The first Stephen King story I ever read was Carrie, which makes it quite personal to me. It would be the novel that opened up King’s world of horror for years to come, even today as his newest novel Doctor Sleep sits on my shelf waiting to be read I think of the lengths he had gone to frighten his readers, and he succeeded. If you’ve read Carrie and don’t like Brian De Palma’s 1976 masterpiece of horror cinema, well that’s too bad; but for those who have and do, this remake is bound to bring up nostalgia. The similarities are uncanny, but appropriate for this film directed by Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry, Stop-Loss), and while the complaint will be how little it adds to this story, it’s still well told all around. So here are my eight reasons why Carrie (2013) holds its own.
**Spoilers will follow for Stephen King’s novel, the 1976 film, and this remake. If you don’t know how this story goes, the original is on Netflix Instant.**
8. Blood Sport
As famous as the climax of Carrie is, the opening shower scene stands tall and is pivotal for this tale. The remake follows suit to the original with creating the antagonistic teenage girls within the first five minutes of the picture, laughing at Carrie and exclaiming “plug it up!” as she is having her first period at the age of sixteen. It’s a brutal scene, as it should be, and the remake takes it a step further as we will get to with #5.
7. The supporting cast/acting
This was entirely unexpected as when you think of the supporting cast you don’t think of much, but with this adaptation, it elevates the film. To start, Judy Greer in a non-comedic role as Ms. Desjardin was perfect casting. She completely takes the character over as the controlling and sometimes abusive teacher, but also makes her sympathetic toward Carrie which rounds off by the finale in a better way than the Miss Collins character in the 1976 film. The three teenagers to focus on are: Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday), Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde), and Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort). Chris is the verging-on-psychopathic villain who has a hatred for Carrie more than anyone else in the film. Doubleday does more than an excellent job with the character who trudges through one scene of fairly terrible dialogue, and by the end you hate her as much as she hated Carrie because of her dismissal from the prom. Her comeuppance is more than deserved. Gabriella Wilde is wonderful in the sympathetic light of Sue Snell alongside Ansel Elgort as her boyfriend; you feel their relationship and how they feel toward Carrie. It’s surprising to see a good majority of this film being held by the co-stars, but with the right cast apparently anything is possible.
6. It feels more like a drama
If you take away the last thirty minutes that technically make this a horror film, the drama that goes between Carrie’s telekinetic growth is hypnotizing. Carrie’s home life is awful, because of her zealot mother who is so infuriating, but brilliantly played by Julianne Moore (we’ll get to her later). With the side plot of some of our teenage characters, and Carrie’s experience with a psychotic mother who beats her over the head with a Bible and locks her in a closet, I could watch either or for an hour and a half.
5. It’s updated
The script here is rewritten, or re-edited, or copy and pasted by Lawrence D. Cohen who penned both the original 1976 film and this remake. Cohen manages to update the film with technology while still doing justice to the familiar plot. When the girls are laughing at Carrie in the shower, Chris takes a video with her phone and posts it on the internet. This was not an element of the ’76 film as you can guess, and with it being so vital here for the development of these girls, it works in the film’s favor. You already hated Chris, but this makes you hate her just a little bit more which brings it around to her comeuppance. The film also has an obvious stance against bullying which is good awareness to have, bringing light to instances of teenagers who have shared the same fear in the past.
4. Prom Night
It’s the night every high school girl dreams of, and every Carrie fan waits for. This is the climax, probably the reason you came to see the film, and it’s a glorious bloodbath. Carrie is invited to prom by Tommy because Sue feels bad for what she instigated, but Carrie is also voted prom queen due to a plan Chris has hatched. The queen becomes drenched in pig’s blood, resulting in an uproar of laughter from everyone. This is when Carrie reveals her power, but not before Tommy is hit in the head with a bucket. The original film played with the idea of Carrie losing all sensibility; panicking and afraid, she kills everyone in the gymnasium of their high school. This new adaptation has Carrie more aware of her powers and in control. She knows that she is killing all of these people, so when she spares Ms. Desjardin and has a moment to cry over Tommy’s deathly injury, you have more of an impact of her humanity as opposed to her losing control. Either way the scene is a mess in all of the best ways and by the end you feel satisfied. But that is not all that’s left.
Carrie leaves the school, locking everyone in to burn, and is on her way home. Still covered in blood, she comes across Chris and her boyfriend Billy (Alex Russell) driving in his car. They see her and plan to run her down, but not the way you may remember it. This is the shot that’s my favorite in the entire film and I think trumps the conclusion of these characters in the original. Instead of just making the car swerve and flip over, Carrie toys with Chris. I won’t go any further, but with what Chris had coming to her, it’s completely deserved and executed perfectly. It was the icing on the cake to the prom massacre, and not to mention pretty badass.
2. Chloe Grace Moretz
As perfect as Sissy Spacek was, Chloe Grace Moretz’s Carrie is much different. She isn’t as socially retarded, but more scared at what she doesn’t know about the world. The film opens with her getting her first period and not knowing what do, she thought she was dying. Depending on how you like your portrayal of Carrie White you have two very different interpretations that are equally great. I honestly prefer Spacek, but I see how spectacular Moretz is as well. Lets not get into Angela Bettis’ Carrie from the 2002 TV movie, but I think she was fine.
1. Julianne Moore
With an entire cast of good performers, it’s hard to decide which is the best. Julianne Moore does more than just give us a masterful Margaret White here, she outshines Piper Laurie by a long shot, holds the film up to everyone (equally with Moretz), and is the definition of crazy. Isn’t it a given that Moore is going to be nothing but great at this point? Well she is and takes the character another step with possible schizophrenia. She mumbles scripture, cuts and scratches herself, and blames all of the wrongdoings on the Lord. In the end, with what happens to her and Carrie, it all feels real in an odd way. That’s a compliment beyond all others from me with this variation.
This alteration of both Stephen King’s novel and Brian De Palma’s classic film is already polarizing with critics. Most of that is due to the film’s likeness to De Palma’s version. That’s fair enough, but it didn’t bother me none. I think there are slight changes that help this remake differentiate to stand alone, as all remakes should be judged: by themselves. Take away the 1976 film and you still have the Carrie we all know and love with a couple of tweaks. That’s not to say it’s perfect, but did you expect this to be? Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie is a solid remake with acting to hold it above similarities to past adaptations. Who knows, maybe it will be a horror classic among young ones in thirty-seven years.