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"CARRIE"
(2013) (Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Horror: A teen wallflower develops telekinetic powers in response to bullying at school and stifling repression at the hands of her ultra-religious mom.
PLOT:
Carrie White (CHLOE GRACE MORETZ) is a timid teenage girl who lives at home with her ultra-religious mother, Margaret (JULIANNE MOORE), who believes most everything is the result of some past or current sin. Accordingly, she hasn't informed Carrie about becoming a woman, so when the teen has her first menstrual period in the high school locker room shower, she's horrified. The other girls, however, led by Chris Hargensen (PORTIA DOUBLEDAY), taunt Carrie and throw feminine products at her, drawing the ire of PE teacher Ms. Desjardin (JUDY GREER) when she shows up.

One of those girls, Sue Snell (GABRIELLA WILDE), feels horrible about having participated in that and eventually wants her popular athlete boyfriend, Tommy Ross (ANSEL ELGORT), to take Carrie to the prom as a way of making it up to her. Margaret is adamantly against the notion of that, while Chris -- who's been suspended due to her actions -- and her boyfriend, Billy Nolan (ALEX RUSSELL), are plotting to pull a mean prank on Carrie.

To complicate matters, Carrie has discovered that not only does she have telekinetic powers, but also that she's quickly learned how to control them. All of which means things will come to a head both with her restrictive mother as well as those plotting against the teen.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Considering that humans are highly evolved animals, it's no surprise that we possess many of the same traits of various creatures, including the old instinctual fight or flight reflex. It's also interesting but no less disheartening that the natural world's pecking order has also remained in humans' behavioral coding. While some of that obviously still exists in adults -- where people arrange themselves in terms of power and authority, be that in politics, corporations, sports teams and so on -- who should otherwise be able to temper some of that through intellect and compassion, it runs rampant among kids to whom it just seems to come naturally as they start to get older and assert themselves.

All of that's partially to blame for bullying, but kids are quick to learn and/or emulate from others that they can go far above and beyond what mere physical dominance can provide. And that comes in the form of psychologically tormenting the victim, often in pack behavior where others follow the lead of the dominant one. I'm guessing bullying in one form or another among kids has occurred since the dawn of time, but it seems to be getting ever more worse with each passing decade.

Author Stephen King recognized that and used such bullying as the underlying thematic element of his 1974 novel "Carrie" where his titular protagonist was bullied not only by her classmates -- coming to an ugly head upon her getting her first period at school -- but also by her fundamentalist mother who had pretty much smothered her growth via religious fanaticism. Carrie's discovery and then command of her innate telekinetic powers then served as her and the reader's cathartic payback for such abuse.

The story gained greater recognition through Brian De Palma's 1976 film of the same name. While it might be best remembered for its major jump scene at the very end, it was a well-made film that earned Oscar nominations for Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie respectively as the daughter and mother (while it also starred Amy Irving, Nancy Allen and John Travolta in supporting roles). A 1999 sequel, "The Rage: Carrie 2" flopped, but like much of the rest of Hollywood, that didn't deter the powers that be from believing the ending of De Palma's film in that you couldn't and shouldn't keep the title character and her story buried forever.

Thus, we now have the remake of the same name, with Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore taking over the lead parts, and Kimberly Peirce taking her place in the director's seat. The fact that she directed the 1999 film "Boys Don't Cry" (about a transsexual who is beaten, raped and murdered upon discovery of his/her true gender) and that bullying, especially among girls, has gotten much worse since the 1970s era work, would seem to indicate this new version might do something interesting and take the thematic elements even further than before. Alas, and notwithstanding the addition of one girl using her smartphone to video and later post online a moment of cruelty, along with some updated special effects, this is pretty much the same film as before.

That's not necessarily a bad thing as the story still works and certainly remains relevant. It's just that for those of us who've seen the original (although it's been years since I last watched it), there's not enough new here to justify the remake's existence. That is, beyond the releasing studio hoping to cash in on the earlier film's fame and name recognition, as well as the prime Halloween period release date.

As before, the title character is a timid wallflower domineered by her fanatical mother who believes everything that happens is a sign from and/or test by God to sinners like herself. While the girl is otherwise ignored or laughed off as some sort of freak, the true torment begins when she gets her first period in the school locker room shower.

She hasn't been informed of this possibility by her mother and thus thinks she's dying, much to the scornful delight of her classmates, especially the ringleader of the bunch (Portia Doubleday). But one girl (Gabriella Wilde) immediately feels bad about what she's done and convinces her star athlete boyfriend (Ansel Elgort) to ask Carrie to the prom as a way of making amends, all while the ringleader seeks revenge on Carrie for their PE teacher (Judy Greer) suspending her for her bullying actions.

That leads to the big prom scene where hell literally and figuratively breaks loose. That's also when the film started to lose my interest as the story and character somewhat took a back seat to the new and improved special effects. Up until then, it's a decent, if supernaturally based character study of a bullied kid facing torment at home and school, with Moretz creating a truly sympathetic character.

That said, I would have preferred a more fleshed out exploration of how social media and the rest of the Internet have only exacerbated bullying and the increased impact that's had on victims (which also could have led to some interesting high tech ways of retribution being served out). What's present works, but mainly only due to the fact that it did before and thus the film had a stable platform from which to recreate the story.

As in many such real life situations, it's more of a tragedy tale than an outright horror flick, and one that works just as well today as it did nearly forty years ago when it was first told. Likely better received if you're not familiar with the original, this "Carrie" rates as a 5 out of 10 simply due to mostly retreading rather than expanding upon the earlier version.




Reviewed October 16, 2013 / Posted October 18, 2013


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