Reel Review | Carrie (2013)

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With the release of “Carrie”, director Kimberly Peirce‘s re-imagining of the cult classic from director Brian De Palma (which in turn was based on the Stephen King novel), the age old question needs to be asked — why?  If you’re a fan of the original, this will be something you’ll be asking yourself as you leave the theater. That’s not to say “Carrie” is particularly a bad movie — everyone involved seem to be giving it their all — it’s just that the remake comes across as somewhat dull and completely pointless. For the few who may not know, “Carrie” is about a shy high school girl with telekinetic powers, (Chloe Grace Moretz), who is a social outcast from her peers due to her overly religious and protective mother (Julianne Moore). One thing leads to another and eventually the whole school feels the wrath of the misunderstood girl. Originally touted as being a re-adaptation of the original text, the film is more like a shot for shot remake of the De Palma film with a few extra elements of the King book thrown in. That brings me back to the question:  why? Even though elements of De Palma’s film haven’t aged well, it remains a rather effective horror story and should be seen by any true horror fan. The remake doesn’t bring any new substance to the story and, often times, pales in comparison to the 1976 film. Case in point: the prom scene. De Palma squeezes every ounce of suspense into the scene by prolonging the inevitable event, whereas Peirce seems to want to rush to it for fear that the audience may be getting bored. On top of that, when Carrie unleashes her vengeance, it comes across as borderline comedic when she does her best Magneto impression, moving objects around with the flick of her wrists while she floats above the ground. What makes matters worse, the first act of the film starts off well, showing alienation’s underbelly and the brutality of social cliques. But, once the horror aspect of the 2nd and 3rd acts come around, it seems like Peirce retreats to replicating De Palma’s original.

The performance of the two leads are a mixed bag as well. Moretz plays Carrie not so much as a victim, but more like a social outcast discovering her powers and just waiting for the right moment to exact revenge. It’s a nuanced performance that does just enough to separate itself from the original. On the other hand, Moore’s performance as Margaret White is so over the top it becomes borderline absurd. When a film is trying so hard to base itself in reality, it doesn’t help to have a character that is so deranged that she would be locked up the moment she left her home. Rating: 14 / 25

If there was one area in which the film excels over the original, it would be the visuals. Peirce and cinematographer Steve Yedlin have created a film that looks excellent from start to finish. They use darkness and shadows effectively and also know when to brighten the picture up with sharper colors. The camera movement always has purpose and generally adds to the overall tension in the film. For the first act of the film, they showcase Carrie’s feeling of isolation by using shallow depth of field one shots with a somewhat distorted lens. It’s really effective and puts the audience in the shoes of the character in a way that no actor could. The film may borrow heavily from De Palma’s, but thankfully they were smart enough to avoid certain camera techniques such as the split screen which highlights the age of the original. Unfortunately, most of Carrie’s rampage in the end deals with low grade special effects, which in turn destroy any tension the film may have had. Rating: 16 / 25

The sound of the film is a prime example of too much of something truly isn’t a good thing. Dialogue is precise and clear, but whenever Carrie uses her powers there is the standard low level rumble that envelopes the theater. At first it was effective, but it soon becomes tiresome and unnecessary before the film is half over, usually giving away any surprise the film may have had in store for the audience. Composer Marco Beltrami does a good job of capturing the spirit of Pino Donaggio’s original score, creating a dreamlike theme, but the horror elements of the final act sound too similar to his other genre work. He avoids using the “Psycho” like violin screech from De Palma’s film, but doesn’t replace with anything as memorable. It all becomes rather pedestrian and uninteresting by the time it’s all over. Rating: 15 / 25

Watching the re-imagined version of Carrie left me so conflicted. As I was watching the film I kept asking myself if I had never seen the original would I enjoy this film more. Since it was practically a shot for shot remake, there really doesn’t seem to be any reason for the film except for a quick money grab from another Hollywood studio. I understand the idea that there is a whole new generation of film goers who haven’t seen the original, but wouldn’t it make more sense to re-introduce them to De Palma’s film instead of spending millions of dollars to essentially slap a new coat of paint on the story. As a lover of film, it saddens me to see Hollywood so quick to ignore its history of great films by tainting them with one pointless remake after another. Rating: 14 / 25

Overall Rating: 59 / 100

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Dave Ziemer has been reviewing movies for over ten years. He is the founder and was the Program Director of SiriusXM Radio's Cinemagic channel.

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