Many people are going to walk into Carrie ready to hate it. In fact, it was probably doomed to be hated by many right from the get-go. The newest version of Carrie is not just a horror movie, but a remake of one of the very few horror movies that is almost universally agreed to be excellent. The 1976 Brian De Palma version of Carrie is a masterpiece. A stylish, deftly paced, tension filled look at the consequences of high school cruelty. It strays from the original Stephen King novel which, lets face it, was shlocky and kind of dumb so that was clearly for the best. The newest remake of Carrie is not more faithful to the novel as some have said, instead it is a practically scene for scene retread of the De Palma film. Despite almost outright copying the original film, make no mistake, the new Carrie is just as awful as you imagined. A terribly written, ugly, poorly acted mess that not only completely misunderstands its source material, both the novel and the original film, but also completely fails on its own merits as any kind of stand alone film.
For the few of you who haven’t read the Stephen King novel or seen the De Palma film, though if you’ve seen the trailer for the new film then you know exactly how it goes, the story goes like this. Carrie White (in this version played by Chloe Grace Moretz) is a lonely high school student who is viciously bullied by her peers and suffers at home under the hand of her psychotic, obsessively god fearing mother Margaret (Julianne Moore). After an ordeal in the locker room where she gets her first period, Carrie discovers her latent telekinetic abilities. After a particularly cruel prank is pulled on her at her senior prom, Carrie snaps and uses her new-found powers to trap her fellow classmates and brutally murder each of them.
The thing about remakes is that generally they only work if the original film was not very good to begin with. There are a few exceptions to that rule, for example the Evil Dead remake that came out earlier this year, but remakes of already good films tend to suffer by comparison. Director Kimberly Pierce, however, clearly has a lot of love for Carrie and I was interested in seeing her substantial talent bring some unique energy to what sounded like just another horror remake slog. But for whatever reason, Carrie is every bit as routine and empty as you would expect from a typical Hollywood horror remake. The build up to the infamous prom scene was what held the De Palma film together but this remake rushes through all the main aspects of the story with abandon. The callous efficiency with which it passes by each plot point is clearly the films way of reaching the prom scene as effortlessly as possible. Here lies one of the major issues, aside from updating the prom climax with revamped effects, there is literally no reason to do a remake of Carrie, especially if you’re just going to blow through the story with no attempt to even put a different spin on the material.
Not only is the writing a total mess but Carrie also happens to be completely technically inept as well. In terms of visuals, this is an ugly film. It contains some of the worst looking special effects I’ve seen in a long time. Particularly the horrible gore effects and some egregiously obvious uses of green screen. If there was any possible tension to be had in the prom scene, though I doubt it’s possible considering just how boring the movie is, it would be undermined by just how fake it looks. The most hilariously bad effect comes when one of Carrie’s tormentors ends up with her face smashed through a car wind shield with big shards of glass in her face. Carrie desperately needed some energy but unfortunately the cookie cutter cinematography adds to the generic feel of the film, making the overall lifelessness of the proceedings even more apparent.
Another huge issue with them film is the casting and the performances. Chloe Grace Moretz is one of the better actors of our generation but she is horribly miscast here. Whether it is because she is unable turn off her natural charisma or just poor direction, this version of Carrie just does not work in the context of this movie. The film attempts to frame Carrie similarly to Sissy Spacek’s Carrie, an emotional wreck that has been beaten down and systematically degraded by her peers, but Moretz never acts in a way that is consistent with that characterization. Everything centered around Carrie in this film tells us that she is pathetic and freakish but physically she is almost indistinguishable from her tormentors and she is very clearly capable of taking care of herself. All of the issues surrounding her character are issues of tone and framing. The film’s climax is still framed as a harrowing and uncontrollable outburst of rage but Moretz plays it up like she is a of super hero enacting righteous vengeance.
The rest of the cast is weak but entirely forgettable, though the male lead (Ansel Elgort) is pretty damn bad. But this is a small problem in a film filled to the brim with giant ones. The one bright note, however, is Julianne Moore and Carrie’s insane, religious fanatic mother. She is quite good, though not particularly fantastic, and manages to bring a certain amount of creepiness to a horror film that is otherwise entirely devoid of any kind of horror. Though again when it comes to her character, there are big problems with the way the film frames her. Margaret White is still framed as the main antagonist of the film but this is undercut by the way the narrative clumsily attempts to make us feel sympathy for her due to her very out-of-place self-mutilation.
Aside from everything else wrong with it, the biggest issue with Carrie is how horribly boring the whole thing is. For me this makes it worse than something that is outright terrible like The Rage: Carrie 2 since at least that had some semblance of passion behind it. This is just nothing, a big narrative mess with wild tonal and framing problems. It’s a dead on arrival catastrophe and an enormous waste of time for us as the viewers and the anyone involved in its creation. Keep as far away from Carrie as possible.