Sunday, October 20, 2013

Carrie: Accountability, the Force, Consequences, and the Devil Be Damned

"You know the devil never dies, keeps coming back. But you gotta keep killing him."
ere you one of the popular kids in High School?  Or, were you one of the awkward, shy, or even one of the not so well liked students?  Being the social outsider is the basis of this remake of the Brian De Palma's classic adaptation of the Stephen King's masterpiece, "Carrie. “  I'm not a fan of remakes, reboots, and re-imaginings, although there are some exceptions.  The film stars Chloë Grace Moretz ("Kick Ass," "Let Me In") in the title role of Carrie White.  Jullianne Moore ("Hannibal," "Children of Men") plays her mentally unbalanced, over the top ultra-religious, fundamentalist, and abusive mother.  From the strangely sickening squishy sounds of Carrie's birth at the beginning of the film, to the maelstrom of chaos that climaxes the final act, "Carrie" is a modern day version of King's novel tailored for a more modern and technological savvy generation.

"Is this a test?"

ome films don't need remakes, and this one didn't.  That being said, director Kimberly Pierce ("Boys Don't Cry," "Stop Loss") does a great job of updating an already timeless story, yet giving it a modern day look and feel.  Taking the bulk of Lawrence D. Cohen's original screenplay and having screenwriter Roberto Aguirre - Sacasa do an update on it, Pierce does her due diligence in recreating De Palma's cinematic blood fest, but with more blood and gore.

oretz turns in a strong performance while in extreme wallflower mode.  She plays a young, awkward teen who tries to fit into a world that her religiously fanatical mom hasn't prepared her for.  Kids are mean.  In the case of Carrie White, who, in this internet age of cellphones and YouTube, apparently didn't take health or biology class, thinks she is dying after finding herself having her first period while showering after gym class.  To be fair she was homeschooled for the first few years.  The perfectly fit, clear-skimmed, and self-centered girls in her class "help her out" by throwing tampons and feminine pads at her.  We live in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and what Aguirre - Sacasa's script does is incorporates these elements into Cohen's already solid script.

"What did Carrie White ever do to you?"

ierce's take on the interpretation of the script, and perhaps King's as well -- in that the mentality of the girls is meaner, and the image of a blood soaked Carrie is gorier, but not any scarier.  Peirce takes her cue from recent remakes where the gore factor is cranked up several notches, like this year’s "Evil Dead," 2010’s "Nightmare on Elm Street," and Rob Zombie's "Halloween.”  Carrie is more sympathetic, prettier, a tad bit smarter, and more sympathetic.  Our antagonist, Chris Hargenson (Portia Doubleday) is an entitled evil bitch of a character whose inability to take responsibility for her deeds.  After posting the cruel video of the tormented Carrie, she is unable to accept the consequences of her actions.  Facing suspension from school and prom, Chris calls upon her daddy to bail her out of trouble.  Her delinquent boyfriend, Billy Nolan (Alexander Russell) is more menacing than "Welcome Back Kotter's" John Travolta.  The somewhat sympathetic character Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) finds she is pregnant in this version.  Her boyfriend, Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort) does a nice job of trying to sooth Carrie’s fears and truly is a gentleman.  Judy Greer (Love & Other Drugs) plays gym coach Ms. Desjardin, and plays her just as caring and sympathetic as Betty Buckley did in the original.

erhaps it's just me, but I don't feel the same reaction to this film as I did to the original.  Part of that may come from the fact that I was only 13 when Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie starred in De Palma's vision of the horror that can manifest itself in mommy – daughter issues on steroids.  I wasn't able to watch it until the early 80's when I saw it on HBO or I rented it on VHS.  At the time, I was truly shocked.  Spacek wasn't quite a household name yet, and at the time of Carrie, she was only really known for playing Holly in "Badlands" starting opposite Martin Sheen as the young lovers based on the Starkweather – Fugate serial murders of the late 1950's.

hloë Moretz has made a name for herself in films like "Kick Ass," and "Hugo.”  Her horror film resume includes the 2005 remake of "The Amityville Horror," the paranormal revenge film "Wicked Little Things," the under par comedic horror Depp fest "Dark Shadows," and "Let Me In," the remake of the Swedish vampire horror film, and now "Carrie.”  Although Chloë's timid, mousy Carrie is believable, I had a hard time not thinking that Hit-Girl would make a less psychic, but more dramatically intense appearance. Or perhaps Abby the vampire would start feeding on her tormentors.

“Go to your closet!”

ulianne Moore's performance is convincing as she goes about mumbling prayers, whispering Bible verses, and reinterprets the Bible to fit her purposes.  With small wooden crosses on every wall of the White's household, Moore's fervent stares, her flagrant self-abuse, and her refusal to live in the 21st century, builds a believable character study of the extreme religious fundamentalist fanatic.  Who can blame her, with the youth of today pairing up and sexually cavorting while sucking each other's face in the school parking lot? 

arco Beltrami’s ("World War Z," "Warm Bodies," "The Woman in Black," "My Soul to Take") score is both emotional and effective.  Gone are the “Psycho” like violin scrapes that accompanied Carrie’s telekinetic outbursts in the original.  Most effectively is during the destruction at the prom.  The score heightens and enhances the emotional turmoil as Carrie flings people and objects around the gym like a Sith Lord in the throes of dark ecstasy as she wields her power as she turns to the dark side as she releases her rage and frustrations at the prom goers.  I think for remakes, or re-imaginings to work, there must be something new meshed harmoniously with the original to make it worthwhile and different, but enough of the original to keep the original fan base around.  A couple examples of this would be, the 2004 TV series “Battlestar Galactica,” and J.J. Abrams alternative time lined “Star Trek.”  Carrie, I think could be better served with a change in casting Moretz in the title role.  She is a good actress, but she is too pretty for the part.  Instead of the girls in the gym class picking on the ugly duckling that is also socially awkward, and introverted, we have the haves picking on the have-nots.  That is a product of Kimberly Peirce’s subtle shifting of the emphasis in mentality and the emotion in the script.

ullying is still an important issue for families everywhere.  Just about every week, I see an article on my Facebook feed about someone’s children who has killed themselves over being bullied at school.  While cinematically we revel at Carrie’s revenge upon her classmates, we know of the true tragedy of bullying and the victim’s desire for revenge can have first hand – in real life.  That is because we live in a post Columbine age.  Carrie is interesting in that the film shows us a divide in the United States of social class, religious thought, and even an underlying split in politics. The Whites lives in a modest house, and Margaret works at a dry-cleaners doing tailoring and repairs.  They are modest, they are religious, and they are different.  Peirce uses extremes to show these differences.  At school, there is a social divide, Carrie is cute, but the other girls are pretty and privileged, they go to hair salons and have cell phones.

ne of the best things that Peirce does is update the hairstyles and the clothing of the characters.  Besides Beltrami’s score, songs from Passion Pit, Cults, and A Place to Bury Strangers play in the background throughout the prom, and during the film.  Carrie is an okay movie that will keep you entertained and at least part of the movie, will give you a sense of horror.  I would wait for the Blu-ray or DVD on this one. 

Movie Data

Genre: Drama, Horror
Year:  2013
Staring: Julianne Moore, Chloë Grace Moretz, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Alex Russell, Ansel Elgort, Judy Greer
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Producer(s): Kevin Misher
Writer: Lawrence D. Cohen, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Stephen King
Rating: R
Running Time: 100 minutes
Release Date:  10/18/2013

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