You know her name and the plot too...
Sadly it would seem the remake train isn’t stopping any time soonJust to be clear we don’t necessarily have anything against remakes but they seem to be indicative of the total lack of creativity and originality in Hollywood these days. It’s also slightly distressing for those of us who can remember when a lot of the films being remade first came out. Obviously remaking films is nothing new but if you are going to remake a film, at least try and bring something original to the story.
The best example is John Carpenter’s The Thing, which was a remake of the Howard Hawks/Christian Nyby fifties shocker The Thing from Another World. However, not only was Carpenter’s film very different from the original it also went back to the source novella - Who Goes There? - thus adding a new element of paranoia to the plot. Of course Carpenter’s film has itself been remade recently, in the guise of a ‘prequel’ and that film made the classic mistake of largely retreading the earlier version.
The new film misses the chance to really comment on cyber-bulling and the negative impact of social networking.
Aside from the possibility of introducing Stephen King’s story to a new generation, there really doesn’t seem to be any point in remaking Carrie. The simple fact is that De Palma got it right the first time and besides the film has already had to suffer a sequel, Carrie: The Rage, and a TV movie remake; whilst the less said about the Broadway musical the better. So if you’re going to remake Carrie again, you really need to bring something new to the table.
Sadly director Kimberly Peirce and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa seem to think that just adding a bit of social networking is enough and what we’re left with is a near shot-for-shot remake of De Palma’s classic. Maybe in hindsight it wasn’t a great idea to hire the writer of Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark, a stage production that could give Carrie’s Broadway abomination a run for its money in the notoriety stakes. The result is that anyone watching the film who is familiar with the original will find themselves playing the “I wonder how they’ll film this scene?” game.
Of course, the argument the filmmakers will use is that their remake introduces Carrie to a new generation of movie-goers and in doing so they are reimagining the story for the 21st century. The film, they’ll say, wasn’t made for us older types who are familiar with the original but for teenagers who might not be, despite its availability on DVD, Blu-ray and various streaming and download services. That argument might work but the only nod to the modern age is that the main bully, Chris, videos the infamous tampon assault on her phone and posts it on YouTube. That’s about it for modern technology and from there on it’s the same plot as De Palma’s original.
This is a missed opportunity because the arrival of social networking has brought with it cyber-bullying and the new film misses a chance to really comment on what is a genuine problem for modern children. The filmmakers could also have made more of Carrie’s isolation, not only from her classmates but the technological world around her. They might even have commented on fundamental Christianity’s refusal to accept recent scientific discovery and their abuse of modern technology for propaganda purposes. In fact the filmmakers seem to largely avoid many of the extreme Christian elements of the story, although, in fairness, Carrie’s mother’s religion seems to be largely a result of her own psychosis.
The effects are well handled but the original seemed to have greater visceral impact.
The only other real reason for remaking Carrie is to use modern special effects to up the ante in certain action scenes, using techniques not available to De Palma at the time. Unfortunately, despite the advances in film technology over the last 37 years, Kimberley Peirce lacks the panache and bravura film-making skills of Brian De Palma. As a result, none of the famous scenes (and they’re all in the remake) are as effective as they were in the original. Quite often Carrie seems to be given almost unlimited powers due to the freedom modern effects offer. Although sometimes these effects aren’t as impressive as they should be and you find yourself missing the lower tech approach that De Palma took. The infamous crucifixion scene, for example, is well handled but the original seemed to have greater visceral impact.
That isn’t to say the filmmakers don’t try hard and it is certainly competently made. However, even their talented cast are overshadowed by the actors playing the same roles in the original film. Chloe Grace Moretz is a very capable actress and for once is actually the correct age for the part but she just isn’t as good as Sissy Spacek and in all fairness Moretz is too pretty. Whilst Spacek was probably a bit old for the role, she brings a genuine sense of strangeness to the part and you really believe her as the shy and ungainly outsider. As for Julianne Moore, she is suitably hysterical as Carrie’s fundamentalist and totally bonkers mother but how can she compete with Piper Laurie’s Oscar nominated turn in the original?
Even the supporting players don’t stand much of a chance because de Palma cast his film so brilliantly. Portia Doubleday, who was previously seen as the object of Michael Cera’s affection is Youth in Revolt, tries hard as the school bully Chris Hargenson but pales next to Nancy Allen’s fantastically bitchy performance for future husband De Palma. The part of Chris’s boyfriend Billy Nolan is played by Alex Russell but was John Travolta in the original; whilst nice guy Tommy Ross is played by Ansel Elgort in the remake but was William Katt with his magnificent perm in De Palma’s film. Finally, nice girl Sue Snell is played by pretty but rather boring British actress Gabriella Wilde (doing a decent American accent) but again the more memorable Amy Irving appears in the original.
Carrie is a competently made and well acted remake of Brian De Palma’s 1976 film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. However by the end credits you’re just left thinking “what was the point of all that?” Don’t bother going to the cinema to see the remake, instead spend the money on the Blu-ray of De Palma’s seminal, and vastly superior, original - if you haven't already.
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