Review: Carrie


Another year month, another horror remake. This time it’s Carrie, a film with so much iconography from the Brain De Palma original that you have to at least applaud the audacity of attempting a remake. There is hope, however, because the cast includes Julianne Moore and Chloë Grace Moretz, with Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry) helming the film. There’s definitely talent here.

Is the talent enough to give the film its own take on the story, though? That’s really the question. After all, a remake can only truly succeed if it becomes it’s own thing. This is especially true for a film that spends most of its time building to one scene like Carrie does. It must make its story its own or else you’re just sitting around waiting for the inevitable blood bath to happen.

Director: Kimberly Pierce
Rated: R
Release Date: October 18, 2013 

Carrie is really more of a high school coming of age tale than a horror film. I’ll give you the plot missing the telekinesis and gym blood bath. You have a socially awkward girl, Carrie White (Moretz), and her overbearing, religious mother, Margaret White (Moore), to start with. Carrie goes to school where she’s picked on for being home schooled and super religious by the popular girls, Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) and Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday). The proms coming up and Sue is having second thoughts about how mean she has been to Carrie so she instructs her boyfriend, Billy (Alex Russell), to go with Carrie. Carries mother obviously has an issue with her daughter blossoming into a woman. Chris, meanwhile, is a jerk and decides to dump pigs blood on Carrie at prom as a prank.

Then the killing starts.

The problem is that thanks to the iconic nature of the original film you spend most of the movie waiting for the payoff. We all know Carrie has psychic powers and we all know she is going to absolutely destroy her fellow class mates so it means the opening hour really has to give us something different. It only half succeeds. The bullying in the film is ramped up exponentially this time around thanks to social media and the fact that the character of Chris is borderline satanic in her efforts to destroy Carrie. More importantly the relationship between Carrie and her mother gets a bit more play this time around, with Moore delivering a character that seems far more frail and sympathetic than the classic Piper Laurie portrayal. 

On the other hand, you still find yourself waiting for that payoff most of the movie despite the changes. I’m not sure how a person who knows absolutely nothing about Carrie would react, but the vast majority of people who do will simply be waiting. The film is short in running time, but it plays its build up very slowly with nary a hint at the impending violence until it actually happens. Pierce also seems to be a bit too hung up on the original as she heavily uses overtly dramatic shots and camera work. There’s a bit too much De Palma in the film and not enough Peirce. Her attempts to imbue the movie with a stronger feminist angle also fall a bit short so that one of the changes that should have drawn you in simply falls by the wayside. 

The other issue, before we get to the payoff we’ve been talking about, is that Mortez just isn’t that convincing throughout. I’ve never been a big fan of her work and here once again I think her performance falls flat when it should be at its best. She doesn’t always seem to be in the scenes and her use of the telekinesis looks like its out of a bad 80s movie where someone squints really hard trying to get things to move. She’s fine when she’s being a downcast teenage girl at school, but she especially took me out of the film in scenes where Moore was clearly upstaging her. 

It’s even more annoying when the movie gets to where its going and she starts tearing apart every person in front of her. The scene itself is actually pretty fantastic. The slow build up that feels annoying earlier makes the payoff all the better even if it made the previous parts feel dull. Peirce makes this scene her own, directing with a kind of viciousness the original never had and then exploding the terror out of the high school and onto the streets of the town. Here her De Palma-ness pays off, as she almost revels in the gore and hatred. Will it replace the image of Sissy Spacek covered in pigs blood? Never, but it’s damn good anyway. Sadly, Mortez slaps this horrible look on her face and just sticks with it the entire scene. It’s doesn’t ruin it, but it’s annoying.

Carrie does just enough new to excuse its existence as a remake, but it never truly gets its own ball rolling. There’s enough here to enjoy the film, but not enough for this to ever become a classic. Whether it’s because we know the story so well or simply because it just doesn’t play as well this time around is unclear, but this version misses too many of its cues to really draw you back in. Thankfully, revenge is always enjoyable to watch no matter how brutal it gets and this new Carrie delivers in that aspect in spades.

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.