Opening in UK cinemas on Friday, Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie stars Chloë Grace Moretz as the socially outcast teenage girl who discovers she has telekinetic powers. Carrie leads a miserable existence, bullied both at school and home, until she’s asked to the prom by the boy of her dreams.
Unfortunately, her world soon spins out of control when she becomes the victim of a horrible prank which ends in catastrophic violence and pain for almost everyone involved. BEV scribe Sonia Zadurian gives her first impressions of this big budget remake…
The curse of every adaptation or remake is to be valued against its source material or previous incarnations. In the run-up to the release of a remake, choruses of angry fans of the former work can usually be heard casting aspersions on what they see as an unnecessary and ultimately doomed endeavour. Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie has the misfortune of being linked to both Stephen King’s 1974 novel and Brian De Palma’s classic horror (released in 1976). However, I was initially proud to be a dissenting voice in the cacophony of negativity. This remake of an inherently female story was to be directed by a woman and brought to the present day, where advances in technology have created an entirely new platform for hatred. These factors alone were enough to pique my interest.
Peirce’s 1999 feature debut Boys Don’t Cry centred on the real-life saga of Brandon Teena (Hilary Swank): a trans man who attempts to find love and happiness in small-town Nebraska. The film was phenomenally successful both critically and commercially, even garnering Swank an Academy Award for Best Actress. Despite this, it would be nine years before the release of the writer-director’s second feature, Stop-Loss, and another five years between that and Carrie. Peirce has made no secret of the fact that she dedicates a great deal of time to each film and chooses her projects very carefully. So why Carrie? And why now? I was sure that at the very least, Peirce would have a unique take on this material and that her version would make for a fascinating comparative tool, enabling the audience to glimpse societal changes through a genre microcosm.
The movie opens with a previously unseen event: a screaming Margaret White (Julianne Moore), all alone in the throes of childbirth. The audience are immediately made aware of Margaret’s sheltered existence, as she begs to be guided through her ‘hour of death’ only to be confronted with a baby Carrie instead. The scene also addresses the general pain and suffering that can arise from ignorance. A lack of both understanding and control over the female body are important factors in the character arcs of three key players in the story. Unfortunately, this is where the radical shifts from the original end as quickly as they began. With the exception of a few technological advances thrown into the mix, Peirce’s involvement does little to provide a fresh perspective on this classic tale.
While Moore is typically brilliant and succeeds in shedding extra light on a character played so formidably by Piper Laurie, Moretz’s performance missed the mark for me. It’s been suggested that Moretz’s physicality might be the biggest barrier to the success of her Carrie. She’s a conventionally good-looking Hollywood star who regularly graces magazine covers around the world, whereas Sissy Spacek had enjoyed just one leading role (in 1973’s Badlands) before she injected this character with the ethereal awkwardness that helped make the original picture such a hit. Was Carrie always going to be a casting bridge too far? We’ll let you decide.
Although it’s good to see Peirce back in the director’s chair, it’s a shame that she didn’t return with something smaller, more original and more personal.
Carrie goes on nationwide theatrical release from Friday November 29.