“Carrie” (2013) blew a perfect opportunity to make itself memorable…

Apart from the obvious, what exactly is the point of a remake? I completely understand it at the basic level of taking the easy way out to, by circumventing the creative step, come up with a brand new revenue-generating title. Now, I have always been a strong supporter (or a zealous opposition to lack thereof) of creativity in cinema, but I do believe that remaking already existing films has its place, so long as it brings something new to the table. But the world isn’t perfect and whenever there’s money involved, chances are the emphasis is not going to be put on refreshing a given title and adding to its artistic value, but rather on making sure all the boxes are ticked to attract the desired demographic.

Don’t get me wrong, especially when it comes to the horror genre, remakes and sequels don’t necessarily have to be all that bad and this year’s reimagining of Sam Raimi’s cult classic “Evil Dead” can be a perfect example of it. With the right people and a solid (and creative) idea, any classic can be raised from the dead (sic!) to the cheer of the collective fan-base of the original.

And with those exact expectations I walked in to see the remake of Brian De Palma’s “Carrie” (1976)… Now, the choice of words I used to describe “Carrie” (2013) is by no means accidental here, because even though both of those films are adaptations of the Stephen King’s debut novel, the remake has clearly drawn from its film predecessor, rather than the source material.

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Coming back to the issue of bringing something new to the table, in case of “Carrie” could have meant any number of things. Having recently watched the original (in preparation for the remake; I read the book years ago when I was a young lad), I can honestly say that any semi-skilled director with a half decent cast of actors could be able to make an improvement on the original – it’s that bad. In fact, it’s so bad I am willing to devote a separate occasion just to rant about how shitty De Palma’s film is, and how I can’t possibly understand how oh-so-many people cream their pants over it, as if it was a cult classic… Give me a break…

Now, with this year’s “Carrie”, the draw was supposed to be the fact that the original film was very sparse with the violence in the climax and due to budgetary and technological limitations, certain aspects of the story had to be cut, or reworked to fit the bill. Now, I was sold on this idea alone and I would have loved to see “Carrie” come to a climax on a proper scale. In fact, since the story was being shoehorned into the modern day, I would find it intriguing to see a ‘found footage’ take on it; maybe not in its entirety, but at least in the third act. Interestingly, such treatment would bring the film a bit closer to the book in character, because the original story is neatly interwoven with excerpts from newspapers, journals and what-not that referred to the events from the book, as if it was a real disaster of massive proportions. And the director Kimberly Peirce (known for “Boys don’t cry” and pretty much nothing else) promised me just that… “Carrie” was supposed to go beyond the original and depict the mayhem that ensued following the events from the prom night, and if it had done just (and only) that, it would have been much better off…

In spite of all the waffle that preceded its release, “Carrie” is not much more than a word-for-word retelling of De Palma’s adaptation, but in modern setting and with different (and way better) actors. It’s a story of Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz), a teenage outcast raised by a religious nut mother (Julianne Moore) who finds herself to possess telekinetic powers. Bullied at school by a bunch of bitchy cheerleader types, Carrie is slowly being brought to the brink of self-control, so in combination with cruel treatment she receives at home, it doesn’t take long for her powers to be used in destructive way.

 

At this point in time, when the visual cues known from both the overwhelmingly popular book and De Palma’s film have a somewhat iconic status ingrained in the popular culture, it’s pretty difficult to present this story in a novel way. In reality, in doing so one would seriously risk damaging the original, so the fact “Carrie” plays out exactly as its predecessor is not its biggest flaw. In truth, I think this year’s retelling of “Carrie” is far superior to the original in terms of acting performances, exposition and the overall flow of the story. However, it still feels alien to hear the line “It’s not over! Not by a long shot”, because regardless of how it’s delivered, it sounds bad. I mean, who talks like that? But then again, most of the dialogue is taken ‘as-is’ from the source material, so I can only blame Stephen King for how clunky and disjointed it reads on screen. Bear in mind, it was his first book…

Acting-wise, “Carrie” is pretty solid with a convincing performance by Chloë Grace Moretz as Carrie and Julianne Moore as her mother. In fact, I would have loved to see the mother’s character pushed a bit more towards the creepy kind of religious nut, but she played her cards quite well, even though she was at times ‘at eleven’. Sadly, almost every other character in the film was pretty forgettable and as a result, the main play between the bullies and Carrie doesn’t feel relevant at all. So in the end, when everything unravels, it almost seems to stem from Carrie’s traumatic home life, rather than the relentless torment at school, but once more the finger points at King.

All of that aside, the reason “Carrie” came to be remade this year was to go nuts in the third act. Therefore, I wasn’t too concerned with how we would get there, as long as the story would come to a satisfying climax. Sure, I can get on board with the story; swallow the awkward lines, and dodgy motives for the characters… I am more than willing to do the dance, provided there’s a reward at the end of it all. And here’s where everything falls apart.

I would have been so much happier, if the makers of “Carrie” had the balls to actually take some creative liberties with the source material. Not even that, because the book is not to blame here, but this film would have seriously benefitted from a good injection of gore and violence. Whenever the shit hits the fan and Carrie is ‘born in blood’, there’s so much potential for a satisfying and gruesome climax that would bring the story to a whole new level. We could have had some fun with telekinesis that hasn’t been shown before and “Carrie” played it as safe as it could. Give or take one or two scenes, it’s the same wet noodle of a climax, as shown by De Palma. Think about it: telekinesis could be a potential bag of gore just waiting to be opened. Skip the traditional moving objects around and throwing them at people – it’s all too emotionless! It’s 2013 and a “Carrie” film should definitely end in gory scenes of dismemberment, guts, blood and mindless violence. The story itself calls for appropriate ending and it should feel grand, scary, and revolting, so it pains me to say that the people behind the remake of “Carrie” failed to take a leap of faith.

However you’d want to retell it, the story of “Carrie” will always ride on its ending. None of the character development is really relevant, as long as we get to see the massacre at the prom. I know it might be hard for the ‘money people’ to swallow, but risking an R-rating is not exactly bad for the movie. In this day and age, being completely desensitized towards violence, we need to be properly shocked to get a kick out of a horror film. And if you go soft on a film like “Carrie”, the end result looks more like a mediocre teenage drama, and not like a ballsy all-out gore extravaganza. Maybe Fedé Alvarez should have had a go at directing it instead…

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