Another headstone in the gravesite of misbegotten horror remakes before it, this take on Carrie hearkens back to the old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If you have a decent memory of Brian De Palma’s original 1976 version of the Stephen King novel, then most of Kimberly Peirce’s remake of the film has already been spoiled for you, beyond of course a few casting decisions and a Final Destination-esque finale.Peirce’s Carrie follows De Palma’s with little interest in diversion: Birthed reluctantly by a nutso religious mother (Julianne Moore) who collects religious iconography and cuts on her body instead of cats, the repressed young Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz) begins her transition to womanhood in the already uncomfortable environment of a school locker room. Horrified and uninformed about the natural changes in her body, she becomes a laughing stock and tampon target when she screams for help after she finds she is bleeding; she is in particular teased by crazy daddy’s girl Chris (Portia Doubleday) and her friend Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde).The bullying leads to a rift between the two gal pals, as Chris’ unapologetic mindset towards her behavior earns her a suspension, and Sue’s sorrowful realization has her sacrificing her prom night with boyfriend Tommy Ross so that Carrie can have him as a date. Meanwhile, Carrie becomes progressively more aware of the strange telekinetic powers that she is gifted with, which includes the potential to manipulate people and various objects.Once the magical night arrives, Carrie breaks out of her homely shell with Tommy Ross by her side, but Chris seeks to ruin Carrie’s moment by pouring a bucket of pig’s blood on her. When such happens, all of Hell certainly breaks loose, within a gymnasium nonetheless.Moretz, who must have been cast immediately to bring her Hit-Girl aura to this redo, provides a minor take on the title character. What she lacks most of all is the distinct look brought originally by Sissy Spacek, who experiences a much larger transformation in the film (which is what makes her descent into hellish madness all the more tragic). Especially when Moretz gets to prom, it becomes too glaring that the filmmakers didn’t want to pick someone with the same thoroughly alienated presence that Spacek radiated with toxicity. Here, she plays yet another laughable version of the Hollywood movie loner—frazzled hair, hunched shoulders and dorky “crazy mom” fashion wear—who resumes her status as a magazine cover subject the moment she puts on a dress and curls her hair. This remake is less Carrie and more She’s All That with a downer ending. Such a small change in physical appearance makes for evidence of Moretz’s acting, as the rising actress fails to get into a groove with necessary neuroses. Yes, we’ve seen her play with blood packets before, but her line delivery has an unnatural shakiness when she doesn’t have hell-breaking-loose freak-outs to fall back on. In the end, one could say that Moretz’s best scenes as Carrie involve her interactions with her mother, which still don’t hold a single holy candle to those of Spacek opposite Piper Laurie.Aside from Moretz, other parts are cast with a bit more sharpness. Julianne Moore shows the fading tragedy of a religious extremist lost in her own interpretation of the Bible. While she doesn’t have many new scenes to work with, the electric thespian is able to make her part stand; she can provide the sadism this movie lists as priority.Perhaps its best cast actress is Judy Greer, playing the supportive gym teacher Ms. Desjardin, who is a positive surrogate mother for Carrie. Greer has that sweetness necessary for such a character, but also the questionable idea of toughness. Like Betty Buckley’s Miss Collins, she proves only more powerful than her students because of the authority given to her by her job. Without a whistle, and at the same age, perhaps she too would experience the same type of bullying from classmates.As for such classmates, Portia Doubleday’s head bully Chris, who takes the destruction of Carrie White beyond the goal of embarrassment and to the point of sociopathy, does well here. Her hair dyed Lohan-black, she shows with little stutter the ruthless brattiness of such a character.
The richness found within De Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s tale of high school bitchcraft is still recognizable, even if director Peirce does her version of Carrie without budging once to entertain with the same ballsy attitude (De Palma’s opening shot of Carrie is miles ahead, and more wild and striking than anything on display here). And for viewers of a certain age, a chord or two this remake might strike, especially with its more extreme take on bullying. For those who saw Kick-Ass 2 this past August, the Mean Girls violence of Carrie 2013 goes to a sadistic level far beyond the childish “puke stick” utilized by Moretz’s Hit-Girl. But as someone very familiar with De Palma’s film, this remake is an obnoxious echo of what has already been said; a reminder of the same intriguing ideas of maturity, social exposure, other-ness, etc., that still works decades after 1976.Keeping with the mental spirit of Moretz’s previous horror remake, Let Me In, which simply translated Let the Right One In into English and endowed it with a memorable long-take, Carrie is one of those modernized rewinds made for viewers whose film attention span extends no more beyond a Redbox library. At least when Rod Lurie remade Straw Dogs in 2011, his film could exist as an extremely over-thought request to Netflix, begging that the much stronger Sam Peckinpah original become available for rental. But here, updating comes with minor details – throwing in a Tim Tebow reference here, and a cell phone over there; water volleyball instead of regular volleyball, etc. Peirce makes the backstory more obvious with a couple of added scenes (such as Carrie’s birth, which later has its presence nullified by dialogue about the same event), but her contribution to updating this story is but the difference between a zig and a zag. Carrie White deserves better than this. Den of Geek Rating: 1.5 out of 5 Stars