Distributed by: MGM/Screen Gems
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
One of the most memorable Stephen King novels adapted into movie format is Carrie. The book was unsettling enough, but the 1976 film starring Sissy Spacek, Amy Irving, William Katt and Piper Laurie and directed by Brian De Palma was a credible adaptation. Sure, it wasn't perfect, but it was chilling enough - that last scene in the film gave me nightmares for days. I had seen a television remake of the film that contained quite a different ending with the intent to make the story of Carrie a television series, but the series never materialized and despite being intriguing, well, it just wasn't Stephen King's vision.
When I saw the trailer for a new adaptation of King's novel, I was skeptical. Carrie had been done before and extremely well by Brian De Palma. The television version didn't hold a candle to the original. Despite the obvious advancement in sound and visual effects, could this 2013 version be any better than the original. Odds were, no. After all, recent remakes of older horror films have often fallen short of the mark. That being said, the trailers I was seeing for this new Carrie gave me hope for something rare - a remake that was at least just as good as the original. What I saw of Julianne Moore's performance as Margaret White, Carrie's mother, sold me and I was off to the theaters to check it out on the day of its release.
The story is about Carrie White (ChloŽ Grace Moritz), a teenager who has been an outcast her entire life. Her mother (Julianne Moore) is a fundamentalist Christian with some very strict beliefs. Margaret White is fanatical about her faith to the point of psychotic and Carrie, homeschooled until authorities forced her mother to send her to school for an education, is often the brunt of Margaret White's religious tirades.
That's because Margaret White believes that Carrie's birth was the result of an ultimate sin. Her very survival is a reason to repent, something that Margaret makes certain Carrie does by locking her in a closet with a bible and graphic representations of the Stations of the Cross and admonishing her to pray despite all her terror. Margaret doesn't simply pray for forgiveness. Often times, she abuses herself, slamming her head against the wall and cutting as acts of repentance for perceived sins or for sins of the mind.
In attempting to keep her mother happy and unharmed and gather close to her that love and acceptance she so desperately craves, Carrie strives to do everything her mother tells her to within reason. Thus, Carrie is a timid girl with no socialization skills. Most of the other students in her high school believe her to be strange, or even crazy, but Carrie just wishes she could be like everyone else...what every teenager craves: acceptance.
Unfortunately, her naivetť causes even more problems. When Carrie gets her period, it is wholly unexpected. Her mother never told her anything about puberty or womanhood and, shocked at the blood she sees in the school shower, she panics, much to the glee of popular girl and all-around-bully Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) who films Carrie's panic and the subsequent Carrie-bashing session that takes place as a result and spreads the video all over the internet. Carrie's gym teacher Ms. Desjardin (Judy Greer) is horrified by the students' reactions and equally shocked that Carrie's mother never had "the talk" with her.
Things go from bad to worse when Carrie starts observing strange things happening every time she becomes emotional. Glass breaks, things move seemingly of their own accord, lights flash and all as a result of Carrie's emotional state. A smart girl, Carrie believes she is capable of telekinesis and researches the power in an attempt to understand and control it, further alienating her from others at school and her mother who believes she may be a witch.
Things come to a head when Carrie is asked to the prom by popular jock Tommy Rose (Ansel Elgort). His girlfriend Susan Snell (Gabriella Wilde) feels horrible about what she and others did to Carrie in the shower room and believes that helping Carrie by giving her this one special night will atone for what she did. Carrie is skeptical at first, but begins to warm up to the idea, much to the chagrin of her mother.
But just when things seem to be going her way, you realize that Carrie can't ever seem to catch a break from the school bullies. Sue has the world's best intentions, but her former friend Chris has other plans. Suspended and banned from the prom, she decides to exact revenge against Carrie and what better place than at the prom. The results of her horrific prank will haunt the residents of the quiet Chamberlain, Maine forever.
This new version of Carrie was touted to be a more faithful adaptation of Stephen King's novel than the original. I must agree that Director Kimberly Peirce did an excellent job keeping things very close, though I loved the decision to change the ending just a tad to blend elements of the novel and the original film, making that climactic ending palpable and heartbreaking.
I must give kudos the casting department for finding the perfect individuals to play each and every role. Never after watching a movie adaptation of a novel I loved have I ever felt that every character was perfectly cast. Each and every actor in this film did an amazing job, especially ChloŽ Grace Moritz as Carrie and Julianne Moore as Margaret. The creators of this film allowed us more of a glimpse into the relationship of Carrie and her mother in this version of the film, giving us insight into what transpires between the two at the end of the film. Julianne Moore is a great actress, but this may be her finest role yet. I truly believed that this woman was mentally ill. ChloŽ Grace Moritz's Carrie is lovable, making what happens to her a true tragedy in every sense of the word. Her expressive acting allows us to feel just what she feels and to truly sympathize with this girl in every stage of the film.
I knew that the visual effects of this film would be way better than the original based upon the new technology presently available and I was not disappointed in the least. Because so much was available to the filmmakers, they were able to showcase Carrie's powers even better than they were in the original, allowing viewers to watch her experiment with those powers and, in the end, to see all that Carrie could accomplish if she pushed them to the limit.
Not every movie is perfect and there were some parts of this movie that caused me to raise a questioning eyebrow. For one thing, why use 70s model cars like the one Margaret drives when the movie is obviously set in the present (the use of cellphones, social media websites and computers support this). I just found that a tad strange. I was also slightly displeased with the last scene in the film, although I applaud everything up until this final moment. I won't give the last scene away except to remind you that the last scene in the original film gave me nightmares. The last scene in this new version didn't scare me in the least and made me wonder if a sequel might yet be in mind. I would hope not - the climax was fairly clear cut so why make a sequel, but you never know.
That being said, there was more about this new version of Carrie that I loved than the couple of things here and there that I wondered about. This version is closer to the novel, offering us more of a glimpse into Carrie's birth, her home life, her mother's beliefs and more. While Brian De Palma's Carrie will always be a horror classic for me, Kimberly Peirce's version was excellent in its own right and more in line with the original content it was adapted from. I loved this new Carrie - it's completely changed my opinion of Hollywood remakes. This is definitely one remake worth seeing!