Hello. This is a Korean in America. Today, I’ll be reviewing the 2013 Remake of the 1976 Horror classic “Carrie” directed by Brian De Palma. Let’s see if this Carrie can scare us white like the original!
The plot of the movie surrounds a high school girl, Carrie, with burgeoning telekinetic powers whose mother is a mentally ill religious nut case. The movie covers a short period starting about 2 weeks before her senior prom. And at the prom, Carrie ends up with a bucket of pig’s blood on her and she unleashes her power on her school and the town.
The description I would give about the 2013 remake of “Carrie” is that it is not really a horror movie. The movie is simply not scary. Rather, it is a comic book super villain origin story such as the first 10 minutes of the “X-men: first class” movie.
While this in itself is not a problem, the issue is that this is not the result of the movie makers’ intentions. For all intents, this “Carrie” seems to be intended to be a straight remake of the original “Carrie” (1976). I have not seen the original “Carrie” (1976) for about 15 years. So, it is difficult to say if this is true. However, from other critics who were diligent in their preparations, I have heard that the remake is really close to the original.
So, why is it not scary?
My impressions of the original “Carrie” (1976) from 15 years ago are that it was scary because of two things: the atmosphere of the school and the “Carrie” herself.
On one level, the atmosphere of the school was an atmosphere of cruelty fueled by teenage hormones, insecurity, and isolation. On another level, it was the atmosphere of paranoia and savagery that are underneath the thin veil of modern civility expressed through the behaviors of high school teenagers.
Because of the atmosphere, it was believable that things could escalate to the degree that the student body would laugh at a girl who had just gotten a bucket of pig’s blood dumped on her. The remake does not share this type of atmosphere with the original.
The world of the remake which is based on the present which is far different from the 70s world of the original “Carrie” movie. In the original, you would believe that Carrie would be constantly bullied.
In contrast, the school of the 2013 remake is more likely to be out of the TV show “O.C.” or the movie “Mean girl” worlds. In other words, it is a world more sanitized and P.C. It is a world in which most of the students do not care enough to consistently bully someone because of all the other distractions of modern life. It is also a world where people are more used to the concept of pity as something cool. The movie even references instances in which celebrities go on “pity” dates with the less fortunate.
As a result, there is barely any consistent bullying in the 2013 remake. While it is only inferred, it seems that Carries was never really noticed enough to get bullied prior to the movie’s events. In the movie itself, we are only shown a single isolated incident of bullying resulting from Carry acting over the top weird. The female students react to this weird behavior in the natural manner of modern teenagers. They thought it was a joke! Even with that single isolated incident, you see that the teenagers are recognizing the whole thing was not really cool after the dust settled.
Even when Carrie gets elected prom queen via the plotters, the majority of the student body at the prom seems cool with seeing this poor girl, everyone was pitying, becoming prom queen. It was their pity charity gift.
So, it is not believable that attendees of the prom would laugh at Carrie after the blood was dumped. And they don’t actually laugh. Except the few who were in on the plot, all other students were just shocked and seemed really awkward and generally disgusted. And you as the audience member do not expect them to laugh.
This creates a problem with Carrie’s next behavior of massacring the attendees of the prom. Rather than being a cathartic moment of revenge to the abusive masses, it becomes more reminiscence of school shootings. Carrie becomes one of the kids who come to school with a gun because of some perceived injustice done to them. It is just that she is using her super powers instead of a gun killing people who are objectively extremely innocent.
In that moment, Carrie turns from a victim to this monster that is unreasonably reacting to a situation even for a monster. The only response that came out of my mouth as Carrie goes all “Magneto” was…
Carrie! You are such a drama queen! Go and only kill the 4 people who are actually involved…
This is where the whole super villain angle comes in. In the comics, “Magneto” was a person who suffered a lot but then over reacted toward the whole world because of it. They are too self-centered, self-indulgent, and self-entitled to react to stuff in a reasonable and objective manner. These are common trait of super villains in comic which comes not from their tragic experiences but are the result of their initial personality traits.
The remake’s Carrie shows these types of personality traits which did not exist in the original. Another factor that made the 1976 original movie scary was how Carrie was portrayed. In the 1976 original, Carrie played by Sissy Spacek was this weak and broken thing at the start of the movie because of her mother’s abuse. Even without the subsequent events of the 1976 movie, the original Carrie would never have a normal life. She was already broken. The events of the movie just lifted her up high and dropped her like a brick which just shattered her fragile psyche. The supernatural rampage was just the reaction of this shattered psyche.
The remake’s Carrie never seemed broken at any point in the movie. Even when the supernatural rampage happens, it seems more like a tantrum than a shattered psyche going out of control. This is primarily because of the casting. Some have said that Chloë Moretz who played Carrie in the remake was too pretty for the role. But it is more like she seems too well adjusted for the role with her plump corn-fed cute face.
Chloë Moretz is known for being “Hit girl”. The attraction of “Hit girl” was the contrast between her seeming very well adjusted as a girl and being raised to be a killing machine. In Carrie, Chloë Moretz is just playing an introverted “Hit girl” to all intended purposes.
Casting Julianne Moore as the crazy mother did not help the situation with Carrie either. Don’t get me wrong! Julianne Moore is a great actress. However, she is also limited in range. She has always played characters who are maternal and give off either a slightly damaged or obsessive vibe. She especially works well off male counterparts whether they be adults or children. Thus, her acting range does not include going bat shit crazy chewing up the scenery.
In Carrie, the mother is the start of the whole plot. Thus, Julianne Moore had to go big or go home. Her performance in the 2013 remake is more subdued and subtle which is not what the movie needed. In addition, Julianne Moore and Chloë Moretz did not have much chemistry together.
The consequence of the casting is the Carrie is never seemed to be pushed enough to warrant the supernatural rampage at the end of the movie. She is just a kid from a bad family who is self-centered, self-indulgent, and self-entitled but does not really notice it before because she did not get a chance to. Supporting this claim is the fact that, throughout the movie, you never see Carrie actually doing anything that shows she is a good person inside. Rather she indulges in being the victim. So, going to the prom and the subsequent rampage seems more of a power trip by a character who never had power getting a lot which is a recipe for disaster.
At the end, the ultimate fate of the remake’s Carrie is the product of who she is as a person and not the fault of either hormone filled teenagers or an abusive society. Without a miracle and the best possible scenario happening to her, the remake’s Carrie was never going to be a good well-adjusted member of society. The fact of her getting superpowers just hastened the end and amplified the result damages.
The 2013 remake of “Carrie” is stuck between a rock and a hard place. It is nowhere near as scary as the 1976 original. At the same time, it is not fun or well executed to be seen as a proper comic book super villain origin story. It just proves that Remakes do not work in this day and age.
You know a horror movie has gone off the rails when the crazy mother becomes Professor Van Helsin in the 11th hour of the movie!
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