Halloween has a very fundamental, ABC rubric in the cinematic film world; A usually stands for absurdity, and the countless absurd efforts to scare people in a genre that defines it’s own rules; B is for blood, lots and lots of blood; and C is for Carrie. Hailed as the most popular film to watch on Halloween, Carrie has been in the film world since its first adaptation in 1976, a performance made iconic by Sissy Spacek. Since then, the character has really struggled to find any solid footing in a sequel and a made for television movie. In its third attempt, director Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry, Stop-Loss) delivers a surprisingly satisfying modern retelling of beloved horror novelist Stephen King’s first ever published novel. Serving more as an homage and ode to the novel and classic film, Peirce and company tip their hats and inevitably add small nuanced changes to the story as it appeals to a new generation that can understand the ridicule and embarrassment of traumatic high school pranks with the inclusion of social media and modern technology. Yes, Facebook and smartphones have a lot to do with Carrie’s demising high school reputation.
Carrie White (the iconic role this time portrayed by Chloë Grace Moretz) is a young, socially handicapped high schooler who just wants a normal life with normal friends. Unfortunately for her, her mother Margaret White (Julianne Moore) is a Christian extremist who doesn’t allow Carrie to do much, other than attend school and pray. In her last year of high school, weeks before prom, Carrie awkwardly finds herself trickling into the gym showers once all the other girls have finished, and has her first period. Frantic and hysterical, Carrie seeks refuge in her peers, who laugh and throw tampons and sanitary products at her while screaming for help in the showers. What starts off as a stark symbol of womanhood, quickly progresses into a whirlwind of blood and suffering.
Unable to share any of her real world issues with her mother, Carrie confides in her school gym teacher Ms. Desjardin (Judy Greer) who reassures Carrie, protects her and occasionally slaps her out of it, while Carrie is experimenting with her newly discovered telekinetic abilities. The popular girls, malicious and evil (in a way only high school girls know how to be) led by Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) make Carrie’s life a living hell during their last days in school. As prom nears and the guilt of her actions take a toll on her, one of the only girls with a soul, Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde), moved by pure emotion and empathy, asks her dreamy boyfriend Tommy Ross (played by Ansel Elgort) to take Carrie to the prom. And if you know anything about Carrie and her time at the prom, you can imagine how it all went.
Peirce’s re-imagining of the classic is actually quite good. With the exception of one heavily-FXed destruction scene near the film’s finale and the final frame’s of the movie that maybe hints at a sequel, the film has a keen cinematic eye thanks to its talented director. The film itself, for once in a high-profile October release, is not an unexplained marathon of blood, gore and cheap thrills. Instead, Peirce’s Carrie is a subtle and nuanced straight horror film with an intent to honour its predecessor.
One of the things that Carrie doesn’t have going for her is her outdated story and lack of a real ‘scary power’. Lets face it, once X-Men was made into a movie and Professor X became the face of telekinesis, a little girl with an unexplained ability to move things with her mind don’t really scare people anymore, unless your pranking them.
From page to screen, Carrie is bound to be a well oiled, money making machine. What is most impressive about this adaptation of the iconic character is the marketing that both MGM and Screen Gems did to ensure the film is a hit. The studios brought an impressive line-up in front and behind the camera. From Julianne Moore, who nails the self-sacrificing, insane iconic Margaret White character effortlessly, to Moretz, who, has an unexplained terror in her facial expressions to sell the characters to a new generation of horror obsessed audience, the film succeeds at not being an overshadowed relic. Unfortunately for Moretz, Carrie moved objects in the original film with her eyes, not her hands like Moretz did in this adaptation. It is hard for any horror fan to deny that Spacek‘s eyes in the original Carrie will forever be the eyes and face of the iconic character.
Along with the cast, the film adaptation also failed to have any real competition and strategically slotted itself in a Halloween season absent of any ‘paranormal activity’ or other masked murdering icons. It should easily retain a spot atop the box office until Halloween. Not to mention the ingenious viral campaign the film took to promote the troubled, misunderstood teen.
When all is said and done and end credits to the film roll, there is no ignoring that Pierce and company have delivered the most faithful cinematic adaptation to King‘s novel and equivalent to the 1976 film version. With some artistic narrative liberties being taken to modernize the story, modest effects heart-pounding, jaw-clenching tension, this Carrie adaptation can rest assured that younger audience members may finally know her name, and not the same name their parents know, gross!
Night Film Reviews: 7/10 Stars