Movie Review: Carrie (2013)

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Seeing as there’s pretty much nothing to do in this town I live in, I decided to go out and check out the 2013 remake of Carrie, billed as less of a remake and more of a new adaptation of the original subject matter, the novel Carrie by Steven King, which admittedly despite my well-learned ways I never actually read.  I have, of course, seen the original 1976 film adaptation, although my mind has glossed over the fact the movie was once again remade in 2002.  Also the god-awful Carrie 2: The Rage in 1999 was so bad the movie in its entirety has been blocked from memory.  Really, what were the thinking with that one?

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It seems like a good time to re-imagine Carrie to be honest.  One of the subject matters of the original work was “bullying” and seeing as society seems obsessed with their anti-bullying initiatives it only makes sense that we would start seeing remakes of these types of films.  As soon as the previews for a new Carrie were released people began to groan in unison.  The problem with remakes in this era is there are so many of them (mostly bad to the point they are unwatchable; the 2012 remake of Total Recall comes to mind) that immediately people sour on them.  Of course every now and then you get proven wrong or the movie is at least bearable and passable enough in its own right to be decent.

Obviously this new version of Carrie is modernized:  cellular phones, YouTube, the works – all of which are weaponized these days by cruel school children.  This modernization works for a lot of remakes and re-tellings of stories.  The Bates Motel television series comes to mind for example.  It makes sense because the younger audiences are not familiar with the 1976 movie.  Try to get the younger generation to watch anything that came out before 1990 and they won’t.  I can’t fault them.  As a kid I didn’t give a damn about movies made in the ‘30s.  In that regard, remakes (excuse me, “re-tellings”) aren’t that bad.

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I think one of the biggest changes has to be the style of actress used to play Carrie White.  The original film had Sissy Spacek in the role and with all due respect to Ms. Spacek, she was a much more homely looking Carrie.  You look at Spacek as Carrie and you can see how someone like her would be teased.  That works well for the character of Carrie, who is supposed to be ugly, awkward and unappealing.  There is an obvious contrast between Spacek’s Carrie and the Carrie portrayed in 2013 by Chloe Grace-Moretz, (best known for her part as Hit Girl in both Kick-Ass and its sequel).  Moretz isn’t an ugly girl by any means and it’s the first thing that jumps out at you.  You look at Chloe as Carrie and you think “she’s a really pretty girl who just dresses funny.”  Spacek made her Carrie look way more busted up; it wasn’t just a pretty girl who wears potato-sack-style outfits.  Moretz is no slouch at acting and tried to portray Carrie as awkward as she could, but let’s face it – awkward doesn’t make you creepy anymore either.  If you want to see awkward just go on your nearest social networking website where awkward people with moderate to severe mental conditions can have 5000 Twitter Followers or Facebook friends.  Awkward people are becoming the new normal in the generation we live in and Moretz’s Carrie White is no more eccentric than the average person with computer access.  Of course White does not have any sort of nice new-fangled technology at her disposal due to the way she is raised by her psychotic mother Margaret. 

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Margaret is every bit as disturbing and creepy in the 2013 film as the original.  We get the reverse of what we get with Carrie here.  In the 1976 movie, Margaret wasn’t ugly; just an insane religious zealot (and those types always freak me out by the way).  You could actually see how she might be pretty if she didn’t have a screw loose.  Here in 2013, we have Academy-award nominee Julianne Moore, who in her older years looks rather unfortunate.  Add to that a lack of make-up, some frumpy clothing and Jesus-inspired dementia and we have ourselves a chilling character.  I still prefer the original in this regard as Piper Laurie just had this perfectly chilling delivery of lines such as “let us pray” and the ever-iconic “they’re all going to laugh at you!”  Moore, however, plays a modernized version of Margaret quite well, and the film does a good job showing many points in time where Margaret inflicts self-abuse to test the strength of her devotion to God.  There are some times where I found myself absolutely creeped out by Julianne Moore despite the fact I knew the general plot of the film already.  She’s probably not going to get nominated for any Academy awards with this one but to be fair it’s pretty fun.  Moore just happens to have that look that makes her creepy when reciting and interpreting the Bible and there’s even one scene you can’t help but chuckle at where Julianne Moore takes the term “Bible-Thumper” just a little too literally.

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It’s funny how much the concept of beauty has changed from 1976 to 2013.  Although many of the generic student body in both Carrie films is, well, generic – the main villains Chris and Billy, who were meant to be the “hip hot crowd” have really changed.  We went from Nancy Allen (who will always be Lois from Robocop to me) and the legendary John Travolta to two people who look like they’re trying too hard to dress like rejects from the Jersey Shore with a hint of Linsday Lohanism mixed in. 

 

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I will say that surprisingly this change works because who is really more hateable than the cast members of Jersey Shore?  Dumb white kids trying to look like them!  (Somewhat laughable because the most hated cast member of the show, Angelina Pivarnick, a former guest on Asked with Riv & Landin is the only cast member I actually agree with and enjoy).  But it’s also our standard for attraction.  Whereas once it was blonde and pale (which ironically Moretz who plays as Carrie is), it’s now tan skin and dark hair.  Adding to Chris and her lack of accountability we have a few scenes which show the entitled spoiled brat is able to get herself out of trouble constantly due to being rich and having a hot-shot attorney for a father.  

Overall the movie follows the plot of the books rather faithfully with a few minor modifications.  The story holds no surprises or twists as if you’ve encountered alternate incarnations of Carrie you know how this goes (except for the ridiculous 2002 version which altered the ending in hopes of becoming a full-fledged television series).  The order of events is slightly shuffled, and Carrie doesn’t have any telepathic powers but overall it’s everything you would expect from a film with this title, just a bit more modern.  Moretz might be “too pretty” to be Carrie White but as we get to the iconic scenes of bloodshed, murder and revenge, we suddenly see Moretz shine as this is familiar water for her following the Kick-Ass films and her Carrie rather than stare chillingly and blankly seems to enjoy every minute of unleashing her agony on her tormentors.    

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I really tried not to think of Hit Girl because I didn’t want to compare the roles and I wanted to let Moretz wow me as Carrie but if you’ve seen Kick-Ass (especially the second film where Mortez also gets a measure of payback on a group of high school mean girls) it’s pretty much impossible not to think about the parallels.  Despite the seriousness and severity of the bullying which takes place you actually cheer for the gruesome ways Carrie puts an end to these people; I think we’ve all wished we had powers to punish those who made us angry at times.  Hell I’ve wanted to burn people I disliked for a lot less severe reasons than “pig’s blood at the prom.”  Maybe it’s because Moretz actually plays “ugly duckling/beautiful swan” I sympathize with her more than I did Spacek’s Carrie who I thought “damn she’s ugly.”  You actually feel like Moretz’s Carrie has a chance to be normal, pretty and have a full life, so when that is yanked from her you really want those scumbag students to pay.  I will admit it’s a welcome contrast and Moretz seems to be in her element when she is eliminating anyone standing in front of her.  How sad is it little Chloe Grace-Moretz has a more convincing action film presence than a lot of the men in Hollywood today?  That’s what happens when we live in a world where we allow men to wear skinny jeans, people. 

 There are a few lines and moments that are meant to be serious that are met with laughter and I’m not sure if that’s because those moments in the film are actually cheesy or because most of us are desensitized (then again I used to laugh at scenes that weren’t meant to be funny in the ’76 edition of the film too so maybe I am just a depraved asshole).  Overall the 2013 rendition of Carrie may not exceed the classic film or the iconic novel, but it is a suitable enough re-telling to not bring shame to the name.  I recommend it especially for those who don’t mind a more modern slant on a classic tale.   If you really have nothing better to do and want to go to a movie, you could do a lot worse than this film so be sure to check it out.