“Carrie,” written by Lawrence D. Cohen (screenplay), Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (screenplay), Stephen King (novel), directed by Kimberly Peirce, 99 minutes, rated R.
Now is the perfect time to revive Stephen King’s “Carrie,” the cautionary tale of the repercussions that may follow when teenagers push their peers too far. With awareness of bullying at an all-time high, and the proliferation of social media enabling youths to take their teasing, gossiping, cruelty and intimidation to a whole new level, the moral of “Carrie” is arguably more relevant now than it was in the 1970s. But Kimberly Peirce’s retelling is lazy, losing its sense of purpose while running through the motions we’re all too familiar with.
This time around, Chloe Grace Moretz stars as Carrie White, the socially awkward Maine teen who has the latent gift of telekinesis. Her inept behavior around classmates stems from being raised by an abusive, mentally disturbed mother, Margaret (Julianne Moore), who keeps Carrie on a short leash. Margaret uses religion as a mask for her true problems, fabricating passages from the Bible as a means to keep her daughter scared of the outside world.
The catalyst for this tale’s supernatural side is the now-infamous girls locker room scene, where Carrie gets her first period. Not knowing what’s happening to her, she pleads for help from her classmates, who in turn throw tampons at her, filming it on their phones while she stumbles on the shower floor crying. Though traumatic for Carrie, her coming of age also brings her telekinetic abilities to the surface.
The perpetrators are reprimanded, and while one of Carrie’s tampon-tossing foes, Sue (Gabriella Wilde) seeks redemption, another, Chris (Portia Doubleday) seeks revenge, blaming Carrie for her suspension from both school and prom. Sue asks her sympathetic boyfriend, Tommy (Ansel Elgort), to take Carrie to the prom to boost her self-esteem and to also ease her own conscience. Chris, on the other hand, aims to make prom night something to remember for Carrie in all the worst ways.
We all know how this story ends, with a high school gymnasium full of pigs’ blood and human blood. So what really matters for this remake is what comes before that ill-fated prom, and here it’s a bore. Screenwriters Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa compose their “Carrie” as though it’s expected to live in the shadow of Brian De Palma’s 1976 film (also written by Cohen), sucking any life and originality out of the film.
“Carrie” also has no sense of what bullying is like in 2013, and in that regard the film mirrors its predecessor, which depicted bullying nearly 40 years ago. Social media is thrown into the mix only once, and its placement feels forced, as though it’s merely an attempt to make the film seem modern by filmmakers and writers who have little comprehension of everyday teenage life.
There are some moments that work between Moore and Moretz, both of whom I really admire as actresses. Watching their broken, unsettling relationship with a twisted sort of love at its core is where you’ll find the most sympathetic moments of “Carrie.” A blood-soaked Moretz also has fun with her superpower-fueled massacre, making quick, jerky motions to accompany a vacant expression painted on her face. It’s much more theatrical and animated than previous incarnations of Carrie White. In these moments, she’s like a young woman possessed.
Unfortunately, Kimberly Peirce’s remake of “Carrie” is rather uninspired, and in the end, it just misses the point.