I’m “biast” (con): wondering why this movie needed to be remade
I have read the source material (and I like it)
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
The first question to ask is this: Why? Why remake a classic film from a 40-year-old novel? I wondered about that from the moment I first heard we were getting Carrie again… and particularly why director Kimberly Peirce (Stop-Loss) would be interested in this. And now that I’ve finally seen it, the thing I’m most struck by is the perversity of how a story from four decades back about religious misogyny and the necessity of the most basic form of feminism and the perniciousness of bullying still feels fresh and relevant. So maybe that’s the reason to do up Carrie again: to remind us that a story that should feel dated, that would feel dated in a better world in which our society had progressed, even just a little, still needs to be retold. I mean, religion that makes women hate and fear the natural functioning of their own bodies should not be a perennial theme (see also Philomena); it should be seen as something evilly quaint, medieval, even, not of the moment. Yet here we have teen Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz, proving she’s got more than Hit Girl in her), who suffers horrendous abuse at the hands of her Bible-fanatic mother (Julianne Moore [The Kids Are All Right], deeply scary), a woman so appalled by her own “weak” female body that she neglects to alert her daughter to basic biology. And so when Carrie’s first (late-to-start) period hits in the high school gym locker room and she thinks she’s dying, it’s the “perfect” prompt for the senior-year Mean Girls to taunt her. I haven’t read Stephen King’s novel nor seen Brian De Palma’s 1976 film in years, so I can’t recall if this has always been true (I suspect it has), but I love that here, the truly scary stuff isn’t the telekinesis that begins to manifest with the onset of Carrie’s puberty (all the better to take revenge with) but the cruel pettiness of teenagers and how awful parents can be toward children they profess to love. And yet, could there be a bit of hope here, too, at least as regards the alleged scariness of women’s bodies? For the middle-aged school principal cannot even bring himself to utter the words “period” or “tampon,” but the teenaged boys seem to have no trouble with them — or the concepts behind them — at all. Maybe if Carrie is reborn again in the 2040s, she’ll fit right in…
Carrie by Stephen King [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.]
This film works only if you believe Chloe Grace More is the least attractive chick onscreen.
This is on an ever-growing list of movies I’d like to see (no, literally: 824 at the moment, with latecomers American Splendor and the Friday the 13th remake having joined yesterday) but I don’t know if I ever will. The De Palma was film was wonderful, Sissy Spacek was wonderful, and this looks like a shot-for-shot remake. And, yes, along with the other commenter, I did find it less likely that someone that looks like Chloe as opposed to someone that looks like Sissy would face this level of abuse. Hunching her over and giving her nap hair doesn’t dispel that thought from my head. But, like I said, I haven’t seen it yet.
Well, it’s definitely better than the Friday the 13th remake but that’s not saying much. I wish I could say it was better than the De Palma original but it is not — and not because of Ms. Moretz.
Part of the problem is that the movie doesn’t have much to say about bullying that wasn’t said just as well in the original book and movie. Even author Stephen King showed more daring in his book On Writing when he wrote about his inspiration for Carrie and how in his youth, he actually sided with the type of people who picked on the real-life inspiration for Carrie White — not an easy thing for any person with a conscience to admit, and especially for a person who is generally seen as being as anti-bully as Stephen King usually is.
I get the feeling that the director wanted to make this film a better film than it turned to be, but the results just aren’t there on the screen. One of its few novelties was the use of camera phones as a means of bullying, a plot device which was already a cliche when Ugly Betty was still on the air, and at times the movie came dangerously close to blaming the victim.
Replacing the original’s nude shower room sequence with a more PG-friendly version seemed hypocritical, especially when contrasted with the need to replace the opening vollyball sequence with a water volleyball sequence in which all the participants wore tight bathing suits — and were filmed from behind. Not exactly a strong argument against objectification.
Ironlcally, the one truly novel plot twist in this movie seemed designed to appeal to the type of religious fundamentalists that the plot was supposedly making fun of. I suspect Ms. Pierce was under a lot of pressure from the corporate suits to make her movie appeal to all types of people but that last bit was just a tad ridiculous. Was it really that necessary to add a bit that would appeal most to a real-life version of Margaret White?
Really great post. This movie didn’t really hold a candle to the original but I still enjoyed it and your points are right on.
I agree. The scariest part of this film is ” the perniciousness of bullying.” and “the cruel pettiness of teenagers.” I wrote a short essay on Carrie called “The Temptation to Seek Revenge.” If you would like to read it, here is the link: https://21stcenturyfilms.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/carrie/