The second of 2013’s two big horror remakes that nobody demanded, Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Pierce’s Carrie ‘re-adaptation’ benefited from standing behind the cheerily confrontational Evil Dead reboot which caught the spotlight and twirled in it like a debutante coming out.
Face it, nothing says “Come at me, bro” quite like a poster saying “The most terrifying film you’ll ever experience.”
Some loved it, some hated it, but with Carrie, the braying donkey of consensus didn’t seemed particularly fussed either way, allowing it to quietly do pretty well outside of the typical horror demographic with a US audience 54 per cent female, and 56 per cent under the age of 25.
From the perspective of a YA-orientated mass-market fright flick perhaps Carrie holds up better than expected.
While the film’s cardboard cut out teen movie villains – scarcely an improvement on road-head John Travolta in Brain DePalma’s original 1976 shocker – provide perfect boo-hiss material for ticket-goers who’ve just graduated from Glee, telekinetic teen Carrie (a sublime Chloë Grace Moretz) and her icy mother Margaret (a terrifying Julianne Moore) serve up far meatier fare with their Old Testament family dynamic.
Its jaw-clenchingly graphic depiction of an abusive relationship, inflected with Christian fundamentalism ensures that no amount of “You gotta let me grow up, Moma” will ever allow you to squint and fully pretend Carrie is just another club-footed flick about the search for adolescent independence.
The tormenting of Carrie, which kicks off with a redux of the iconic shower scene, is similarly unflinching, and that’s where Pierce’s mission statement to ‘update’ the source material with social networking and smartphones really reaps dividends. The perpetrators may be so cartoonishly awful that they’re basically unbelievable, but the events are affectingly real that it elicits a tinge of sympathy – and perhaps even guilt.
If you can appreciate the context, then the first two thirds of Carrie are – for the most part – surprisingly smart and nuanced, but when the bucket drops and the set-piece kicks in, it indulges its audience with a naked revenge fantasy that lingers on those who have tormented our heroine, whilst leaving the blameless bruised but breathing.
We know our new Carrie White far too well. We’re given so many glimpses inside her head as she Googles ESP and attempts to reason with her increasingly maniacal mother that Sissy Spacek’s version of the character seems all the more alien, unknowable and even unlikable. Moretz can shuffle around awkwardly like a pro or go lithe and inhuman with the sheer elemental power of vengeance juice, but we never turn on her as we found ourselves turning on Spacek.
With DePalma’s Carrie, we’re witnesses to playground violence, unwilling to intervene as the popular kids humiliate the disengaged, shrieking weirdo scrabbling around on the wet tiles – allowing ourselves to chew over the idea that perhaps she deserved it. With Pierce’s Carrie, we’re in the character’s court from the outset, and when the (not very good CG) knives start flying and the psychic shockwave is flinging cars into gas stations we’re supposed to make our own telekinetic kill list.
This Carrie is a teen movie in a way that the original wasn’t, and while that perhaps makes its vision more ‘valid’ as a remake – it clearly has a place and a purpose – for every two steps it takes forward in the name of resonance, it takes another one backwards.