Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #291
Number of Views: One
Release Date: October 18, 2013
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $84,790,678
Running Time: 99 minutes
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Producer: Kevin Misher
Screenplay: Lawrence D. Cohen, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Story: Stephen King
Special Effects: John MacGillivray, Patrick Baxter, Jérémy B. Caravita
Visual Effects: Dennis Berardi, Matt Kasmir
Cinematography: Steve Yedlin
Score: Marco Beltrami
Editing: Lee Percy
Studio: Misher Films
Distributors: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Screen Gems
Stars: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Portia Doubleday, Alex Russell, Gabriella Wilde, Ansel Elgort, Zoë Belkin, Karissa Strain, Katie Strain, Samantha Weinstein, Cynthia Preston, Jefferson Brown, Barry Shabaka Henley, Max Topplin, Connor Price, Demetrius Joyette, Mouna Traore, Phillip Nozuka, Kyle Mac, Tyler Rushton
Suggested Audio Candy
 Marco Beltrami “Driving Her Crazy”
 Cults “I Can Hardly Make You Mine”
Menstruation can be a bitch. Take poor Carrie White, one minute her main concern is the fact that the entire school consider her a freak and, the next, it’s raining Tampax. We all know by now how it plays out; historically all Carries have been required to “plug it up” but this is the first time the outcast has been played by an actual teenager. Chloë Grace Moretz was fifteen at the time of filming so was only allowed to work eight-hour stints. Director Kimberley Pierce actually stood in on a number of shots as Moretz was already past her curfew. Pierce had been handed the unenviable task of refurnishing Brian De Palma’s classic for a fresh audience and, given that her résumé included the critically acclaimed Boys Don’t Cry, the legacy appeared to be in safe hands. Regardless, she left nothing to chance, and sent Moretz to various homeless shelters to prepare by rubbing noses with those who themselves had suffered tough lives.
It is generally regarded as sacrilege to tamper with such a well-decorated piece of horror cinema folklore and Carrie is particularly troublesome as there’s precious little opportunity to operate outside of the box. If the pig’s entrails don’t plummet then folk will ask questions, thus it becomes an exercise in predictability for those of us without dementia. For that reason I was decidedly less chipper about this remake than I was about, say, Evil Dead. Instead it fell into the same ill-fated category as The Omen and Psycho as it was hard to muster a slither of enthusiasm for a film which would likely amount to little more than a shot-for-shot carbon copy. The knives were already sharpened and tampons in full swing before this even made it to theaters and thus I have left it until now to cast my eye over Pierce’s effort.
Moretz is a fascinating choice to play the socially malnourished adolescent of the title. Stephen King himself had already suggested Lindsay Lohan for the role on account of her bearing an uncanny resemblance to Sissy Spacek but, after already adding The Amityville Horror, The Eye and Let Me In remakes to her fast-growing résumé, the youngster beat off any competition. At primary introduction she just looks a little too pretty, a makeover just waiting to happen, although the more the film wears on, the easier it is to buy that she is who she claims and this is to her infinite credit. There’s enough awkwardness and wide-eyed wonderment to convince of her authenticity and, if Carrie fails, then blame certainly can’t be left on her doorstep.
As for Julianne Moore, when the hell has she ever been anything less than excellent? It’s not so much an inspired choice to cast her as dotty bible-bashing mother Margaret; more the only one that makes sense outside of Jodie Foster who was also under consideration. She brings it just as we would expect and the experience benefits from every moment she spends on-screen. Whether locking Carrie away in her penance cupboard or secretly carving her leg whilst holding down small town conversation, she conveys her character’s multiple facets effortlessly. This is perhaps where Pierce’s remake works best. She is still the religious zealot but far less hysterical and caricature as Piper Laurie who interpreted her role as faintly comedic and came across as Mrs Baylock’s equally batty niece. The result is a character who, despite her despicable acts towards her own flesh and blood, actually commands a little sympathy as she is genuinely torn between the strict teachings of the good book and her unconditional love for her daughter.
Despite wishing to be tarred with the straight remake brush, it does follow the template, occasionally to the letter. This involves the conflicted Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) and her boyfriend Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort) as the pair looking to make amends for the foul treatment of Carrie which Sue herself had a hand in; horrendously mean-spirited Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) who plots the prom punishment laid on in her honor and her even more deplorable insignificant other Billy Nolan (Alex Russell). If Moretz and Moore add credence then slack writing is the undoing of the tertiary teens and it is here that Pierce’s film loses much of its identity. It appears confused as to whether it should stand on its own two feet or adhere to the template and falls somewhere in-between during a second act short of anything momentous.
Judy Greer fares much better as gym teacher and Carrie’s sole confidant and protector, Ms. Desjardin. She digs her heels in commendably and her character oozes warmth and understanding for the hapless ugly duckling, whilst displaying admirable contempt for the girl’s tormentors and refusing to let them off the hook for what they have done. Being a modern-day translation, certain technological advancements allow for a little more social commentary on trolling and the like with video uploads heaping more misery of poor Carrie’s young shoulders but, in Desjardin, she has herself a staunch ally. Considering De Palma’s original is nearly forty years past its prom, there are numerous ways in which Pierce trumps it but all of her hard work and dedication would count for precious little if the final act didn’t come up to scratch. This is where the real meat and potatoes lay. We demand retribution you see.
As we hurtle toward the inevitable and the precariously placed bucket prepares to tip its contents over poor Carrie’s freshly crowned head, shit goes off the chain as you would expect and the full extent of her telekinesis is revealed in all its malicious glory. Clearly a $30m budget affords for extra bells and whistles and she brings the house down on her tormentors and fellow revelers alike with gay abandon but a little more meanness of spirit wouldn’t have gone amiss. However, Pierce does decide to stray from the trodden path as Carrie leaves prom and commences to hunt down those responsible for her public humiliation and the denouement is rather a nifty addition.
All things considered this is far from the travesty many were expecting. It isn’t an outright success either and suffers from not knowing whether to follow the template laid out by De Palma’s original or stray from the path. As a result it sits awkwardly in the middle ground, much like its protagonist, and fails to leave any real lasting impression. To expect more would be overly optimistic as you can teach a frog to sing baritone but it’s still gonna ribbit when your back is turned. It is what it is; no more, no less. However, should you not have had the exclusive pleasure of Carrie before, then it’s as good a place to start as any.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 2/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Pot-bellied pigs may find it all a little too much to take but, for the rest of us, it’s pretty much PG-13 for the most part. We do get the pleasure of watching Carrie find a new home for momma’s cutlery and, when our prom queen shows us the full extent of her menstrual cramps, the ensuing stampede gets a little messy but, for the most part, it’s not what you would call heavy-flow. My personal standout kill would have to be Tommy’s death by falling bucket. It was funny in 1976 and it’s just as amusing nearly forty years on. Actually what does that say about me?
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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