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Carrie (A Movie Review)

Updated: Sep 8, 2020

Carrie (2013)

CARRIE (2013)

Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Zoë Belkin, Ansel Elgort, Samantha Weinstein, Demetrius Joyette, Karissa Strain, Judy Greer, Katie Strain, Barry Shabaka Henley, Alex Russell, Arlene Mazerolle, Evan Gilchrist, Eddie Huband, Connor Price, Jefferson Brown, Mouna Traoré, Max Topplin and Cynthia Preston.

Screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa.

Directed by Kimberly Peirce.

Distributed by Screen Gems. 100 minutes. Rated R.

Carrie was responsible for a lot of firsts.

The original 1974 novel was horror master Stephen King's first published book. (He had written 'Salem's Lot and two other novels before Carrie, but they were not released until Carrie took off.)

The 1976 film version of Carrie, which is greatly responsible for the novel becoming a best-seller, was the breakthrough movie for Brian DePalma. DePalma had previously been considered a b-movie director with the likes of Sisters and Phantom of the Paradise. On the heels of Carrie, DePalma put together a two-decade run in which he was considered the new master of suspense.

The movie also gave the first starring role to a respected character actress named Sissy Spacek, leading to a long run in which Spacek was considered one of the top actresses in Hollywood. The role also led to Spacek's first Best Actress Oscar nomination.

Actress Piper Laurie, who played Carrie's insane bible-thumping mother, was also nominated for an Oscar (Best Supporting Actress), something very rare at that time for a horror film.

Carrie also offered the first major film role to a sitcom actor (John Travolta, who was then only known as Vinnie Barbarino in Welcome Back Kotter.) Travolta also became a huge movie star after this first shot. The original Carrie also offered first roles to lesser-known actors who still went on to impressive careers, including Amy (Crossing Delancey) Irving, Nancy (Dressed to Kill) Allen, P.J. (Stripes) Soles and William (The Greatest American Hero) Katt.

It was later turned into a London musical, had a loosely connected sequel filmed decades later (though none of the original cast or crew was involved) and was again filmed as a made-for-TV movie. None of these caused even a blip on the pop-cultural radar, except for the musical, which was mocked as a monumental failure in the 1980s, only to become something of a hit in a recent scaled-back Broadway production.

Yet, for all of its historical baggage – perhaps because of it – Carrie would hardly seem to be the most obvious title in King's huge body of work to get a reboot. More to the point: yet another reboot.

The good news is, despite the fact that the new version of Carrie is relatively unnecessary, it is very skillfully and stylishly done.

In fact, this new version of the movie retains the screenwriter of the original, Lawrence D. Cohen (though it teams him up with co-writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa), making sure that the film is relatively faithful to the original.

And in most ways, it is a faithful retelling of a classic story. However, this film eschews the ambiguity of the original film. It works much harder to ascertain who is good and who is bad, rather than the original film's (and the novel's) more surrealistic thrust that all of the characters, whether good or bad, were simply victims of the horrific rot of their situations and their lives.

The story is brilliantly simple and at the same time extremely complex. Chloë Grace Moretz plays the title character, Carrie White, a teen girl who has recently had to go to a public high school after years of home schooling with her abusive, religious freak mother. Years of life under her mother's thumb has Carrie terrified of everything, and the students at her high school pick up on her fear, smell it on her like a wounded animal. And being high school, they take that weakness and exploit it, making her time at school as horrific as her home life.

While Moretz seems a little too pretty to be such a complete social pariah, she does an amazing job of capturing Carrie's constant sense of beaten-dog fear, constantly expecting the worst to happen.

This is realized when she has her first period during a gym shower. Since her mother had never explained it to her, she thinks that she is bleeding to death. The other girls in the locker room mock her, throwing tampons at her and filming it on their iPhones as she writhes in horror.

In the meantime, her mother (with Julianne Moore taking over the Piper Laurie part) thinks that this normal life experience is proof that the devil has come for her daughter.

However, in her fear, Carrie more and more realizes that she has a special power, a strong case of telekinesis, allowing her to move things with her mind. The more she practices, the more power she learns she has.

Meanwhile, one of the popular girls who teased her about the period feels guilty about her role in the whole thing, so she talks her BMOC boyfriend into taking Carrie to the prom. Carrie finally dares to think that her life is starting to be normal. However, another cruel prank played on her causes her to take violent telepathic retribution on the school.

The new Carrie tells the story well and for the most part doesn't overdo the mayhem. This may have to do with the unlikely choice of serious dramatic director Kimberly Peirce (who also directed the Oscar-winning Boys Don't Cry and the Iraq war drama Stop-Loss) behind the scenes. She removes much of the pulp-fiction air of the story and does give Carrie's internal drama a heft that a less talented filmmaker would not have accomplished.

That said, given a choice between the new Carrie and the 1976 classic, you are still better off tracking down the original. However, the new version is a relatively comparable experience for the people who are too young to have seen the first film, which is something you can't say for most horror reboots. As I said earlier, yet another retelling of Carrie may have been unnecessary, but at least it was solidly done.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved. Posted: October 18, 2013.

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