The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Carrie | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Carrie

Latest adaptation of the Stephen King novel.

Directed by: Kimberly Peirce
Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Judy Greer, Ansel Elgort

Socially awkward teen Carrie White (Moretz) is showering after gym class when she experiences her first period, causing her to panic in the belief she is dying. Her classmates mock her and one, Chris Hargensen (Doubleday), films the incident on her phone, later uploading the footage to YouTube. This leads the school to take action against Chris, banning her from attending the upcoming school prom. Racked with guilt for her part in the humiliation of Carrie, Sue Snell (Wilde) asks her boyfriend, popular jock Tommy Ross (Elgort), to take Carrie to the prom in her place. Tommy reluctantly agrees and, after her initial suspicion, Carrie accepts his offer, much to the displeasure of her religious zealot mother (Moore). Meanwhile, Carrie has discovered that she possesses telekinetic powers, which she learns to harness but struggles to control when fueled by rage.
This is the latest of what now makes four adaptations of Stephen King's debut novel. The most revered of course is Brian de Palma's 1976 movie, a film I've always felt was at best an exercise in style over substance, though notable for outstanding performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, a creepy Pino Donaggio score and a tour de force grand guignol climax. 1999 gave us Katt Shea's 'The Rage: Carrie 2', which, despite its sequel billing, was essentially a remake of de Palma's film. It's a by the numbers movie but Shea's female perspective elevates it somewhat above most late nineties horror fare. David Carson's 2002 TV movie is better than you might expect and benefits from the casting of Angela Bettis as Carrie and Patricia Clarkson as her zealous mother. The material to date has resulted in three movies that are all decent in their own ways and now this awful misjudged latest version.
Kimberly Peirce (director of 'Boys Don't Cry') was presumably chosen to add a female touch to what is very much a female story but there's nothing in the film to reflect this perspective. Her take is incredibly bland and seems intent on cashing in on the recent superhero trend. This 'Carrie' plays out like a superhero origin story with numerous scenes showing the title character excitedly developing her powers. I half expected her to design her own costume and when she finally undertakes her climactic rampage she behaves like The Hulk, causing earthquakes by stamping her feet. We saw pretty much the exact same story, albeit from a male perspective, in last year's found footage flick 'Chronicle'.
Ultimately it's the casting that really sinks Peirce's film. We've become used to seeing twentysomething performers posing as high school kids in horror movies so the casting of Moretz (15 at the time of filming) seemed commendable. But why cast a 15 year old as Carrie only to then fill the roles of her classmates with actors almost a decade her senior? (Wilde is 24, Doubleday 25 and Elgort 19.) I'm not familiar with the intricacies of US high schools but presumably senior year students would be at least 17, making Moretz far too young for the role. The youthful actress looks closer to 13 than 17, making her relationship with her classmates seem completely bizarre and in the case of her prom date, downright creepy.
Physically, Moretz is wrong for the role. While facially she may look like a child, she's quite a tall girl and with her broad shoulders it's impossible to believe she could be physically threatened by Moore, an actress she towers over. Moore comes off as more of a pathetic figure than a scary one and the extra scenes involving her character are pointless, adding nothing to the story.
King's book and de Palma's film were attacks on the cruelty mainstream America can often inflict on those it sees as "outsiders" but this film seems intent on avoiding any antagonizing or insulting of middle America. Moretz looks like a head cheerleader rather than any kind of social misfit but it's the casting of the uber-WASPish Wilde (a descendant of Britain's King Charles II no less) as the presumably Jewish character Susan Snell that really sticks out, removing the subtext made so explicit by the very Jewish Amy Irving's casting in the same role in de Palma's version. Not wanting to insult Christians, it's now implied that Carrie's mother is misquoting the Bible, her daughter answering her back with the correct passages. Peirce seems more intent on selling her film to middle America than upsetting it. 
The film seems equally confused about how to implement modern technology. At one point Snell receives a text message from Chris, implying her evil plans for Carrie. Rather than simply making a phone call to avert the crisis, Snell hops in her car and drives all the way across town to the prom. Likewise, Carrie is able to make it all the way home and take a bath without as much as one police car arriving on the scene.
Despite its seventies origins, this is a timeless tale and could easily have become a social commentary on today's youth but nobody involved seems interested in anything more than delivering a bland retelling of a now all too familiar story. A final revelation that leads nowhere suggests a darker ending that may have been ultimately considered too unpalatable for audiences.

Eric Hillis