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Carrie (2013)

Carrie (2013)

You will know her name

Raised by a religiously-obsessed mother, innocent Carrie White is an introverted girl at school who suffers torment from the other girls when she has her first period in the school showers and thinks that she’s bleeding to death. Sue feels guilty about her involvement and asks her boyfriend Tommy to take Carrie to the prom. However they don’t realise that the ring leader, Chris Hargensen, is plotting revenge after being barred from going. Rigging the election to have Tommy and Carrie elected as the prom king and queen, Chris and her friends don’t reckon with Carrie’s newly-discovered psychic powers with which she turns the prom into a massacre.

 

Though the original is heralded as a horror classic, I’ve never been particularly keen on Carrie. There’s nothing with it as a horror film, it just never grabbed my attention or captured my imagination in the way other classic horrors from that era did. It was an influential genre film however and is generally ranked quite high amongst the pantheon of horror films from the 70s. So in this day and age of remakes, it was only a matter of time before Carrie was the next on the hit list. I’m surprised it took them this long to be honest. With Hollywood virtually empty for horror ideas, I’d have expected the remake bandwagon to have arrived earlier than it has (especially considering this whole remake fad really kicked off around 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). It’s not as if the original is sacred property either. It had a pointless, unrelated sequel with The Rage: Carrie 2 in 1999 and was remade into a TV series in 2002. The original’s legacy was already tarnished somewhat so this remake doesn’t offend me nearly as much as the Halloween remake did.

Carrie is billed as a re-imagining and more faithful to the source material but that couldn’t be any further from the truth. With the exception of a handful of scenes, it’s virtually a scene-by-scene remake with a more contemporary feel to it. I question the logic of this approach which only serves as proof that Brian De Palma got the material spot on first time around and director Kimberly Peirce is reluctant to change a winning formula. Advances in special effects over the years mean that the eventual massacre is a lot more visual than it was before but more on that later. What Carrie still manages to get right is how it treats the characters. This is still very much a character-driven story with the radical transformation of the main character being the centre point. Whilst some of the supporting characters are little more than your average good-looking American actors and actresses pretending to be back in high school, the main characters of Carrie, Margaret and Sue are all developed and well-rounded to make you sympathise with Carrie’s plight and eventual breakdown.

Bullying in school is something that still happens this very day. As a teacher, I know only too well the regularity with which pupils come to me and complain that they are on the receiving end of insults or physicality at the hands of another pupil. But hey, this is an American high school and if there’s one thing that we know from cinema, it’s that it’s the single worst place to be if you’re somewhat odd and don’t fit into the norm. Carrie contemporises the bullying aspects, bringing the story into the modern era by using cyberbullying as its main weapon of choice. The footage of Carrie in the shower is plastered all over Youtube. More could have been made of this angle, especially given the frequency of sad stories in the news of school children taking their own lives after being on the end of cyberbullying. But it’s a nice tweak to make it relevant to the younger viewers.

Whilst Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie are a tough act to follow from the original, both Chloe Moretz and Julianne Moore put in a shift for the roles of Carrie and Margaret respectively. Moore fairs the better of the two in putting a new tilt onto a familiar character but that’s to be expected from a multi-time Academy Award nominee. She needed to have more screen time but does great in the time she’s given. It’s hard to stomach Moretz as a ‘weird and kooky’ teenager given that she looks a million times better than the rest of the female cast during the prom scenes. But she does have a certain sympathetic charm to her and the fact that she was a teenager whilst filming gives the role an added edge that Sissy Spacek couldn’t give it before. Moretz is very appealing in the role, a frightened young girl in a strange and cruel world, and you can only watch in heartache as she is on the receiving end of some truly awful bullying. But, on the flip side, because she becomes aware of and starts to control her powers, the eventual revenge is a little harder to take. We know she’s doing this maliciously and the sympathy she’s worked hard to build is eroded very quickly.

Thankfully, Carrie avoided the feeble 12a rating in the UK and received the higher 15 certificate meaning that the blood is able to flow a lot more freely. The film is geared towards the infamous set piece at the prom and whilst there is some blood early on (of various kinds!), it’s only in the film’s climactic scene that the effects department run rough shed over the screen. Carrie’s revenge is brought to life in more vivid detail thanks to modern special effects and like a puppet master guiding her toys around, Carrie uses her telekinetic powers to manipulate objects around in the school hall, electrocuting people, trapping them in seats, setting them on fire and so on. It’s worthy carnage, even if the effects are a bit too obligatory, but the film rushes through the motions to get to it as quick as it does. Drawing out the characters a little more at the start would have given this scene added impact.

 

Carrie is a competent remake which does the original justice and adds in enough modern twists to keep the material fresh and engaging for a younger audience who have not seen the 1976 version. It makes as many mistakes as it manages to get things right but is never dull, contains some decent performances and a satisfying conclusion. Hardly going to change the way the world works but could have been a lot worse.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆