Just in time for Halloween comes Carrie, a remake of a 1979 movie of the same name, both based on a chilling tale of high school vengeance penned by Stephen King. Is it in poor taste to remake a classic, instead of, you know, making something new? Undoubtedly. But as a reviewer who has never seen the old Carrie, I can offer my unbiased take on the new one. It is fair to argue that remakes should not exist at all, especially remakes of a popular and critically successful film like Carrie, but since this remake does exist, the question that presents itself is whether it is good.
The answer is a qualified yes. The script of the film is surprisingly uneven. Some of the scenes come across as insightful and moving, while others sound melodramatic, clunky, and, at their worst, cheesier than a slice of Papa John’s. But the overall arc of the film is well-crafted. Carrie is the story of a telekinetic girl trapped in a school where she is outcast, due to her abnormal (to say the least) upbringing at the hands of a psychotic religious fundamentalist mother. An invitation to the school’s prom could be her long-awaited chance to break into the school culture and become “normal,”–or it could be a disaster of epic proportions. Knowing that this is a horror movie, it becomes clear pretty early on that all is not going to go smoothly for Carrie or her classmates.
The film skillfully builds up to a frenetic climax, slowly ratcheting up the tension and the emotional stakes. Though it starts off like a poorly-written episode of a Mean Girls TV show (and feels eerily and unpleasantly reminiscent of Chloe Grace Moretz’s last cringe-inducing outing as a high school outcast in Kick-Ass 2), the movie eventually succeeds in drawing you into its story, as more and more factors come into play and more characters are introduced. It’s a spider-web of plot threads that are all leading to the same place—prom night. The fun comes in seeing how those threads will come together to shape the inevitable finale.
Despite the name, Carrie is about far more than the titular protagonist—the story focuses on many characters, some engaging, and others…not. On the one hand, it’s refreshing to see that some of the high school bullies are able to show remorse for their actions. Rather than being shallow and unrepentant sadists, some of Carrie’s tormentors show that they possess a real heart—a fact which makes the movie more morally complex and interesting.
However, at least a couple of the high school bullies Carrie has to contend with are so downright psychopathic they stretch credulity—slaughtering pigs with a glee and blood-lust that is downright alarming. And Carrie’s mom, played by Julianne Moore, takes religious obsession to levels that would make the Spanish Inquisition uneasy. Also threatening to unravel your suspension of disbelief is the film’s very setting, a mythical high school where everyone is so attractive that Chloe Moretz is considered ugly.
The biggest problem is that the relationship between Carrie and her mother. At times Carrie is outright defiant of her mother, informing her that she is misinterpreting the bible’s passages. At other times she cowers in fear as her mother drags her, screaming, to a cupboard under the stairs, a punishment Harry Potter would be able to empathize with. Considering the extent of the madness on display here, it seems unbelievable that Carrie would ever dare to question her mother’s authority, as the film shows her doing on several occasions.
Still, the actors are so earnest, and the premise interesting enough that the film succeeds in spite of a few occasional missteps. It’s a timeless parable about the effects of isolation and ridicule on the young adult psyche—it’s an a not-so-veild metaphor for school shootings—and it’s a pretty creepy exercise in telekinetic horror. Some of the characters are too thinly drawn, and many of the moments are too over-the-top, but there’s more to like than to dislike, and as the film nears its end, it definitely packs an emotional punch.