When it comes to remaking a horror classic, there are several things that can work in a movie's favor. One is if the source material is rich enough to warrant another take. And in the case of Carrie, the Stephen King book has elements that were not necessarily explored by Brian De Palma in his classic film starring Sissy Spacek.
The second facet would be the importance of casting. One can forget, or at least forgive the stigma of remaking a classic if filmmakers up the ante cast-wise from the first film.
Spacek was astounding in the original, and they could not have made a better choice to have Chloe Moretz as Carrie in 2013. And then there’s the role of the religious zealot, slightly crazy and abusive mother character of Carrie. In the original, it was played with power by Piper Laurie. In director Kimberly Peirce’s remake, she is captured by Julianne Moore in a performance that can only be described as a psychotic tour-de-force.
Carrie also has something else going for it as it speaks to a culture right now that is inundated with bullying in the headlines. Moretz’s Carrie is tormented by her classmates, as she was in the original. But now, it feels more like a social commentary than a means for homicidal revenge as it was in the 1970s.
But, is all of that enough to warrant a remake? Given Peirce’s filmmaking past (she made Boys Don’t Cry), she has an insight into the outcast that makes her a perfect fit to update the story of a girl who was homeschooled until the state made her go to high school. She is more likely to win the social awkwardness queen than prom queen. Peirce knows the material, and her appreciation for King’s book is clear.
Moretz has an ever-building command of her craft -- even what little is teased in this Carrie clip shows that. Watching her grow as a performer from Kick-Ass through Carrie is a study in determination meets innate gifts. And her scenes with Moore crackle with electricity that features two actresses literally elevating the material solely from their performances. Moore takes her maternal character to such self-mutilating depths that one can truly see why Carrie acts out the way she does at the end of the movie.
She, frankly, does not know any other way.
There is one element that we could have lived without. When Carrie first experiences her telekinetic powers, she goes on the internet and does research at the library and learns she is not alone. The first film, obviously, did not have the internet or YouTube videos of people moving objects to make our titular character feel that she is not alone. The thing is, she is alone… and that only intensifies her wrath at the prom.
Our Carrie review also has to point out that in other mediums, such as theater, productions are mounted repeatedly that have been done dozens, if not hundreds, of times. What makes film so different that filmmakers can’t tread where others have before… even over sacred ground such as a De Palma version of a King classic? Although this Carrie is far from perfect, it is still entertaining from a filmmaking perspective, even if it doesn’t wallop you at the end like the original.
But, then again, that may have more to do with our desensitized society than anything else. When Spacek went nuts at her prom after they duped her into being prom queen only to drop a bucket of blood on her, her rage was something that was rarely seen in film, and therefore it was supremely shocking. After three decades, it is sadly not so shocking anymore.