Remaking a movie is always a dicey proposition because you are forever wrestling with the legacy of the original. It can work, but for every “Ocean’s 11” there are 30 “Planet of the Apes.”
This brings us to “Carrie,” which came out in 1976 and is so iconic that you only have to say the words “pig’s blood” and everyone knows what movie you are talking about.
So why remake this (horror? Is it really a horror movie? I think it’s more of a revenge thriller with a supernatural edge. OK. Fine.) horror classic?
It is certainly and unfortunately still relevant. This was Stephen King’s first novel, and in a lot of ways, he eerily predicted the rash of school shootings that would follow in subsequent decades.
Now, with the rise of the internet, girls are being bullied and publicly humiliated to the point of suicide with just the click of a mouse. These reasons are just as good as any to justify a remake.
This version of “Carrie” leaves the original story pretty much intact. For those of you who have spent the past 35 years locked in a prayer closet, “Carrie” is the story of a socially outcast and sheltered high school girl who is picked on at school, and physically and psychologically tormented at home by her hyper-religious, domineering mother.
Carrie then discovers that she has telekinetic powers (the ability to move things with her mind), which become unleashed after an exceedingly cruel prank is pulled on her at the prom.
For the remake, a ton of talent was smartly thrown at the project. The movie is directed by Kimberly Peirce, a powerfully humanistic director best known for “Boys Don’t Cry.” Julianne Moore, who is awesome in everything, was cast as Carrie’s mother, Margaret, and, as expected, crushes it out of the park.
Carrie is played by Chloe Grace Moretz, who on paper is a great choice for the role. The “Kick-Ass” star is a gifted young actress and certainly has the chops to handle the part, but she’s just a little too polished to be an effective Carrie White.
The truth is, the original “Carrie” is way better than it probably should have been, and most of that credit goes to Sissy Spacek. To be sure, Piper Laurie was great as Carrie’s mother and director Brian De Palma threw every bit of his signature, crazy-kinetic energy into the movie, but “Carrie” stuck with us for all these years because of Spacek.
Not only is she one of the greatest actresses of her generation, but Spacek with her freckled face, wide eyes and waifish features doesn’t look like a movie star, but does look like a girl the world could easily kick around.
“Carrie” shocked us not because of the psychic powers and the carnage, but because this meek little girl kicked back with a vengeance. She was the mouse that roared.
Moretz has a natural confidence and beauty that just can’t be masked with tussled hair and drab clothes. Spacek stunned the audience almost as much as those kids in the high school gym with her transformation from doormat to bad-ass sorceress. When Moretz makes the switch we’re only thinking “it’s about time!”
“Carrie” is not a particularly terrible remake, but it does expose the flaws of the source material as opposed to rising above them the way the original did.
I’m never opposed to any movie that boasts the message that “bullying is bad,” but you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who captured the terror and the tragedy of the bullied better than Spacek did in 1976. Any attempt to replicate it is doomed to fall short.
“Carrie” is rated R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language, and some sexual content.