Here’s my latest IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column on the recent remake of CARRIE (2013) starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore. It’s up now in the February 2015 Edition of THE HORROR WRITERS ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER.
IN THE SPOOKLIGHT
Today IN THE SPOOKLIGHT it’s the 2013 remake of CARRIE starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore.
CARRIE, based on Stephen King’s first novel and first filmed in 1976 by Brian De Palma with Sissy Spacek in the lead role, tells the story of awkward teenager Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz) who’s constantly picked on at school because she is awkward and shy. Carrie acts this way because she has been brought up— and until recently, home-schooled— by her religious fanatic mother Margaret (Julianne Moore). Fanatic might be too lenient a term. In short, Margaret is a lunatic! For example, Margaret’s idea of effective parenting includes locking Carrie in a closet so she can pray for forgiveness. We’re never told why Margaret acts the way she does, but we can assume she experienced one or more traumatic events earlier in her life.
After Carrie’s classmates make a vicious video of her in the girl’s locker room shower, gym teacher Ms. Desjardin (Judy Greer) punishes the girls responsible by restricting their prom privileges unless they do extra drills during gym class. Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) sees the error of her ways and in good faith asks her boyfriend Tommy (Ansel Elgort) to take Carrie to the prom instead. Carrie is wary of the invitation, but eventually is convinced that Tommy is not trying to trick her, and so she says yes.
While Sue and Tommy have the best intentions, the wild and rebellious Chris (Portia Doubleday) does not, and she and her boyfriend plan an elaborate scheme of revenge to get back at Carrie at the prom.
The other thing about Carrie is that she has telekinetic powers, which come in handy for dealing with the likes of her mother, and in the film’s bloody finale, Sue and the others who try to humiliate her.
The original CARRIE was directed by Brian De Palma, and starred Sissy Spacek as Carrie and Piper Laurie as her mother Margaret, both of whom were nominated for Academy Awards, so as good as this sequel is, and as good as both Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore are, they would be hard-pressed to match the efforts of the original. Sissy Spacek, for example, remains the definitive Carrie.
However, there’s a lot to like about the 2013 version.
I enjoyed how director Kimberly Peirce and screenwriters Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa updated the story. For example, in this version, the girls take the video of Carrie on a cell phone which they then upload to the internet. This version also does a better job than the original of showing Sue’s motives as to why she wants to help Carrie.
Chloe Grace Moretz does a nice job as Carrie. Before seeing the movie, I was concerned that Moretz would have been too normal and good looking for the part, but she does a good job making Carrie awkward and uncomfortable.
Like Piper Laurie in the original, the scariest part of this movie is Julianne Moore as Carrie’s mother Margaret. Is Moore as good as Laurie? Probably not, but she’s still damn scary, which is a good thing, because there’s not much else that’s frightening about CARRIE. It’s disturbing, to be sure, as Carrie’s life is a tough one, as she’s bullied at school, and at home she’s dominated by her insane mother. And it’s exceedingly sad to see Carrie humiliated at the prom, and even her revenge doesn’t feel rewarding. You just want to see her be happy, not single-handedly wiping out half her high school class!
The acting here is above average. In addition to Moretz and Moore, Gabrielle Wilde is very good as sympathetic Sue Snell, as is Judy Greer as Ms. Desjardin. Portia Doubleday does a nice job making Chris a spoiled bratty nemesis for Carrie, and while I liked Ansel Elgort as wholesome boyfriend Tommy the first time I saw this one at the movies, the second time I watched this on Netflix I found him rather syrupy sweet, and I had a hard time taking him seriously.
The best part of CARRIE is it tells a genuine tale of the effects of bullying, something that too many high school students have to deal with, and the sad part is they’ve been dealing with it for years—long before King wrote the novel in the early 70s— and they continue to deal with it today. This combined with the other part of the story, Carrie’s relationship with her abusive mother, make this one sadder than most horror tales.
I liked this version of CARRIE well enough, and by far my favorite part of this movie was the performances by Chloe Grace Moretz as Carrie and Julianne Moore as her demented mother Margaret.
CARRIE is a gloomy drama about a young girl who is eventually pushed to the edge of her sanity, to the point where she can’t take it any longer and strikes back with the full force of her deadly telekinetic abilities. Yet, this action does little to lift Carrie out of her predicament. In fact, it doesn’t rescue her from her plight at all. It simply ends it.
In CARRIE, the only release from pain is death.
For those who like dark stories, you can’t get much darker than that.