Why has Misher Films remade Carrie? They can’t have thought it would make money — Sunday afternoon of opening weekend it still needs more than $10 million to break even, even though it’s October and Carrie is the only real horror movie out right now.
The story follows Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz), a socially ostracized high school girl who is abused both by her classmates and her Bible-thumping psychopath of a mother (Julianne Moore). Over the course of the film, Carrie develops telekinetic powers, which she eventually uses to avenge herself after being doused in pig blood at her senior prom.
What? “Spoiler alert?” See, no, that isn’t a spoiler. For one thing, this story will be 40 years old in April, and for another, even if you didn’t know exactly how it ended, the commercials spell it out. For whatever reason, this film’s marketing made absolutely sure everyone will know how it ends.
So, everyone knows the ending, it’s not making much money despite being the only horror movie in October… why?
It wasn’t to make a good movie or express any kind of creativity. Misher Films is a small enough production company that it might have just wanted an art film, but this Carrie is a shot-for-shot remake of Brian De Palma’s 1976 classic. There are changes, but they all stand out in a bad way.
Even the faint glimmers of artistic merit that are present seem like accidents. The film opens with Carrie’s mother hemorrhaging vaginally and in immense pain, echoing the sequence in which Carrie has her first period and freaks out because she doesn’t know what it is. But this turns into a completely needless birth scene. The only purpose is to check off “ominous origin sequence” on the movie’s trope list.
Carrie seems to constantly have a menstrual cramp, which could be an interesting motif because of the same scene, but that’s probably just Moretz over-acting her character’s awkwardness.
There’s no artistic merit, everybody knows the story, it might make a few million dollars in the end but nothing significant… why?
Was it to put Carrie in a modern context? Because the mere presence of cell phones and a Tim Tebow reference doesn’t accomplish that. You could put cell phones in Shakespeare, but if it’s still in iambic pentameter you’re never going to surprise your audience.
Was it to make a higher quality movie? Because they did the exact opposite of that. The dialogue is atrocious, particularly between Carrie and her mother. Scenes that are supposed to be highly traumatic don’t have any teeth.
Director Kimberly Peirce has found a magical zone of remake badness. It’s a shot-for-shot reproduction, almost literally, of the 1976 version. But, somehow, the changes are all minor or cosmetic, but at the same time they make a huge difference for the worse.
The movie successfully adds in modern, annoying tropes, and that’s the only thing it does successfully. The intense awkwardness of the oddly-physically-mature high school kids is in full effect. Moretz and Ansel Elgort are the only main cast members under 24. It’s a little jarring when 25-year-olds who are probably just getting their start after years of modeling start building up to a threesome and then cut it off for a conversation about how much detention would suck.
There are better telekinesis effects, but in my own mind this actually works against the movie. Carrie is a story about the pain of being female and attempts to rebel against chastising peer groups, abusive parenting and an oppressive religious culture. All of those themes are understated in this version, but boy do those telekinesis effects look sharp!
Why? The only answer is to bring the horror classic into the modern era of filmmaking. That’s a bad thing, because this generation of horror movies is filled to the brim with laughably terrible films that have been manufactured to have the same aesthetic, the same basic story and the same absolute lack of artistic merit. Someday, maybe soon, something will break the industry out of its mire. Carrie isn’t that something.
Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a staff writer for the NT Daily. Why? FOR THE GLORY OF SATAN, OF COURSE! For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for. Be sure to come back next week for a review of The Counselor.