Keep calm and Carrie on
The Steven King novel, Carrie, and the 1976 Brian De Palma film based on it, were wonderfully chilling takes on the horrors of burgeoning adulthood in the fishbowl of high school.
Given that being a teenager is so much more fraught these days, you’d expect director Kimberly Peirce’s do- over might have something new and insightful to say about the crumminess of attending an American high school today.
Instead, her Carrie treads familiarly cruel and senseless ground, albeit with a predictable phone-cam twist.
When a group of teenage girls taunts class- weirdo Carrie White ( Chloe Grace Moretz), and posts a video of the attack online, the ring leader, Chris ( Portia Doubleday), is banned from attending senior prom.
Carrie’s best friend, Sue (Gabriella Wilde), appalled by what they’ve done, plans to make amends by having her popular sports star boyfriend take Carrie to prom in her stead.
Carrie has secrets, not the least of which is the abuse her religious nut mother, Margaret (Julianne Moore), inflicts on her.
So when Chris makes a final stab at Carrie’s dignity during the prom, Carrie snaps and takes a terrible vengeance of her own.
Carrie White is such a compelling character it’s surprising Hollywood took so long to remake a film about the bullied teen who manifests awesome powers and wreaks revenge on her tormentors.
Last year’s Chronicle, about a group of boys who develop superpowers that promptly go to their heads, comes close, but King’s creepy, tragic tale about the overpowering tumult of teenage hormones still takes the cake for scares.
Becoming a woman could not have a more classic metaphor in the ugly duckling girl with powers she can’t control or understand.
De Palma’s original adaptation was chilling, aided in no small part by the otherworldly face of Sissy Spacek as Carrie.
The modern version, hampered by a weak lead in Moretz, seems squeamish around the topic of female sexuality.
With a weirdly moralising tone, Peirce’s film seems to side more with the puritanical ranting of Carrie’s mother ( Julianne Moore) than the teenagers, the life-changing and often life-ending consequences for being ‘‘bad’’ visited upon the teens like senseless acts of God.
Even Carrie’s powers seem explained, overly so, as actual divine punishment. All this might have been fine, except it feels forced, heavy-handed and shoddily put together, with pacing all over the place and cheap special effects that do little to sell the drama – a pretty bum offering from the director of Boys Don’t Cry (1996), which seemed to capture teenage desperation so perfectly.
In the end, it seems like a series of missed opportunities, for great frights, great roles for women and great social comment - something 70s horror used to do with ease.
If one good thing comes from the film, let it be Carrie dragging the current mania for remaking already perfect films back to hell with her.
Repeat performance: Chloe Grace Moretz stars in the modern take of Carrie.
Starring: Julianne Moore, Chloe Grace Moretz, Portia Doubleday and Gabriella Wilde. Directed by Kimberly Peirce. Written by Roberto AguirreSacasa. Horror. 1hr 39min. R16 for violence, horror, offensive language and sexual themes. Now showing at Reading and Event cinemas.