The term "pointless remake" gets thrown around whenever a popular movie gets made. Surely this term has been spoken countless times when discussing Kimberly Peirce's retelling of Carrie, a movie I had a hard time getting to see. It took me three weeks to see this remake of the Stephen King classic, and Peirce's take on the worst prom in history seemed really familiar. I meant to watch the 1976 version of the film before seeing the remake, but I failed to do so. Even without that bonus viewing, I felt like some things were exact replicas from the Brian De Palma original.
A remake of Carrie seems rather timely right now. School bullying is still a very hot button topic. So in the early sequence where Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz) gets her first period, and she is ultimately taunted by her classmates, you automatically feel for her. The only difference in this scene is that the whole situation gets filmed on a smartphone, and it is then uploaded onto YouTube, a nice touch to update the material.
I am not familiar with the novel by Stephen King, so maybe everything that seems added might come from that original source. Forgive me in advance. The horror starts right away when we see Carrie's zealot of a mother, Margaret (Julianne Moore), giving birth to Carrie alone on her bed. Moore writhes around like a wild animal, bloody and primal, praying to Mary and wishing death. Margaret almost kills her newborn, but then stops and cradles the baby in her arms. It's a disturbing sequence that kicks off the movie. I was also very concerned for Margaret's mattress, but that's in a different movie, I guess.
Moore's Margaret is the most Carrie departs from the original film. Piper Laurie was fire and brimstone, an operatic force against Sissy Spacek's Carrie. Moore is quiet and watchful. She whispers a lot of her lines concerning religion under her breath, and the effect is rather creepy. Peirce also gives her a self-mutilation tic. In one particular sequence, Margaret is waiting on a customer at the dry cleaners where she works. Another woman comes in to pick up her daughter's prom dress, and, as the other mother reminisces about her prom, Margaret starts cutting her leg with a seam ripper. The chemistry between Moore and Moretz is nice, though.
When Carrie's telekenisis reigns terror upon the prom, her reaction to everything isn't as effective. She's clearly manipulating everything that she's doing. Spacek went into a sort of trance when the destruction starts--her eyes wide and mouth never moving. Moretz contorts her body and twists her arms like she's auditioning for the new Avengers movie. Carrie White's biggest humilation basically turns into a vengeful fighting back story, and I didn't like it as much.
As I was leaving the theater, my fiance and I were talking about the movie. He's a huge Stephen King fan, but, surprisingly, he's never read King's book nor seen the original movie. He commented that Carrie (a story we are almost all familiar with) isn't really horror that one is expecting around Halloween. Normally, stuff is jumping out at you and trying to give you a cheap thrill. The horrors of high school aren't nearly as effective when you are wanting something to make you feel nervous about taking the garbage out. The remake succeeds in letting us never forget that sometimes high school is the deadliest playground, and the performances from Moore and Moretz are highlights. A remake should depart from the original, however--no matter how badly you want to tell the same story again.