★★ / ★★★★
Carrie (Chloë Grace Moretz), having been homeschooled until her deeply religious mother (Julianne Moore) was forced to send her to school, gets the shock of her life when she notices blood coming out of her while showering in the girls’ locker room. In total fear that she is dying, she screams for help but instead of her peers trying to help her out, they laugh at her confusion. Chris (Portia Doubleday) even goes as far as to record the incident and posts it online for the rest of the school to see. Carrie becomes a laughingstock. Chris gets suspended and is out for blood.
Is Kimberly Peirce’s remake of Brian De Palma’s “Carrie,” based on the novel by Stephen King, a necessary one? No, it is not. However, it does not mean it is without anything worthwhile or entertaining to offer, from a pair of characters with surprising human elements to them to gruesome deaths that left my mouth agape.
Despite special and visual effects being allowed to run amok, Gabrielle Wilde and Ansel Elgort, playing a popular high school couple who grow to care about Carrie, steal the show. There is a humanity to Sue and Tommy that not even the title character possesses. Because Sue feels guilty for contributing to Carrie’s misery, she convinces Tommy to ask the shy girl to the prom. Though Tommy insists on taking his girlfriend, taking Carrie is not a chore because he knows—and we know he knows—that his alternative date is a person of substance. If this had been a straight-faced high school drama, I would have been equally engaged—perhaps more so. I like it when teenagers who happen to be popular in high school are given some depth; it is too easy to put a target on their backs. The paranormal aspect, in some ways, functions as a distraction.
Floating books, levitating beds, and other psychokinetic displays are a bit overdone. This comes at a cost. For instance, during the first scene, Carrie’s powers are already front and center: objects moving by themselves, lights flickering when the girl gets upset. The story is set during modern times. Are we really supposed to believe that no one is able to put two and two together? That is, that Carrie has special abilities?
This piece is critical because Carrie is supposed to be an outcast. However, if I had seen someone moving objects using his or her mind, I would want to be his or her friend. In other words, the picture, despite being connected to paranormal phenomena, lacks logic. Therefore, it might have been better off having Carrie’s powers start off in subtle way and then a gradual escalation until the famous prom scene.
The final twenty minutes had me engaged. I found it amusing that even though I knew what to expect, I remained excited to see certain people getting their comeuppance. Still, though Moretz does a good job portraying loneliness and fear, she never achieves the necessary level of menace to make a real fearsome character. What makes Sissy Spacek such a great Carrie in the 1976 version is that we completely buy her as someone who is vulnerable but slightly dangerous, perhaps even off-kilter. The gap in performance is so vast that it is like comparing a flustered kitten to a lioness.
“Carrie,” based on the screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, is light entertainment if nothing else is playing or if one is doing chores around the house. There is a sweetness to what Carrie and Tommy come to share but nothing else is especially noteworthy.