Film review: Carrie

Many scenes are similar to the 1976 original but this update feels far more like a Mean Girls high school flick, which is actually a good thing.

Chloe Grace Moretz in Carrie. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc and Screen Gems, Inc. MrX FX / AP Photo
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Director: Kimberly Peirce Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore and Gabriella Wilde

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The word “remake”, or its recent snazzier moniker “reboot”, are fast proving the most horrific words in the cinema lexicon. It seems a sure sign of impending disappointment. Horror movies seem particularly afflicted by the disease of regurgitation and, for all their merits, it’s hard to make a case that any of Dawn of the Dead, The Hills Have Eyes or Evil Dead are better than their predecessors. We can now add Carrie to the list and that’s despite the director Kimberly ­Peirce trying to stay more true to the Stephen King source material than Brian De Palma managed.

The 1976 horror classic often tops lists of the best horror films ever made. Sissy Spacek was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar playing the titular role of a schoolgirl who realises that she has psychic powers when she comes of age. Meanwhile, Piper Laurie received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination playing her Bible-quoting mother Margaret White, who’s convinced that her daughter Carrie is the devil’s spawn. Close to four decades on and the vagaries of time have led to many commentators arguing that De Palma’s film is dated.

From the first scene, in which a bloody Margaret White, played by Moore, is seen crawling up her stairs before giving birth and contemplating whether to kill her child, Peirce makes an effort to give the supporting cast more time on screen. As with the novel, the film is partly narrated from the perspective of Carrie’s classmate Sue Snell, played by the up-and-coming British actress Gabriella Wilde. Many scenes are similar to the original, but this update feels far more like a Mean Girls high school flick, which is a good thing.

The exposition and character motivation are much clearer in this update. But strangely this creates a massive problem. De Palma brilliantly played on the fact that Carrie and the audience didn’t know what was happening to her. She was scared of her own abilities. The best horror movies rely on such mystery and surprise for scares. Here, Chloë Grace Moretz plays Carrie with more of the confident attitude of a contemporary teenage girl. She wields her power, most notably against her mother, but the resulting scenes between Moretz and Moore play like a horror film done by rote. The Boys Don’t Cry director’s girl power outlook robs the story of its chills. Suddenly De Palma’s voyeuristic eye and split screens don’t seem so dated.