I’m sure I’ve done a fair bit of complaining about Hollywood’s constant desire to remake everything these days, but before the end of 2013, I’d never had one of my personal favourites come in for the treatment, and then two did almost simultaneously. Firstly there’s Spike Lee’s version of Oldboy and then a new take on Carrie, possibly my favourite horror movie. Now I know Carrie’s actually already been remade as a TV movie but everyone seems to have forgotten about that. I couldn’t be entirely dismissive of Carrie 2013 though, as it had attracted Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Pierce to the helm, and Julianne Moore to the role of Carrie’s religious nut-job of a mother.
As with many remakes when the original film is based on a book, there was some talk about how this would be a ‘more faithful’ take on the Stephen King story, rather than a direct remake of Brian De Palma’s 1976 film. Now let’s be honest, this is as clear a remake of De Palma’s film as it’s possible to be. New screenwriter Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s (who also adapted King’s The Stand to comics) only real alteration to the template is to add on an unnecessary prologue showing Carrie’s mother giving birth to her and contemplating killing her immediately. From that point on it sticks firmly to the blueprint, minus some expected little tweaks (CGI in, nudity out), and the presence of smartphones in Carrie’s initial humiliation.
As the new Carrie, Chloe Grace Moretz is closer in age to what the character should be than Sissy Spacek was, but other than that is completely wrong for the role. She’s proven to be a talented young actress in the past and tries her hardest here, but never for a second convinces as a bullied misfit, and completely lacks the otherworldly quality that Spacek brought to the role so perfectly. I couldn’t help thinking she’d be far more suited to the role of guilt-ridden classmate Sue Snell, played here by Gabriella Wilde. (Also, Carrie’s hair appears to change colour from blonde to ginger at a couple of points). Julianne Moore fares better as Carrie’s mother, playing her slightly less hysterically than Piper Laurie did, but the unoriginality of the character weakens her impact.
It’s good to see that Carrie hasn’t had PG-13 boundaries forced upon it (which hindered Aguirre-Sacasa’s The Stand comics), but for the first two thirds it probably could have been. Come the infamous prom scene though, Pierce doesn’t hold back with the blood or the mayhem, but also resists aspiring to match the visual flare De Palma bought to it.
The main problem with this version of Carrie though, is its familiarity. It’s a loyal cover song, it doesn’t want to mess with anything that made the original work so well, but risks rendering its own existence futile. The original Carrie was a ground breaking horror film, whose influence continues to this day, a dutiful retelling just isn’t going to possess any of the shocks and surprises. We all know where it’s going, and how it’s going to get there. Now this of course raises the question that maybe De Palma’s Carrie has been deemed to be old enough now that modern teenage audiences aren’t familiar with it. This is possible, and Carrie fits neatly into the bunch of remakes that work better if one is totally unfamiliar with the source, but then that begs another question; who is this film marketed to then? All the promo materials I’ve seen have treated Carrie like a well-known story, unafraid to show the climactic prom scene in trailers, even the posters feature a blood-drenched Moretz! The studio has already squandered the chance for anyone to experience this from a blissfully ignorant position. Do a Google image search for it right now. Nearly every result is a spoiler.
Still, Stephen King’s Carrie is a great story that hasn’t lost any relevance, so any competent adaptation of it isn’t going to be terrible. There’s a lot of talent behind Carrie 2013 and it’s not a bad remake, but it struggles to really make a case for its existence.