menstrual problems and telekinetic abilities is pretty much a scene by scene recreation of what De Palma did nearly 40 years ago, right down to the dialogue. I can’t exactly say I’m surprised, given how familiar the trailers felt, but I am a little bit baffled by the fact that Peirce promised that her movie was another adaptation of King’s novel, rather than a straight up remake of the original film. As much as I’d love to say that I’ve read the book, I’d be lying if I said I did. But as someone who’s pretty familiar with De Palma’s Carrie, all I can say is that the movie I paid to see in the theater this weekend was a movie I had already seen before. And I can’t help but be disappointed about that.
Not to compare it to the dreadful Nightmare on Elm Street remake (which totally wouldn’t be fair), but I walked out of the theater feeling very much the same way about the movie that I did after seeing that one – that it was a botched opportunity to really do something different, and bring something special and new to a classic story. Especially considering how prominent bullying is in our society nowadays, I felt like this movie was a great opportunity to tackle and dig deep into some of those issues, which is one of the big reasons I was feeling like Carrie could actually benefit from a modern day remake. Cyber bullying is something that of course wasn’t around back in the 70s, nor was the incredible awareness about bullying in general, and I felt that those factors alone provided fertile ground to take the tale into a new decade.
Unfortunately, rather than really getting into any of that stuff, or exploring aspects of the characters that we hadn’t seen before, they instead decided to just tell us the exact same story we’ve already been told several times before. For anyone who’s already seen either of the two adaptations of King’s novel, Carrie 2013 is quite frankly a total bore, Peirce and company going through the motions and not bothering to infuse anything new into the proceedings. Hell, they barely even bothered to update the story for modern times, aside from throwing in a couple cell phones and computers. When I say that the boldest change they made to De Palma’s film was making Chris a brunette and Sue a blonde, I’m not even exaggerating.
As far as the acting is concerned, Chloe Grace Moretz is impressive as always in the title role, though I’m not entirely convinced that she was the best choice to play the awkward social outcast. It kind of annoys me to hear people say that Moretz is “too pretty” to play Carrie, as if good looking people are exempt from bullying and abuse, but at the same time I felt that she just wasn’t awkward enough in the role. Moretz’s Carrie is more outgoing and empowered, and I almost didn’t buy that her classmates would be so cruel to her – at least not as much as I bought the fact that Sissy Spacek’s Carrie was the subject of such ridicule.
Again, I don’t say any of this as a knock on Moretz’s performance, which was totally fine, I just feel that the casting of Spacek in the role was much more inspired. Even in the final moments of the film, when Moretz is tasked with getting her evil on, I felt that she looked more like a cute girl conducting an orchestra than a menacing force exacting her revenge for years of emotional and physical torment. While Spacek nailed both the fragility and the rage, Moretz kinda fell flat in both departments, for me.
But the casting really isn’t the issue here, especially considering the fact that Julianne Moore is pitch perfect in the role of Margaret White – evoking the spirit of Piper Laurie’s terrifying portrayal of the character. It’s an all around well-made movie, and there’s really not all that much bad that can be said about it, but it again all boils down to the fact that it all just feels totally pointless. By playing it as safe as they possibly could, Peirce and company came out the other end with a pretty decent horror movie – one that will surely entertain and delight those who have never seen the original. But for anyone who’s looking for a different take on a movie they’ve already seen, it’s likely to do nothing more than bore and disappoint. Carrie 2013 is without question the better of the two remakes we’ve seen over the years – it’s just more for new audiences than those who are already familiar with the source material.
Since that’s clearly what they were going for, I can’t say that they didn’t succeed in their mission. But for me personally, I left the theater with only one thought on my mind; what the hell was the point of that?