Carrie White could have been the next great Sith Lord, but squandered her gifts. YOU BLEW IT!
I've had a lot of conversations this week about Kimberly Peirce's adaptation of Stephen King's Carrie. It's mainly revolved around how I'm not a fan of remakes, especially classics. I also found it a little annoying to hear the cast talk about the film and how terrifying it is, as if nobody has heard of Carrie before. Also, how is a story about a bullied girl going to work considering how hyper-sensitive we are about bullying now?
Anyway, I watched Carrie and was going to write up my review, but then saw that the Brian De Palma's original was streaming on Netflix. As it wasn't fresh in my mind, I thought why not watch it again and then I can have a more accurate comparison. I'm glad I did this, as it softened my opinion of the newer version. While I'm still not a fan of remakes, the modern version of Carrie is an example of one where I don't mind that it was done. It's pretty much a beat by beat remake, and doesn't do much new with the material. You might think that makes this remake pointless, but here's the thing, the original doesn't hold up all that well. It's extremely dated looking, and there are times where it felt outright silly. Another thing that surprised me is that the new Carrie was actually paced better.
I'm going to get into some minor spoiler territory with regards to the new version, but if you aren't aware of the general plot of Carrie by now, then where in the hell have you been?
There are some minor differences between the two; some I felt were improvements, where others felt unnecessary and even undercut the film a little bit. The big one was when we get to the famous prom scene. In the original, the entire class is laughing at her once she's drenched in pig's blood. This makes Carrie's reaction a little easier to sympathize with. In the new version, and I could be remembering this wrong, but I recall more shock from her classmates, so when Carrie goes off, she's killing a lot of people she shouldn't have any beef with.
I felt like the classmate's and teacher's reaction to Chris' (Portia Doubleday) bullying was a little more realistic and modernized. Chris' behavior, while totally ridiculous, actually made more sense to me considering the sense of entitlement you see from many these days.
One change, and this may be good or bad depending on your point of view, but there's no nudity in Carrie, where in the original I was surprised at the amount of nudity in the opening scene. There's no real gore either. I'm really surprised this is rated R when I think this could have gotten away with a PG-13 rating.
It turns out that the way Sue (Gabrielle Wilde) was portrayed was actually more faithful to the book. I was initially critical of the fact that they made Sue pregnant. I thought it was some lame, thrown in reference to all those teen mom shows, but I looked it up and it Sue was concerned about being pregnant in the book. This wasn't in the original Carrie, but seeing how it had no impact on the plot, I can see why it was left out. They also showed Sue having nightmares in the aftermath, which wasn't the case in the book or the new version.
Another improvement is that modern effects made Carrie's telekinetic powers look much more realistic. This is another thing that doesn't hold up when when you go back and watch the original. They are able to set up Carrie's powers much more effectively, as well.
The biggest improvement is Julianne Moore as Margaret White. She's extremely creepy and really nails it with her performance. She absolutely blows away Piper Laurie's version. On the other hand, while there's nothing wrong with Chloe Grace Moretz performance, I had a harder time buying into her as Carrie. Part of what made the original Carrie work was that Sissy Spacek wasn't "conventionally attractive", where Moretz is a normal, attractive girl. It's hard for me to accept her as someone that would be an outcast. I also liked Judy Greer as the gym teacher, Ms. Desjardin. The rest of the cast is attractive, but mostly forgettable.
One point to the story in general I still find odd is how Sue asks her boyfriend Tommy (Ansel Elgort) to take Carrie to the prom. She's doing it out of guilt, which I get, but why not just befriend Carrie and find her a date of her own rather than make her boyfriend take her out? That's just weird to me.
Kimberly Pierce's Carrie turned out to be a faithful adaptation to the source material. If this was the first time I had seen it, I would have come away from it thinking it was a decent horror flick. While it's a modern update for a new generation, I'd actually recommend it over the original if you've never seen it before. It's paced better, has a great performance from Julianne Moore, and much better effects. There's no need to rush out and see it, especially if you've seen the original, but give it a rent sometime.
3 (out of 5) Death Stars