It’s still not a good idea to mess with ‘Carrie’

It’s still not a good idea to mess with ‘Carrie’

By Karsten Burgstahler

Some stories only need to be told once. Studios often forget this when they churn out the latest horror remake. 2006’s “The Wicker Man” was actually more of a comedy than a horror remake. 2009’s “Friday the 13th” did not take the franchise anywhere new. 2011’s “The Thing” was flat out boring.

The remake train is now in the station of the patron saint of horror: Stephen King. Director Kimberly Peirce unleashed her new “Carrie” (Rated R; 100 Min.) upon horror hounds Friday, but instead of adding her own mark to the story, she is really just made cosmetic updates to the original. It is her cast that shines and elevates this remake.

The story is the same. Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz) is still an introverted teenager raised by her devout mother Margret (Julianne Moore). She still discovers her first period in the locker room. She still heads to the prom with jock Tommy (Ansel Elgort). And she still sees red when she accepts her crown. There is a lot Peirce could have done with the story. After all, she is best known for “Boys Don’t Cry,” starring Hillary Swank as a transgendered teenager in a role that won Swank an Oscar.


The original “Carrie” plays with the ideas of womanhood and the changes a girl’s body goes through during puberty, using Carrie’s telekinetic powers as a symbol for the massive changes her body is undergoing. Peirce could have made a statement about bullying and what it is like to grow up in our constantly connected society.

Instead, she shows reverence to the original and uses modern computer-generated imagery to make Carrie’s powers more frightening. There is nothing inherently wrong with appreciation for the 1976 flick; Brian De Palma’s film is considered a horror classic. But when the only major difference is how much more violent and intense the climactic prom scene has become, one has to question whether a remake was warranted.

Thankfully, the performances make up the slack. Moretz is a wonderful actress and continues to shine in otherwise dull movies. The real scene-stealer, however, is Moore as Margaret. She is completely unhinged and dives right in to the character. The scenes between Moretz and Moore are compelling. Elgort plays the dumb jock with ease; Sue Snell and Chris Hargensen (Gabriella Wilde and Portia Doubleday, respectively) are also serviceable in their roles. Doubleday does a great job of making the audience loathe Chris. These are the best high school characters I have seen in a long time.

For those who have seen the iconic original, a good majority of the film will simply be buildup for how Peirce stages the bloody finale. She does not disappoint, although some of it is overkill. After the finale though, the final scene of the movie is rushed. Peirce clearly did not want to tread on one of the most famous jump scenes of all time, so here she tries to put her own spin on things. It does not work.

Peirce also did not try to make the entire film a foreshadowing of the end simply because people know about it, another point in her column. She makes some subtle hints at what will happen, just like in the original, but there are no corny in-jokes.

“Carrie” really is a classic horror tale that could have been remade right. But if Peirce could not have brought an outsider’s perspective to horror in the 21st century, I am not sure who could. The remake does not feel like much more than a shadow of the original, and if it were not for the fantastic performances, the new “Carrie” would just be another strike against Hollywood. Margaret should thank God for Julianne Moore.