Carrie (Screen Gems, R)

Carrie 75This remake clearly exists only as a moneymaking endeavor by the studio with little concern for artistic merit.

Carrie 500

Carrie has faced an uphill battle since the project was announced two years ago. A remake of the Brian De Palma horror classic based on an early (and very dark) Stephen King novel? Why? “Why?” is indeed a fair question. Though De Palma’s 1976 film is as campy as it is dated, the original is still a staple in the horror genre and doesn’t really need or warrant a remake. Despite casting the brilliant young actor Chloe Grace Moretz in the starring role and selecting Julianne Moore to play Carrie’s fanatical mother, this remake clearly exists only as a moneymaking endeavor by the studio with little concern for artistic merit. It is not cynical to say that few expect Carrie to be good, and that assumption is proven true after 100 or so minutes of complete drivel.

The plot of Carrie is so well known and so ingrained in the collective pop culture psyche that the film is naturally going to be devoid of any sense of surprise or shock. This makes for an interminable movie-going experience, despite a strong cast. Carrie White (Moretz) has been raised by her fundamentalist Christian mother, Margaret (Moore), who is convinced everything she and Carrie do is a sin for which they must ask forgiveness. As a result of her mother’s mental instability and overbearing behavior, Carrie is a socially awkward teenager, ripe for bullying from her high school’s clique of mean girls.

After one horrible incident in the girls’ locker room, Carrie’s role as a social outcast is solidified for good. Instead of supporting her daughter, Margaret punishes Carrie for what is surely (in some way) her fault. The constant pressure from her mother and her peers stresses Carrie beyond what she can handle, and she slowly discovers an ability to move objects using only her mind. Intrigued by her new telekinetic power, Carrie begins honing her skills as an escape from her miserable life. Of course, no one — including Carrie — knows what she is fully capable of, but after an incredibly mean-spirited prank on prom night, everyone finds out.

Director Kimberly Peirce seems completely ill-equipped to handle this material, staging simple scenes of conversation with bizarre camera angles and unnecessary close-ups, while having no fun at all with scenes involving Carrie’s telekinetic abilities. Peirce, who directed Boys Don’t Cry and Stop Loss, is a very literal-minded filmmaker, which is not a bad characteristic in itself. But, she shouldn’t be directing a film about a teenage girl with supernatural powers if she is unable to create a world in which that seems possible. The world of Carrie is identical to the world in which we live, so why should we believe Carrie’s powers are possible? They seem to appear out of nowhere and only Carrie’s painful birth (the film’s opening scene) gives us any sense that something is not normal.

Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Lawrence D. Cohen (who scripted the 1976 film), this remake is ostensibly setting itself apart from De Palma’s film by being more gory and explicit. The execution, though, ends up more like a deviant afterschool special about the harm of bullying. We only see one instance of Carrie being tortured by her peers, but the movie asks us to assume it’s been going on for a long time. We don’t get that, though. We just see a very strange girl who one day is picked on and then all hell breaks loose on prom night. There is very little story or character development, which falls squarely on Peirce’s incapable shoulders.

Moretz does the best she can with the very shallow character she is given, but even an actor as talented as she is can’t make believable a character that is too thin to take seriously. Moretz has had a wonderfully varied career thus far in mostly solid movies. Carrie will just be a footnote of one of the times she chose the wrong role early in her career. For once, Moore is a weak spot in a film, giving a performance much less engaging than she usually gives. Margaret is a horrible person, yes, but we never see her as anything but a crazy person. Moore seems to coast through the movie on one speed, giving very little effort throughout.

Carrie is a forgettable remake that will be tossed out of theaters immediately after Halloween. There are no genuine entertainment and it serves only to remind us how good horror movies were back in the 1970s. | Matthew Newlin

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