Carrie (2013) Remake Review

Flay Otters

Carrie Fan Made PosterI’m going to go on faith that a good many of you are well familiar with the original De Palma film from 1976 and the place it holds in horror history. Sissy Spacek is so perfect in that role that it is near-impossible to picture anyone else playing Carrie White. So it was with some reservation that one ventures into the theatre to see a new telling of this classic story with new WB-faced actors, modern technologies (smart phones, the internet etc) and a very different style director helming the film. I am absolutely not one of those people that decries every remake (unless you’re talking about the Night Of the Demons remake, in which case I’ll decry that all damned day) and I feel like the best course of action is to try to come in with as little expectation as possible. Not an easy feat, that. I know.

So what do you get from this film once you’ve made peace with your reservations, frustrations about remakes and tried to not obsess about your expectations? A pretty decent, sometimes great, sometimes frustrating retelling of Carrie White’s story crafted with care for the audience and care for the core meaning of the story.

Because when it all comes down to it, Carrie is really about abuse in multiple forms. Abuse and bullying from peers, abuse from a cruel and thoughtless mother and abuse from a tattered and useless security net of a school system. Carrie isn’t only about the central character and her telekinetic powers as much as it is about the ugly and sad result of layer upon layer of abuse heaped on her. There are no innocent bystanders in Stephen King’s story and director Kimberly Peirce seems to understand that concept in her version. The execution of that understanding, though, is sometimes choppy and frustrating and doesn’t pay off in a devastating way for the people it should devastate. It is as if they are led to that edge but wander alongside it versus toppling over. If you don’t sense that they feel that punch of guilt in the stomach, the sense of fault, then even dying doesn’t really resonate in some cases.

That said, there is a more intimate nature to Carrie’s innocence falling apart in this film that is handled in a measured way. She doesn’t go from zero to sixty in the snap of a finger and by the time we get to the fateful prom, we understand the depth of isolation she has tried to crawl out from. The human drama of that path is executed in small, seemingly insignificant scenes that really draw you into her as a human character and not only as a monster in waiting. A sincere compliment about her dress at the prom, the disarming way in which the dream-boat boy courts her, things like that. If all you’re trying to do is barrel towards the big payoff, these little human moments don’t matter so I was glad to see them as part of the story.

However, one of most frustrating things about the film is the way in which these well crafted scenes and humanity are interrupted by repetitive throw-ins as she discovers the depth of her powers. There are only so many times you can see her testing the limits and/or playing with her surroundings before it doesn’t elicit much of a response from the viewer. On the one hand, it was smart to show her trying to gain an understanding of what she can do and taking some degree of pleasure in it but it also didn’t have to be done over and over. Further, the parallel between Carrie owning her supernatural abilities and Carrie as a girl owning her transition to becoming a woman could have been more natural and less gimmicky and would’ve resonated a lot more. It doesn’t take a genius to draw that line between the two things and I really wished the film didn’t muddle those realizations and that humanity with one more ‘moving stuff with your mind’ scene done more for awe that substantive discourse.

This starts to really become an issue as we head toward the bloody final act. You want to be afraid of her and be afraid for her but that only comes when you feel like it is all happening naturally. The near-constant interjection of her using her powers in pretty meaningless ways is not unlike Samantha on Bewitched. It’s cute, not scary. It robs weight from what we know or what we sense (if you don’t know the original story) is going to happen. Cut those scenes in half (or more) and the boiling over at prom gets a bigger impact. Because while a lot of that fateful prom sequence is pretty grisly, you never get totally lost in it because you’re reminded pretty regularly that computers are doing a lot of the work. This is a damned shame because you can drag a lot more out of the audience by not showing this card in obvious ways. In this version of Carrie’s prom, however, that suspension of disbelief doesn’t ever kick into high gear and I blame the shimmery distraction of misplaced CGI for that fault.

I give a lot of credit to director Kimberly Peirce for getting solid performances out of Chloë Grace Moretz as Carrie, Julianne Moore as her crazed mother Margaret, Ansel Elgort as heart-throb Tommy and Judy Greer as gym teacher Ms. Desjardin. These four really carry their respective branches of the film and each get their own intimate moments to shine. One scene with Moore as Margaret, for example, in the dry cleaner where she works made me squirm like crazy and wouldn’t have meant much had it been rushed or handled any other way.

I guess what I’m getting down to is that the film isn’t going to make you forget the original but it isn’t going to make you angry for existing either. There are some solid bits of drama and horror at work in the film that exist only for the unique way in which the director views the story and handles her actors. But for all those good parts, there are a lot of issues with the connective tissue of the film that make it a stop and start affair when the viewers nerves and heart demand more fluidity. You don’t get lost in the 2013 version of Carrie as much as you wait for it to gain its footing back from scenes of wasted opportunity brought on by too much reliance of CGI and not enough trusting the audience to fill in the gaps if they aren’t shown everything all at once.

3 / 5 stars     


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      1. Marc Tom Stieber October 18, 2013 at 2:28 pm

        Brian De Palma’s movie will always be the very best…

      2. Bj Sizemore October 18, 2013 at 2:48 pm

        Excellent. Looking forward to this, glad it doesn’t disappoint.

        • Ronald Schettino
          Ronald Schettino October 18, 2013 at 5:05 pm

          Just another Hollywood rehash, both slavishly devoted to DePalma’s original, and lacking any of that film’s style. Watch the older movie or read the book instead.

        • Bj Sizemore
          Bj Sizemore October 18, 2013 at 5:06 pm

          I’ve done both before and own both. Just looking forward to it.

      3. Bob Mikkelsen October 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm

        The reviews are in, the movie is boring and sluggish. The acting of morentz and Moore are terrible.

      4. Dave October 18, 2013 at 3:28 pm

        Yeah sorry but I’m going to pass big time on this movie. Most of the reviews coming in now say the story isn’t worth seeing again. A rehash of the original film. You would think if they were going the remake route they could at least maybe change things up by following the book more closely. At least it would have got more interest.

      5. Bob Mikkelsen October 18, 2013 at 3:29 pm

        Moore gives the worst performance of her life, and morentz can’t even figure out how to play the part, shifting back and forth. Its dreadful.

      6. Loucifer Rusconi October 18, 2013 at 5:11 pm

        Good review. I will pass.

      7. Tiago October 18, 2013 at 5:16 pm

        Very good review, thanks a lot for it.
        I really have doubts about Moretz playing Carrie, because as you said, she is cute.
        Sissy was a werid looking girl, but somehow pretty, and that worked perfect. Not to mention her performance, we all agree that was awesome.
        I don’t think this going to be another Curse of Chucky, and really, really surprise me.

      8. Aaron Whitsell October 18, 2013 at 5:38 pm


      9. Sean O'Donnell October 18, 2013 at 6:23 pm

        Depalma’s Carrie has been on a lot lately. The film is so dated its painful. from the hiked up tube socks to the absolutely unlistenable soundtrack. Travolta and Allen make a solid comedy duo though. Pig blood should have been replaced with the brown stuff.

      10. Sean O'Donnell October 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm

        Oh i am going to see the remake, not because i feel the need to see a film with no need for improvement, but its a tradition this time of year. And their is nothing else playing. captain Phillips, Gravity…no thanks!

      11. Lauren Lacey October 18, 2013 at 11:40 pm

        I absolutely LOVE this movie. I do not care what anyone else has to say, I believe it’s great. I’ve seen the original and I’ve read the book, but this movie caught my attention. Great movie. 8.9/10

      12. Carrie Esau October 19, 2013 at 12:14 am

        Sissy, the one and only CARRIE

      13. rik October 19, 2013 at 2:33 pm

        that’s like saying psycho needs an update because it’s black and white!!! a classic is a classic for a reason, not when it was made. there wouldn’t be a remake if the original didn’t leave a permanent mark on cinema history. One day the movies you love will be considered old and need a remake, and you will understand they are not getting the point of the story, they can’t get into it because of ( Tube socks).

      14. Keith Weakley October 19, 2013 at 10:11 pm

        another stupid remake.

      15. david October 24, 2013 at 3:27 am

        Its not a remake, its a movie based on the book, not on the movie. It should be viewed on its own merits. Both films are very good and bring both something different to the screen. I liked it. Cheers.

      16. bblgmpink October 28, 2013 at 7:19 am

        i liked it. i love SK and his stories and lots of movies based on his stories. i am a creature of habit and often times dislike change. i was pleasantly surprised with this movie. there were several parts that were pretty shitty ….like the cg shit mostly…but I enjoyed it. i was concerned for how pretty Carrie was going to be…but I think that the actress who portrayed her did a decent job of being completely awkward and irritating . . . but it never kept me from rooting for her. i hated and loved her…and when she learned the true power of her gift and the prom went to hell…….I enjoyed it.

      17. Jordan June 30, 2014 at 12:48 am

        Having read the original screenplay by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, I can safely say that the original script didn’t follow the same structure as the 1976 film. I will admit there were a few homages here and there, but it was a whole new take on the story. Before the film was delayed in January 2013, there was a lot of positive feedback from those who attended the first test screenings in December 2012. A number of people confirmed that the original cut was longer and a lot different than the theatrical cut. I remember watching a video on YouTube where two guys reviewed the film (without giving away spoilers) based on what they saw at the test screenings. They confirmed that the film was a lot different to Brian De Palma’s film and was more closer to the Stephen King novel. I personally believe that the studios interfered with the editing of the film. The theatrical cut wasn’t what Kimberly Peirce wanted to release in theatres. It’s like they re-cut the film and gave us a remake of Brian De Palma’s film. I knew it wasn’t Kimberly’s voice in the movie — it was the studios.

        A friend of mine, who is a filmmaker, gave their two cents as to what might have happened…

        The original cut was all ready to go in March, then the studios looked at the release date and thought they could make more money on “Carrie” during the Halloween season. So they demanded re-shoots and multiple re-edits to make it more Horror. It would explain why Lawrence D. Cohen (the writer of the 1976 film) was credited after the film was delayed — they re-shot a lot of scenes from the 1976 screenplay. The downside to the re-shoots and multiple re-edits is that a lot of scenes would have to be dropped or trimmed to fit the required running time by the studios. The shorter the film, the more viewing sessions the film has.

        Based on fan speculation, test audience feedback, and certain confirmed details concerning the film — the deleted and/or extended scenes include:

        -The original opening was a flashback of Carrie as a little girl spying through a fence on a female neighbor who is sunbathing. The young woman notices Carrie and starts to make conversation with her. Carrie tells her that she can see her “dirty pillows” and the neighbor explains to her that it is normal for women to develop breasts when they get older. That’s when Margaret White appears and snatches up Carrie, screaming and yelling at the neighbor. She calls the young lady a whore, telling her to stay away from her child, and Carrie gets upset and begins to cry. Suddenly, it starts hailing. Pellets of ice come down on top of Carrie’s home while Margaret runs into the house trying to console her daughter. The neighbor just stares in disbelief as the hail rains down on the White residence, and only the White residence.

        -The White Commission [The film had integrated several courtroom scenes with witnesses giving testimonies of their experiences with Carrie White leading to the prom incident, essentially structuring the film as a series of flashbacks and recollections. The neighbor from the alternate opening scene is shown at first, now an adult woman, recounting her experience. There is also a scene featuring a TK Specialist discussing telekinesis and saying something to the effect of Carrie being one of many people who may be born with this genetic anomaly. It’s been said that the White Commission scenes revealed too many prom survivors which the filmmaker’s felt spoiled the climax]

        -There was ‘found footage’ that played a role in the film. That’s why you see Freddy ‘Beak’ Holt carrying his camera around and filming everything.

        -There were scenes detailing more in depth character development.

        -There were scenes involving school life, social media and bullying.

        -There were scenes involving Facebook, the e-mail sent from Chris to Donna Kellogg. “So I’m out of prom and my [censored] father says he won’t give them what they deserve.”

        -”Wipe that smile off your face.” – Chris to Carrie at the pool.

        -The locker room scene [Extended] – Chris turning the cell-phone toward herself and the mean girls.

        -Chris and Tina kiss [Extended]

        -Tommy and Sue’s backseat sex scene [Extended]

        -Billy’s wild ride [The “blowjob scene” – similar to the 1976 version]

        -An interaction between Chris and Carrie outside the dress shop.

        -The confrontation between Sue and the mean girls.

        -Carrie levitates Margaret [Extended]

        -Drive to the pig farm [Extended]

        -After Tommy leaves the table to get some drinks, Carrie and Miss Desjardin have a friendly and meaningful conversation.

        -Carrie and Tommy kiss.

        -Billy kisses Chris.

        -Margaret claws her way out of the closet and goes over to the sink where she retrieves a butcher knife and cuts herself.

        -Sue tries to call Tommy from outside the school to warn him that something bad is about to happen. He rejects the call.

        -The prom scene as a whole, which was said to be longer and more violent than the theatrical version.

        -Tina on fire [Extended]

        -A scene or shot which reveals George Dawson’s and his girlfriend’s fate.

        -There were some really creepy stuff that was unfortunately cut during post-production, like some “dancing” dead students. My source is not completely certain about this detail or its placement within the film. But it was either in a deleted scene where Carrie snaps the limbs of prom-goers or during the electrocution scene which was supposed to be more graphic and longer. In the novel, it was described as a “crazy puppet dance”.

        -The scene of Carrie levitating outside of the burning school was actually re-shot. In the original version of that scene, Carrie was standing on the centre of the lawn, waiting for the remaining surviving students to come out of the burning school before killing them one by one with her telekinetic powers.

        -After Carrie leaves the school, she begins to destroy part of the town by causing explosions and bringing down power lines as she follows Billy and Chris. You can see the first few seconds of the town destruction from the aerial view. If you look closely behind Carrie, you can see that several cars are in flames.

        -When Sue is outside the school with Miss Desjardin, she sees Tommy’s body being carried out on a stretcher. Miss Desjardin tells Sue that she’s sorry and Sue walks away with determination to find Carrie.

        -Margaret’s original death scene – possibly similar to the book version which depicts a heart attack caused by Carrie’s power.

        -The multiple endings

        1) The first ending is very similar to the ending of the 1976 film but without the final twist: Sue Snell actually gets killed when Carrie pulls her into the ground.

        2) The second ending is an exact replica of the original film where Snell gets pulled into the ground by Carrie but wakes up in her bed to find it’s just a dream.

        3) The third ending is after Carrie saves Sue by pushing her out of the house, which collapses from the falling stones. There’s a bird’s eye view of the wreckage of what used to be Carrie’s home before we get a quick CGI zoom through a pit of debris, to a close-up of a now bloodied Carrie snapping her eyes open.

        4) The fourth ending is of Sue making a final speech to the court where she says the line heard in the teaser trailer about Carrie being just a girl, not a monster. This is spoken over scenes of Sue and her family visiting the cemetery. Sue goes to Carrie’s grave, which shows the headstone tagged up and vandalized. She leaves her flowers and just walks away. Nothing scary, just a very somber closing shot of the headstone.

        5) The fifth ending is after Carrie’s house is destroyed by the falling stones, the movie flashes forward to several months later. We see Sue in the hospital surrounded by doctors and nurses, ready to give birth. They’re trying to calm her down but Sue begins to struggle, saying she feels something is wrong. Suddenly, a very bloody hand (covered in afterbirth) erupts from between Sue’s legs, reaching up and gripping her arm. She screams in terror and we see that she is having a nightmare, being held down by her parents while the camera pans over to a wall where we are shown a large crucifix hanging in her room.

        6) The sixth ending is described as a “morning after voice over” by Sue Snell as we see the town coping with what happened.

        7) The seventh ending shows the town the morning after Carrie’s attack filled with news crews, reporters, and cops talking about the whole thing. What’s bizarre about this scene is that Carrie’s destruction of the city is being described as “a conspiracy.” Apparently the town is “trying to cover up what really happened.”

        There is an online petition for a Director’s Cut to be released, but, let’s face it, the studios won’t release one. The petition has gained over 6,000+ signatures (I think?), so I’m curious to see how that will turn out.

        • Herner Klenthur June 30, 2014 at 12:52 am

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