It has been nearly 40 years since Brian De Palma adapted the Stephen King novel Carrie into a well-respected horror movie in 1976. Since then, two really bad remakes came along and did our viewing pleasure some hurt. But at least for the time being, the hurt is over. Director Kimberly Pierce (Boys Don’t Cry) brings not a remake, but a “re-imagining” of the classic—one with an undeniably feminine touch.
While managing to be fiercely loyal to the original story of the battered girl pushed too far, this Carrie brings in plenty of small town elements and blends them beautifully with a story set in a new generation of YouTube-happy/iphone-prone users. This ends up nicely garnishing the story.
“Carrie White” (Chloë Grace Moretz - Kick Ass, Kick Ass 2) is the daughter of “Margaret White” (Julianne Moore). Margaret is not just a disturbed woman, but a religious nut-job to boot, who, in a graphic opening scene, seeks to kill her offspring, believing the little one to be a devilish incarnation. But she can’t go through with the act. Years later, we meet a reclusive young Carrie being humiliated in gym class. This event is the stage-setter for the remainder of the movie.
Carrie’s friends “Sue” (Gabriella Wilde) and “Billy” (Alex Russell), who are actually rooting for Carrie to overcome her social setbacks, are only a few small paces behind their leads in performance depth. I was so surprised at how much good acting was to be found in a movie that is so easily written off based on its title alone as just another piece of teen horror junk.
Most surprisingly, the film handles its material so maturely and with such great respect for audiences that even when the drama-heavy pauses and cautious pacing pulls us back a bit more than we expect, we continue to wait with angst to see the outcome (even when we know it).
Not everything is spot-on; what the film sometimes doesn’t do is maximize suspense at all the possible opportunities, and despite its intent, is never scary. It certainly doesn’t dare to be different, but this is more out of respect for the story we know to be a classic than a shortcoming. The special effects used to feature Carrie’s powers are perhaps the only way in which the film caters to less demanding younger audiences. For the last ten years, audiences seem to have gotten used to needlessly abrupt CGI. So be it.
Bottom line: Carrie is a respectable and likable horror remake with a lot going for it and more than its share of vibrant human sensitivities to cause it to stand out. Making it even better, it is never afraid to go graphic when it finds the need to. I’m surprised it did not see a better box office reception.