Before I start this one, I’ll just make a disclaimer… I have never read Steven King’s original novel, nor have I seen the 1976 original – however like most I knew the rough outline, the shower scene in the beginning and the prom scene at the end, as they are so engraved in pop culture.
So Carrie is a remake of the original 1976 film, one of the most famous horror stories of the 20th Century, and as the above probably suggested one I haven’t seen. The remake was justified by claiming the story would stay more faithful to King’s novel – which I can’t verify, having never read it, – and features a brand new cast, starring Chloe Grace Moretz as Carrie, and Jullianne Moore as her mother, Margaret.
Carrie tells the story of Carrie White, a shy high school senior lacking confidence, who is raised by her fanatically religious mother Margaret, and throughout the film discovers she has telekinetic abilities.
I won’t summarise the plot too much – needless to say the essentials are here, the shower scene, her mother’s fanaticism and abuse, the talk on ‘dirty pillows’, the guilt stricken Sue Snell having her boyfriend invite Carrie to prom, whilst bully Chris Hargensen is banned from Prom, and blaming Carrie plots her revenge, featuring pigs blood… You can probably guess where this is going from just the trailer and general pop culture knowledge; marching towards the famous Prom scene.
It is here we see another side of Carrie, who comes into her own, despite – or perhaps because of – locking her mother in the closet for forbidding her to attend – and for the first time see Carrie smile and laugh, having fun with her peers and Tommy. This is a vast difference to the Carrie of the beginning, a lonely naive oddball, mistreated both at school by both students and teachers, and her mother, after the prank, we see the third side of Carrie, the destructive, revenge driven side, which ultimately leads to her death, as well as those of her class mates.
One plot point that did bother me – in a view to the updated timeframe, the film set in 2013, we see Carrie’s shower room ordeal being filmed, and uploaded online, but nothing is really made of this, bar one line from a school teacher. and this is a bit of a disappointment, I half expected in the world of social media that this video would go viral, furthering the audience sympathy for Carrie.
The casting of Chloe Grace Moretz was controversial at the time, and I can see why, she is not an actress that you would consider being one of the rejects, ‘too pretty and too Hollywood,’ is something I have seen other critics say, and it’s hard to disagree. It is a credit then, to Moretz, that this does not distract from the film, her portrayal of a scared teenage outcasts journey from oddball to revenge fuelled psychopath utterly convincing. Moore is excellent as Margaret White, utterly believable as a fanatic who will do anything for her religion.
While billed as a ‘supernatural horror’ film, it has very few, if any scary moments. There are no jumps or screams, or anything to that extent. Instead I would paint Carrie as a tragedy, the story of a shy, sweet and innocent girl who’s upbringing in a extreme, perverted Christian household leaves her naive and ill prepared for the real word. A girl who suffers constant abuse throughout her life, from school, from her mother, and her neighbours. When Carrie goes to prom, taking control of her life from her mother, we see her come into herself, making friends with a girl from another school, smiling, and having her class mates smile back, only for her final humiliation, and the death of Tommy, to break her completely. The end scenes, where we see Carrie unleash her powers, shows not fear in her eyes, but control. As Carrie takes her revenge you know that she is broken, that everything in her life has driven her to this, and seeing Carrie take her revenge is just as satisfying for the audience as it is for her.
Director Kimberly Pierce paints Carrie as almost the opposite of a superhero origin movie, it is hard to see superheroes like Superman having different fates from Carrie had they been raised by a insane religious fanatic. How would a Clark Kent raised in such a household have reacted to Carrie’s suffering? This is the true tragedy of the film, that given just one change, a more stable upbringing, a real friend at school, Carrie could have been something completely different, a normal, healthy, happy child, not the broken girl that she is.
One other note, in the version that I watched the very end scene featured a different ending, as Sue Snell gives birth, and a bloody hand emerges from beneath, a call back to the iconic ending of the original, where Carrie’s hand reaches out from her grave. While this was interesting, and somewhat shocking, I felt it lacked the punch that Pierce was no doubt looking for.
So a tragic story of a girl on the cusp of womanhood with superpowers. With the material being so well known – everyone knows what is coming, although this is part of the fun, knowing how it well end, and watching the journey, it still suffers slightly for it, but is worth watching for the performances of Moretz and Moore alone. 6.5/10