Genre: Drama, Horror
Directed by: Kimberly Peirce
Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabrielle Wilde, Portia Doubleday
“You Will Know Her Name” screams the tagline to this modern retelling of Stephen King’s debut novel. As chilling as it sounds, it’s also pretty redundant considering many will already know of Carrie White. When King published his novel in 1974, it became an instant hit and propelled him to the forefront of horror. When it was adapted for the screen by Brain De Palma, it was a financial and critical success that continues to be marked as one of cinema’s finest horror films. Director Kimberly Pierce states that 2013 Carrie is not a remake, but a reimaging of King’s prose. However, there’s little to tell them apart.
What is different is the time period, with the story updated to the present day. Therefore the opening shower scene includes Carrie’s malicious bullies now filming her terror on their mobile phones and subsequently posting it online for all to see. But apart from that this is an almost scene for scene retread of De Palma’s film, with a weaker ending and the baffling addition of an unexpected pregnancy.
Despite being one of Hollywood’s finest up and coming talents, there’s something frustratingly flat about Chloe Grace Moretz as the eponymous high school outcast. It probably doesn’t help that much of what Carrie feels in the book comes from the thoughts inside her own head, meaning that instead of focusing on Carrie’s darkly enthralling ability to gradually control her powers, we’re lumbered with one too many scenes of her struggling to accept Tommy’s invitation to accompany him to prom. Like the original, the scenes between Carrie and Tommy feel unnatural and corny, the overemphasis on a possible romance brewing between them no doubt tagged on to appeal to a wider audience.
More successful are the scenes between Carrie and her mother Margaret. There’s a clear chemistry between Moretz and Julianne Moore, with the latter’s haunting performance – a significant step up from Piper Laurie’s over exaggerated religious nut – injecting the film with both intimacy and tension. Pierce’s decision to shoot many of their shared scenes in close-up is a masterstroke, allowing for the audience to become fully invested in the intense emotions swirling between these two seemingly unstoppable forces.
Made in a time when the budgets are greater and there is far more calling for violence and gore to have greater amplification on screen, Pierce throws everything she has at the finale. As dated as the original is, there’s something inescapably terrifying about watching Sissy Spacek, blood covered and wide eyed, being able to exact her revenge by just the slightest movement of her retinas. Here Carrie throws her arms around like she’s a Jedi Knight, giving the scene more of an action than a horror feel. The over-reliance on CGI is an added hindrance, particularly the image of one of Carrie’s most determined targets having her face smashed in to a car windscreen; an image so overly detailed that it’s too ridiculous to be traumatic.
During the buildup to the film’s release, there were many articles wondering why Kimberly Pierce and MGM decided to try and remake such a considered classic. The answer is, of course, likely to be financial and while Julianne Moore does manage to shine bright, Chloe Moretz barely flickers. As such it means that while you may know Carrie’s name, you probably won’t care about it.