Carrie (2013): An Awkward Phase
News flash, right? This 2013 version of Carrie is a great example of what is most broken in the film industry at the moment. This was an unnecessary remake to begin with, as the original still holds up pretty well. The amount of re-interpretation isn't enough to make it definitively separate from the original, but is just different enough to make me wonder why they decided to make another "Carrie" movie. Hollywood hasn't ever really had a problem borrowing heavily from previous or competing films, so why the need to actually title this film "Carrie"? Kids who don't remember or care about the original film will have no investment in "Carrie" and the ones that do will probably be annoyed out of their gothy little socks.
Honestly, I fast forwarded through the "teen drama". The teens in the film felt too much like teens you might find in a tv urban fantasy show, too perfect and beautiful to be believed. The teens in "Carrie" '76 were typical, but they were believably typical. That's what made Carrie White's (Sissy Spacek) ordeal as painful as it was, you knew this was really happening somewhere. I don't believe these high school kids exist anywhere outside of Hollywood's dream of life.
So, I should totally trash this movie, right? That's the problem. There were many good things in this film. Julianne Moore really brought the creepy to Margaret White, displacing the borderline campiness of Piper Laurie's version with something more desperate and anxious. While no one is ever going to surpass Sissy Spacek's awkward and tormented Carrie White, Chloë Grace Moretz does bring something contemporary to this tortured "witch". Moretz's Carrie is shell-shocked to begin with, not just an awkward teen, but someone who is seriously out of place. Closer to a feral child than a shy girl. At times this performance is too cute and too clever, but for the most part it is an interesting take on the character.
I do not know if this rendering of the 2013 Carrie is the result of director Kimberly Peirce or Moretz, but this version is heavily influenced by relatively recent films like Sadako from "Ringu". Something in this film is closer to a classic monster movie than the tragedy of the 1976 version. There is a point in the film where it becomes clear that Carrie is beyond redemption, she has become the evil witch that her mother feared she always was. Her performance brings this creature to life, she leers through streaks of blood, lurches like a being possessed, is alight with evil glee at the mayhem she has created.
So, there was considerable creative work that went into making this modern "Carrie" a mutation of the original, one aspect suffers from oversight and is the biggest problem among many. The imagery of students being slaughtered in a gym, locked in with a blood-spattered classmate, and suffering at the hands of an "outcast" feels very different when not seen through the nostalgic filter of thirty or so years. I don't think I am particularly sensitive, yet I can't imagine anyway you couldn't make a mainstream movie about this and not be aware of the context of it is released into.
This lack of attention, this lack of commentary is a fatal flaw for Carrie. I don't think it is too much of a stretch to compare it to when "The Green Berets" was released, completely tone-deaf, in the midst of the Vietnam War. This is a spoiled creative opportunity, but also something that feels like disregard or even a kind of inhumanity that should be seen with suspicion. I expect that somewhere above-the-line there was a decision to not deal with these topics so as to avoid controversy or accusations of exploitation, but the lack of comment invites worse criticism.
Perhaps instead of creating a patchwork monstrosity of old and new, the filmmakers would have been better off creating a monster for our time and of our time. There certainly are plenty of them to be found.