“What did Carrie White ever do to you?”
Director Kimberly Peirce, screenwriters Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and actresses Chloë Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore present a movie that is actually quite creepy and disturbing, with a focus on psychological issues and gruesome violence. “Carrie”, based on a novel of the same name by Stephen King, tells the story of a teenage girl who is mentally and physically abused by her mother and severely bullied at school. Upon accidentally discovering she has telekinesis, she begins to experiment with her new found power. When things seem to start going well at school, a cruel prank is played on her that pushes her too far, causing her to use her power for revenge.
The problem with remakes is that audiences who have seen the original almost can’t help themselves in comparing the new version to the old which is a huge disservice to a film that’s trying to present material from a new approach and often a modern time period. In this version of “Carrie”, the material is presented in a unique way so that audiences can enjoy it within the realities of present day while maintaining the timeless message at its core.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Lawrence D. Cohen wrote a truly disturbing script. It’s definitely more of psychological thriller aside from the extreme violence. Partly what makes the screenplay powerful is that it builds sympathy for Carrie. Her mother is clearly mentally unstable and abusive and at school the majority of her peers are bullies. So whenever someone is kind and stands up for her, we’re cheering and hopeful. When things seem to be going well we feel happy for Carrie. Yet, her character arc is so striking because as her power grows, we start to feel concerned that she’s unstable. Another facet which works really well is the humour. It isn’t in there very often but when it is, it’s realistic and sarcastic. It’s kind of unexpected to laugh while watching this film so it’s a pleasant surprise.
There are, of course, some issues with the script that are a little cringe-worthy. Since this movie is updated from the time the book was published – it was published in 1974 – details are included to modernize the story. Except one. In the opening scenes with Carrie, she experiences something that happens to females during puberty, yet she doesn’t even know to expect this change in her body. The issue with this is that school systems, at least in Canada, talk about this in health class. Are we then to accept that she knew nothing about it even though her mother didn’t tell her? It’s almost too much of a stretch to be believable. Also, is there some cheesy dialogue? Of course; there typically is in horror movies especially when teenagers with a high degree of vanity and big egos make up a lot of the characters. The main result is that it adds to these characters’ level of crazy, but the clichés are also a bit humorous.
The opening scene is bloody but other than that, the gore is slowly built up throughout the movie which makes the violence of Carrie’s revenge much more shocking. When the main bullies are being executed slow motion is used to capture the details of the special effects. The slow motion could seem cheesy – since it’s done more than once – but it works for this movie. The climax and following scenes are meant to be extremely violent and instead of having it happen so fast that all we see are splatters of fake blood, it’s slowed down so we get to see exactly how gruesome this rampage is as it escalates. The special effects team also added physical details to Carrie which reflect the mental changes that she goes through.
“Carrie” is a good horror film if you’re looking for something that is psychological and gruesome. It leaves an impression without trying too hard. Since bullying is a highly talked about topic in recent years, this movie is relevant even though it’s an extreme depiction of standing up to bullies. The screenplay and the gore are well-done – as is the acting – and there are only a few issues which are off-putting. If you can, try to view this movie as though it’s fresh material for the full effect. “Carrie” is a good choice for a movie that explores ever-present social issues and also serves audiences’ appetite for a gory, entertaining horror film.
My Rating: 8/10