‘Carrie’ Review: Stephen King Remake Is Bloody Irrelevant

'Carrie' Review: Stephen King Remake Is Bloody Irrelevant

There’s nothing particularly wrong with director Kimberly Peirce’s update, but it adds nothing to the 1976 Brian De Palma classic

If there’s any lasting cultural impact to this latest film adaptation of Stephen King’s “Carrie,” it’s that it confirms the material’s status as an archetypal mythos. Like the Passion Play and “A Christmas Carol,” this is the kind of engrained fable that gets told over and over again, even when almost everyone in the audience knows every beat of the plot.

The story has become a touchstone to generations of misfits and outsiders; in between its two big-screen versions, it spawned a movie sequel (“The Rage: Carrie 2”), a small-screen adaptation written by Bryan Fuller (“Hannibal”) and even an infamous Broadway musical.

There will be more versions of “Carrie” in the years to come, and perhaps one of them will rival Brian De Palma’s 1976 film as a portrait of adolescent outsider-dom and as a purely terrifying piece of horror cinema. This new one is neither; it doesn’t do anything strikingly wrong, it’s just unnecessary.

Julianne Moore stars in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Screen Gems' CARRIE.

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Any hope that director Kimberly Peirce might inflect the material with the gender insight of “Boys Don’t Cry” or the working-class ethos of “Stop-Loss” is quickly dispelled. It’s one thing to respect the source material, but something else entirely to waver from it so little.

De Palma’s screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen shares credit here with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, a scribe whose teen angst bona fides have been established everywhere from “Glee” to Archie Comics, but apart from some references to YouTube and home-schooling, you’d be hard-pressed to find much difference between the two scripts.

So it’s a story you already know, told in a way you’ll recognize: Sweet, shy Carrie (Chloë Grace Moretz) is tormented by the popular girls at school and abused at home by her unhinged evangelist mother (Julianne Moore). Prom date, pig’s blood, dirty pillows, second verse same as the first.

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It’s up to the actors to try to make this their own, but none of them fill the shoes of their Me Decade predecessors. Moretz probably comes closest to capturing Sissy Spacek’s blossoming into womanhood, although Moretz is less convincing as a misunderstood wallflower. Unlike Spacek, she has been directed to find excitement and possibilities in her newly manifesting telekinetic powers, resulting in a Carrie who feels at least a little more in control of her destiny.

Moore, as talented is she is, can’t rival Piper Laurie’s Bible-thumping gorgon in either terror or ecstasy, although her version of the character provides more opportunities for bloody self-mortification. Judy Greer is, as always, a standout as the sympathetic gym teacher.

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As for the school’s popular kids — well, not to go all Norma Desmond, but they had faces then. Audiences seeing the De Palma version were, generally speaking, seeing Amy Irving, William Katt, Nancy Allen, P.J. Soles and John Travolta for the first time, and those actors immediately registered in the public consciousness. I would have a hard time picking their modern counterparts out of a police lineup; they all have the bland, interchangeable attractiveness of stars from the CW network.

It’s not that this 2013 “Carrie” embarrasses itself — they’re not all going to laugh at you — but it’s destined to be, at best, a footnote to its forebears.

  • Burphelson AFB

    WHY do they keep remaking movies that don't need to be remade? Next up, the reboot of Ice Station Zebra, yay!

    • Sigh

      Does any movie EVER “need” to be made at all?
      They remake movies because there are fans of those pre-existing stories, and sometimes it can be fun to see a new telling of them.

  • Opening

    All I wanna know is do they have the opening shower scene shot for shot?

    • B_stein

      Yes, but now there is no nudity whatsoever. A Disney-like, Hannah Montana friendly, shower scene now takes place. Proud to be an Merikin'. Can't have nudity in film, but lets up the violence and blood tenfold. This movie is a disgrace to the art of film making.

  • Sigh

    So a movie is bad because it's… not bad, just nothing new.
    Why not judge the movie on its own without complaining that it's not a re-release of the original?

  • Ron Swanson

    When the example of the awkward and ugly kid at school is Chloe Grace Moretz, you know that Hollywood has totally lost the plot….

    • Anonymous

      Carrie's not all that ugly in the book. Apart from the pimples and slight pudge in her midsection, her only issue is not taking care of herself.

    • Jimmi Shrode

      Right? Sissy Spacek looked like she wannted to disappear. She was not very pretty, looked homely and her hair was greasy to just lank. She really embodied that role. You can't top that. I feel like John Waters does; only remake bad movies and try to make them better.

  • nina bates

    And that is exactly why there is no need for remakes.

  • Devin Atkinson

    I just saw it. Wasn't that bad.

  • Guestie McGuesterson

    It had its own good moments, but yeah, they made it too much like the original. I still enjoyed it as a kind of update, but the original is still the masterpiece.

  • B_stein

    Don't forget the original as Betty Buckley as the gym teacher in tight workout shorts. America's original MILF. Seriously though, she is another excellent actor. This critic has a point, all the casting looks like it was done from soap-opera stars. Remember the weird, freaky principle in the original? And the creepy english teacher who belittles Carrie's poem? The candle scene at the house after Carrie returns home from the prom? All gone.

  • Steph

    The new Carrie is so much better then the original. It adds so much more detail then the original. It was brilliant.