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Carrie Review

There’s little that polarises the film loving geek community than the subject of remakes, reboots or reimaginings. A few years ago, I had the honour of interviewing Rob Zombie during the filming of his Halloween remake and, naturally enough fans of John Carpenter’s original horror opus (and incidentally, my favourite horror movie of all time) had been even for them, unusually venomous in their vocal disdain. I’ll never forget the quote from Zombie when I said:

“Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one” and he replied “And it’s worse when an asshole has an opinion.”

I tend to respond to remakes as I see them, or choose not to. Okay, that’s a cop out – right? Well, not so much. One of my favourite and most watched discs and listened to soundtracks is a remake – The Thomas Crown Affair. I rate the Pierce Brosnan/Rene Russo version as being far more engaging and stylish than the original with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. Zombie’s Halloween wasn’t a direct remake of Carpenter’s film, it was a completely different take and both can co-exist. I like them both as I like both steak and cheesecake. Different flavours, both satisfy a different craving.

Then there are those that I just won’t watch. Front and centre Gus Van Sant’s Psycho. I’ve never seen it, and I honestly have no intention to. I understand it’s practically a shot by shot remake of Hitchcock’s original. Why would you even WANT to remake a Hitchcock film shot by shot? Where’s the validity in that? Hitchcock was, without a doubt one of the most visionary directors ever to grace a soundstage with his talent.

And that, my friends, brings us straight to Carrie.

If you followed Shocktober this year thich featured Stephen King movies, you’ll have read my review of the original movie starring Sissy Spacek. In that review I mentioned the remake. I had some doubts about the remake, after all, the original was practically a page by page accurate dramatization of King’s debut novel. It’s hard to see what improvement could be made – okay maybe the final retribution at the school prom would be more spectacular with the addition of CGI effects in place of the physical effects evidenced in the first film.

But, as we all know – effects alone do not a decent film make. Far from it.

Then, there was the casting. Chloe Grace Moretz. As Carrie? Ummmmm……..

I like Moretz. She stood out in Kick Ass and in Hugo. Lightning struck twice as she took her character of Hit Girl to new levels in Kick Ass 2 this past summer, showing not only the mean little badass side of her screen persona, but also a vulnerable one. This COULD work.

Sadly, when push came to shove – it didn’t.

This is a lacklustre rehash that really adds nothing to value to the story. Essentially, a sequel that needn’t have been made because although it tells the familiar story fairly accurately – there’s a huge subconscious plot point that is missed by a country mile.

I’m not going to endlessly recap every minute detail of the story here, I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you’re already familiar with King’s book and DePalma’s film – hopefully both. You’ll be aware that the crux of the story is Carrie White – perpetual outsider, always out of step with the others, always the marginalised loner. Spacek played this part brilliantly. But what she did that is harder to pinpoint is that although Carrie is the underdog – she isn’t particularly likeable.

I’ve read an interview with Stephen King where he tells how Carrie was based on two girls he knew at school. Both these girls were out of fashion, out of step, put down incessantly by the popular “cool” kids. But as King said, there was something about them, some form of helplessness that prevented them from even trying to improve their situation, they wouldn’t help themselves, just stared vacantly at their tormentors – so that King himself didn't like them either because not only would they not reach out to make friends, but it was impossible to befriend them – they were in kind of a suspicious paranoid fuelled bubble that kept them right where they were. Any approach would be greeted with a deer caught in headlights stare. And THAT is what Spacek brought to the role that Moretz just couldn’t – or the director Kimberly Peirce failed to elicit.

Where Spacek played Carrie as a dowdy, plain, ugly duckling who transforms into the graceful swan at the prom night for an hour or so before the cruellest trick of all is played on her, Moretz is just too cute and vulnerable in the role. Rather than shake Carrie out of sheer frustration, you really want to give Moretz’s Carrie a hug and tell her it’ll be all right.

It has been pointed out that there isn’t a single likeable character in either the book nor the first film. This is particularly true of Carrie’s tormentors, but the entire class are just teen movie pantomime over the top bitches in this. Having them use the cameras on their phones to add to Carrie’s humiliation was the one added touch in the film that actually worked to contemporise the story which is now close to 40 years old.

I had a problem with the reveal of Carrie’s powers. In this version, she seems too powerful, too quickly and even levitates her mother at one point. That didn’t work as well as having the powers slowly increase with Carrie’s rage in the original version. I take the point that Carrie’s telekinesis was hardly the surprise it was back in 1976, but the whole film seemed to have nothing new to say, and relied on upgraded visuals to tell the familiar tale, where the performances were the focal point the first time around.

All in all, it’s a film that mildly entertained me once, but one that I won’t be seeing again. 

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