Review: 'Carrie' (2013)

To answer your first question, Kimberly Peirce’s update of Brian De Palma’s “Carrie” is a fairly faithful remake of that film rather than a particularly distinctive re-adaptation of Stephen King’s original novel. However, among its few changes is an added prologue that sees bastard child Carrie nearly killed at birth by an ashamed Margaret White (Julianne Moore). Margaret spares her life, though, and as we work our way to a familiar grave, it’s firmly established that the eponymous telekinetic teen was damned since the day she was born.

We then join Carrie (Chloë Grace Moretz) as she meekly endures her senior year of high school, making a scene in the gym showers when her panicked response to her first period earns the mockery of peers now armed with camera phones. One classmate, Sue (Gabriella Wilde), regrets her part in the matter and insists that hunky boyfriend Tommy (Ansel Elgort) take Carrie to prom instead, while another, Chris (Portia Doubleday), resents gym teacher Ms. Desjardin (Judy Greer) and Carrie by extension for her actions incurring actual administrative consequences. While one plots her redemption, another plans her revenge, although Carrie wouldn’t know it, consumed with fending off her mother’s domineering ways and testing the limits of her newfound psychic powers.

It’s fair to assume that anyone reading this knows that these characters are due for a fiery reckoning at and after the big school dance, and in keeping with a pronounced emphasis on special effects along the way, the third act is orchestrated with a “Final Destination”-like glee for teen-targeted torment rather than the cathartic blend of madness and sadness that made De Palma’s take on the material so iconic. In a misguided bid for modern appeal, everything besides the shower scene has been wrought in a bloodier -- though not necessarily bolder -- fashion. Little of the carnage calls to mind Peirce’s last two films, “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Stop-Loss” (a.k.a. “Soldier Boys Don’t Cry”), and what’s more frustrating is that little of what precedes the climax does either.

When Carrie is nearly caught playing with her powers in her bedroom, it’s a coy, familiar metaphor for pubescent antics skewed by Margaret’s impulsive need to wield a knife as she makes her way upstairs. Despite Moore’s relatively internalized zealotry, Peirce often treats her as a hallway-haunting boogeyman who emerges from a suggestive mid-door split in a desperate effort to save her daughter’s soul, but who merely mutters scripture to her neighbors rather than thumping Bibles at their very doorstep. Moretz delivers a viably anguished performance as one might have come to expect from the young actress. Though not as supposedly homely as Sissy Spacek seemed to be, she navigates the everyday fear, tentative promise and eventual fury of the part well.

For all the high-flying antics to come, Moretz’ most powerful moment comes when she delivers a withering glance unto her mother while voicing long-dormant concerns about “not becoming a whole person.” Alas, despite the timeless concerns of adolescent bullying and burgeoning sexuality, “Carrie” as a film fails to become its own satisfyingly whole interpretation of coming-of-age horrors both literal and figurative. Its bloodshed may be all dressed up, but it ultimately has nowhere to go.

SCORE: 5.8 / 10