Saturday, October 19, 2013

Thy Will Be Done

Year: 2013
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde
Run Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

There is, of course, only one question that any review of Carrie needs to answer: Is it as good as the 1976 Brian De Palma classic?

The answer is of course not, but the film itself is nothing to scoff at.

I'm just as shocked as you.

Let's switch things up and start with the problems for once so I can actually end this review on a good note. And there are a number of them, but they aren't nearly so critical as all that.

1) Chloë Grace Moretz is not an outsider.

This girl's a superstar and she can't entirely shake that charisma, which I suppose isn't a bad thing for Chloë. But occasionally it's hard to watch this amazing girl cowering in the corner without thinking "Stand up straight and take charge, you got this girl." Also her shower scene was way more sensual than the story called for. Sorry girl, you're awesome. But Carrie White... isn't.

2) The film is a little too eager to punch those early moments.

We get it. She's discovering her powers. When she gets angry, things start to move. We figured that out with the tampon hurricane in the locker room. And the water cooler exploding. And the mirror shattering. And the door cracking. And the fact that we've all already seen Carrie. It's just like Twilight drawing out the part where Bella discovers that Edward is a vampire. Yeah, you're your own story, but calm down. American audiences aren't as dumb as the Zac Efron trailer before the film would have you believe.

3) Really? This is high school?

This is Carrie's friend Sue.

This is Carrie's enemy, Billy.

If those two are high school aged, I really missed out.

4) The film relies too much on creaky CGI.

How hard is it to unspool some fishing line and go to town? The visual effects really show their seams and it all ends up feeling too glossy and sharp, like licking a page of a magazine.

That last flaw is the most evident and comes closest to dampening the movie's effect but where Carrie has strengths, Carrie has strengths.

Pictured: Strengths.

Now that we have those out of the way, we can talk about nice things and plot! If you are one of the few people who doesn't know this story (And they're out there. There are tens of them!), Carrie is about a young woman named Carrie White (Moretz) who lives under the iron fist of her devoutly religious mother Margaret (Julianne Moore).

One day when she gets her first period in the locker room, she is mercilessly mocked by a gang of girls led by Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday), a Regina George if there ever was one. In her anger, Carrie discovers that along with her period has come a mysterious power to make things move with her mind.

Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) has extreme guilt about having been part of the group that made fun of Carrie and she talks her boyfriend Tommy (Ansel Elgort) into asking Carrie to prom to make her feel better. Meanwhile, Chris and her hot boyfriend Billy (Alex Russell) make a plan to ruin Carrie's special night via a lovely pig's blood facial.

High school is like being pelted with bloody tampons every single second of your waking existence. My grandfather claims it was the best time of his life. He must have been really hot back then.

One of the most exciting things about Carrie is its old fashioned approach to horror. There's no jump scares here, just plain old nerve wracking creepiness. Now, a lot of the tension is lost because you know exactly what's going to happen (The Statute of Spoiler Limitations has long since run out on a 1976 film based on a 1974 novella), but the film still packs plenty of punch, mostly in the scenes where Julianne Moore and Chloë Grace get to square off.

The decisions to cast Moore and Moretz were the first and third most effective choices for the film, the second being Judy Greer as Ms. Desjardin, the gym teacher who just wants to see Carrie succeed. Greer (whose career highlight thus far has been as the inimitable Kitty Sanchez on Arrested Development) works in a pitch perfect comic register that balances out the film quite nicely and her motherly affection toward Carrie is utterly compelling.

Between that, Moore's gut-wrenchingly terrifying and zealous histrionics, and Moretz's naïve charm (her nervous smile put me in the mind of Boris Karloff in Bride of Frankenstein more than a few times), Carrie has more than enough legs to stand on.

Two. You only need two.

And frankly this is a story that, although simple, deserves to be retold. Openly lesbian director Kimberly Peirce (whose biggest feature by far is her debut film Boys Don't Cry) updates the timeless themes (namely: teenagers suck) and pulls them into a new world pervaded with social media and cyberbullying.

This past decade, the dangers of bullying have been receiving a lot more press and activist groups are becoming much more numerous and involved with high schools across the country. People are beginning to stand up for themselves and fight against something that has up until now merely been seen as an unpleasant but expected institution in the lives of young men and women.

Essentially, the time has never been riper for a reinvention of Stephen King's fabulous freshman debut, and although the film feels somewhat insubstantial when held to the light of his masterwork of exploring a young woman's development, at the end of the day it has something to say, it's disturbing when it wants to be, and it never slows down.

Carrie is enjoyable to the very end, no matter how many times this story has been reworked.

The devil never dies, it just keeps coming back. And this devil of a tale is unstoppable.

TL;DR: Carrie is perhaps unnecessary, but not even remotely unenjoyable.
Rating: 8/10
Should I Spend Money On This? Yes, especially considering this is the only wide release horror film of this year (gag me with a spoon). Support horror! Happy Halloween!
Word Count: 1053

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