On DVD and Blu-Ray from 31st March 2014
RUNNING TIME: 100 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Alone in her home, Margaret White, a deeply religious woman, gives birth to a baby girl. She initially intends to kill the infant, but then changes her mind. Years later, her daughter Carrie, a shy, under-confident girl, nears her graduation from Ewen High School in Maine. While showering after gym class, she experiences her first period. Having no prior knowledge of menstruation, Carrie believes she is bleeding to death, and the other girls laugh and tease her. Margaret, believing menstruation is a sin, locks her into a closet to pray for forgiveness. Carrie’s screams cause a crack to appear on the door. The next day, Carrie’s teacher Miss Desjardin begins for Carrie’s tormenters a week-long boot-camp-style detention, but the worst of the bullies Chris Hargensen refuses and is banned from the prom. Sue, feeling guilty for teasing Carrie, convinces her boyfriend Tommy Ross to invite Carrie to the prom, but Chris wants revenge….
So at last here it is, the reason I decided to spend the last few days with Carrie White and her equally telekinetic successor: the 2013 Carrie remake, and, to be honest, I was initially quite excited about this film when it began production and word was going around that it was going to follow the book rather than Brian De Palma’s 1976 film. Yes, the original is a classic, but as I wrote in one of my other Carrie film reviews, if you have to remake a movie, sticking closely to the book that inspired the first film is one of the most valid reasons you can have. What really got me ‘buzzed’ was the very first teaser trailer where the camera is flying over a destroyed town and we hear the voices of the people talking about Carrie until we finally arrive at Carrie walking down the street. At last, we would get to see Carrie wreck the whole town, a scene which De Palma wanted to film but ran out of money. Sadly, reports of reshoots and re-edits dampened my enthusiasm, though finally getting around to viewing the 2002 Carrie TV movie the other day, a film which did stick closely to the book except for its stupid ending but was just very poorly made, got me all excited again, because the TV film was a missed opportunity and could certainly be improved on.
Well, this version of Carrie is….decent. It’s certainly no disaster, but is a bit pointless too. I guess that if the 1976 film didn’t exist, then it would seem pretty good. Unfortunately, it does, so this remake just suffers by comparison while, to be honest, the many alterations throughout production don’t seem to have helped and may actually have weakened the film. It seems that the initial idea was to film the book [they even shot the interview scenes, though I’m glad they didn’t include those as they weakened the 2002 version], but then they decided more and more to refashion the film into a copy of the original movie. So what we have now just feels like a carbon copy, with many scenes that are almost identical, of the original film with a few bits from the book restored. Having a virtual scene-by-scene remake like this almost always harms the film in question because it constantly invites comparison with its predecessor, especially if said predecessor is the superior film. If you haven’t seen the original, then you can do far worse than see this version. It’s a good story, has some effective scenes, and some strong performances. However, for much of its length it feels less like a dark fairy tale and more like a twisted version of a superhero origin story, and I can’t be the only one who is thoroughly sick of those!
This version opens very strongly with Carrie’s birth and her mother Margaret grabbing a very large pair of scissors and coming very close to killing the poor child. Julianne Moore [who had the ignominy of also starring the horrible Psycho remake, and actually replaced Jodie Foster for this film just like she did in Hannibal]’s acting is very powerful and the lighting is good too, this and the scenes immediately after alerting one to the fact that, at the least, this isn’t going to be visually grotty like quite a few recent horror remakes [Platinum Dunes horror films in particular seem to share this look] seem to be. We then move on to an ‘invented’ [new to the book and films] scene of Carrie and her classmates in the school swimming pool which nicely establishes how isolated and badly treated she is, and then the obligatory shower scene, though being in the infuriatingly politically correct times we currently live in, we obviously can’t have lots of boobs on show any more. Still, when the worst of the bullies Chris records Carrie’s confused and anguished reaction to having her first period and having tampons thrown at her, and puts it on the internet, this version seems to have found a way to update the story and make it more believable and relevant for our times while keeping the gist of it.
However, this Carrie is so impatient about showing Carrie’s burgeoning powers that it sometimes feels like we are watching a remake of Matilda rather than Carrie, and there is no surprise when Carrie finally lets rip at the prom, though it’s nice to see Carrie lock her mother in the closet after suffering through three films of her being tormented by her! The tale’s power means that when Carrie goes to the prom and, for a short while, her unhappy life becomes happy, you’ll still probably feel a bit emotional, though in my case it may have been because I was thinking of the poignancy and heartbreaking romanticism of the original Carrie. Cinematographer Steve Yedlin even has the camera revolve around Carrie and Tommy during their dance, though only for a few seconds. Sadly there’s no real build-up to the tipping of the blood on Carrie – it just happens – and it’s painfully obvious that the scene has been CGI ‘enhanced’. Carrie’s rampage has more gore and gruesome deaths [though The Rage: Carrie 2 still has the monopoly on that], bu it leads to what looked to me like really clumsy evidence of studio-enforced reshooting. Carrie is massacring everyone, and one major character seems to be getting killed, but then we cut away, and soon after we get a badly shot scene where we see that almost everyone, including the person who seemed to be getting killed, seems to have escaped the prom and are being taken care of by the paramedics. After that….well, the town scene….it isn’t there! Yep, the scene more than hinted at in that great teaser has been cut out. I suppose we should be thankful that it wasn’t replaced by footage filmed on an obviously different film stock like the final third of World War Z. And final jump scare?….there isn’t one of those either, just a stupid, tacky final shot.
Kimberley Peirce’s film doesn’t exhibit as much style as De Palma’s, but it does look nice throughout, cinematographer Steve Yedlin doing a great job, especially during some gorgeous ‘magic hour’ lensing when Carrie ventures out to the prom with Tommy, and some great individual shots like multiple Carries reflected in a shattered mirror. A few choice bits from the book either not included in the 2002 movie or done badly [falling rocks! Pregnancy!] are included here, and at last we have a version of Carrie where most of the teenagers are played by actual teenagers, including Carrie herself. However, it soon becomes apparent that Chloë Grace Moretz, who is undoubtedly a good young actress, it not quite up to the part. She overdoes the character’s awkwardness with her looks and mannerisms, but also overdoes the telekinetic parts, looking like she’s practising Tai Chi with all her arm-waving rather than unleashing deadly powers. She also seems far too calculating, but then again, she’s not helped by a confused script that seems to suggest her ‘gift’ is a good thing. Julianne Moore is good as the mother throughout – she’s kind of the middle ground between the 1976 and 2002 portrayals, being mostly calm but liable to explode – but this version makes Carrie stronger than her for much of the time. It’s all very well having stronger, more ‘assertive’ females these days, but this approach just doesn’t work for every story.
The special effects aren’t always much good – a particularly bad example being the crappy blood dripping upwards from Carrie just after the pig’s blood is dropped on her – and the supporting characters aren’t very memorable this time round, though this version does go some way to correcting a problem with the original film – Sue’s sudden switch from Carrie’s enemy to Carrie’s friend. Marco Beltrami’s score provides some solid musical backing, though it lacks a memorable theme that could have helped in giving what is a very touching story some more emotion. What is it with all this ‘holding back’ with film scores of late? Anyway, this version of Carrie is just about good enough to hold its own, and is far superior to the shoddy 2002 film, but, to be honest, there’s little point to it, and considering how great the original film is, I don’t really know why they bothered. Saying that, I do have a sneaking suspicion though that a Director’s Cut or Extended Version, something for which a petition is already going around for, could improve this film quite considerably. Hopefully I’ll be reviewing that in time and giving it a far better write-up.
**Blu-Ray features** by Bat
The Blu-Ray features two versions of the film: one is the theatrical cut and the other is the theatrical cut with alternate ending. Watching both endings, it’s clear the alternate fits in better with the overall style and tone of the footage which precedes it, with the original coming off as rather weak in comparison.
Other extras include a handful of deleted and extended scenes, one of which is practical ripped from De Palma’s version. A collection of dailies show how the prom girl on flames stunt was shot, and we are treated to the coffee shop promotional stunt they did for Carrie upon theatrical release.
The director and cast discuss working on the movie in an insightful Creating Carrie featurette, which includes director Kimberly Peirce’s approach towards the film, creating a modern version of Stephen King’s story and the testing of gallons of different textures of blood for the infamous prom scene, and whether they believe in telekinesis in The Power of Telekinesis featurette.
Finally, the Blu-ray also features the theatrical trailer and optional Kimberly Peirce director’s commentary on the film and extended/deleted scenes.