Why would a director take it upon themselves to remake a film which has achieved near mythical status? Take Carrie (1976), Brian De Palma’s iconic visualisation of Stephen King’s seminal shocker, which set the standard for the high-school horrors which would saturate the market in the coming decade, as well as launch the careers of Sissy Spacek and John Travolta. Filmmaker Kimberly Peirce has done just that with Carrie (2013), which pulls off the unenviable task of being both respectful to the original whilst spicing the story with enough fresh twists that it doesn’t appear like a scene-by-scene retread of its forebear.
Here, the chilling tale of Carrie White (Kick-Ass’ Chloë Grace Moretz), a young girl terrorised by her fanatical mother (Julianne Moore) and cruel classmates with devastating results for all, is reimagined for the 21st century’s social media generation. The beauty of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s and Lawrence D. Cohen’s interpretation of King’s novel and the magic of Peirce’s screen vision is the way in which they have modernised the story, updating it whilst managing to lose few of the ingredients that gave the original its timelessness. Core aspects such as the onset of adulthood, bullying, the spectre of religion and the guilt which haunts most of us at some point in our lives all return, although they aren’t all necessarily successful.
Wisely, the Peirce has kept much that fans of the earlier film will recognise; the little boy next door who comes a cropper after taunting “creepy Carrie”; the homemade ‘confessional booth’ in which Carrie’s mother incarcerates her daughter periodically in order to consider the folly of her ways. Yet they’ve also freshened it for contemporary audiences – most notably with an interesting twist for the digital age – though fortunately stopping short of repeating one of the most famous shock scenes in horror cinema. The other area which will naturally come under the inevitable scrutiny of fans and critics alike will be in the area of performances, especially with those of Carrie and her mother.
Pleasantly surprising though is the fact that both Spacek and Piper Larurie, who played the central daughter and mother protagonists originally, seldom cross your mind. Moretz and Moore more than capably make these roles their own, with Moore particularly arresting as the matriarch ablaze with religious zeal, whilst Moretz exudes a precocious maturity as the teenage misfit coming to terms with bewildering changes both physically and mentally. By no means a classic in the mould of De Palma’s film, neither is this new Carrie the spiritless rehash it could so easily have been, and is well worth acknowledging for that achievement alone.