Saturday, 3 May 2014

MOVIE: Carrie (2013)

US 2013, 100m, MGM/Screen Gems

Blu-Ray: MGM (UK), cert 15

Carrie (Chloë Grace Moretz), a teenage girl with a repressed religious upbringing, is taunted daily by her school classmates. When she is invited to the prom, she initially thinks it's a joke at her expense before accepting the invite, against the wishes of her zealot mother (Julianne Moore). In the meantime, Carrie has discovered that she has the gift of telekinesis, and can cause all manner of mayhem when she is agitated or confronted...

Okay, chances are you don't need the brief synopsis above. Even if you haven't read Stephen King's novel or seen any of its screen manifestations, Carrie is a story you must at least have heard of, the tale of a tormented girl's revenge having entered popular culture. Much of this is due to Brian De Palma's classic 1976 film, in which his particular brand of cinematic pyrotechnics found a perfect showcase.

An ill advised sequel of sorts came in 1999. The Rage: Carrie 2 was perhaps more remake than sequel in retrospect, but entertaining enough on its own merits. There was a curious attempt to make a TV series out of the subject matter in 2002, with Angela Bettis in the lead, but it never progressed beyond an uneven but intriguing pilot movie.

Fast forward to 2013, and a recently rejuvenated MGM rifled through their United Artists catalogue for suitable remake fodder, making the kind of choice which had horror purists trembling with sheer indignation. After all, out of all the films they could have chosen, why pick on such an apparently unbeatable classic?

The thing is, if you put all thoughts of DePalma's film out of your mind, this adaptation does have a lot going for it. Firstly, I cannot stress enough how good Moretz and Moore are in the lead roles. Sissy Specek and Piper Laurie are a very tough (indeed, Oscar nominated) act to follow, but both performers impress. The two play off each other extremely well in their more intimate duologue scenes, well handled by director Kimberley Pierce, who has directed surprisingly little on screen since making a big splash with 1999's Boys Don't Cry.

This all makes the contrast with the bombastic, climactic scenes all the more disappointing, and it almost feels like another director took over at times. The CGI simply fails to impress or engage as Carrie wreaks havoc. Important, pivotal effects don't have the wow-factor that they should. Say what you like about the snaking hose pipe in DePalma's film, but it did its job far better than its digital counterpart.

Perhaps the film's biggest problem is that it falls between two stalls, trying to cater for a new audience whilst providing fans of the original with something to enjoy. It leans heavily on Lawrence D. Cohen's original screenplay to the extent that entire sections of dialogue are used verbatim. Whole chunks of DePalma's film are slavishly xeroxed, albeit with updated elements such as Carrie's taunting being captured on a phone camera and posted on the internet, and yet, when the movie does attempt to do something different, it often goes way off the mark.

The two endings provided on the Blu-Ray are a case in point. The theatrical ending tried to leave the audience anticipating what would happen next, but was a tad unsatisfactory. The blurb on the sleeve promises "The ending that was too extreme for cinema!", so extreme that... it still gets a 15 certificate. This alternative ending is a ridiculous attempt to top the original's final shot. Woefully misjudged, it should have stayed in the editing suite.

Despite all this, whilst the Carrie re-boot is unlikely to become a bona fide classic like its predecessor, it still has much to enjoy. When you consider how many truly awful Stephen King adaptations there have been, this one fares far better than many and is well worth your time. If it makes a new generation curious enough to read the original novel (still one of King's best in my view), and even perhaps seek out the '76 version, all the better. As it stands, the 2013 model is an enjoyable enough high-school-revenge flick in its own right, raised above the average by two superb lead performances.


Original Theatrical Trailer:

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