From the opening moments of “Carrie,” you know you’re in for a bloody good time.
As Margaret White (four-time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore) is stretched out on her bed, moaning in apparent agony, it is fairly obvious that something is horribly wrong with this woman. It is evident, that due to the visible bump on her stomach, she is in the midst of giving birth. However, an overwhelmed Margaret is screaming about the “cancer” in her and how it’s painfully ripping her apart. This is not a stable woman.
After a generous mixture of blood, gore and afterbirth, Margaret gently lifts up the ends of her dress to expose a beautiful, tiny female, who opens up her eyes for the first time to adoringly gaze into the eyes of her protector. Of course, Margaret, being the religious zealot she is, doesn’t see her bouncing baby girl as a gift from God, she views it as an example of the devil’s pull and his influence. She snatches a shiny, sharp pair of scissors from the dresser and brings down the blade towards the gentle, unknowing face of her newborn baby… but something stops her. This child, born of sin, actually must be a test from God – one that she reluctantly accepts.
That child’s name is Carrie. Carrie White.
You’d think when you’re born under such horrendous circumstances, your life would eventually get easier. Well, for Carrie White, it doesn’t. Mercilessly teased and ostracized by her peers at school, Carrie’s existence is anything but easy.
After the gory childbirth scene, we fast-forward to Carrie (now portrayed by brilliant, up-and-coming actress Chloe Grace Moretz of “Kick-Ass“ “Let Me In,” and “Dark Shadows” fame), as she trudges her way through a swimming pool full of volleyball-playing, teenage girls in her high school gym class. Right from the start, we figure out two things. The first thing is that Carrie is extremely shy and has absolutely no social skills whatsoever. The second thing we learn is that the girls in Carrie’s school hate her with a rudderless passion. They don’t know why they hate her, but they just do. This is evident as Carrie attempts to serve the ball and accidentally pegs Sue (Gabriella Wilde, “The Three Musketeers” and the upcoming films “Endless Love” and “Squatters“), the most popular girl in school, right in the back of her head. As everybody laughs at the unintentional beaning, Carrie decides to get in on the joke too and laugh at someone else’s misfortune for once. Not so fast, Carrie. Her classmates, especially the mean and conniving Chris (played by Portia Doubleday, “Youth in Revolt,” the upcoming Spike Jonze flick “Her“), turn their laughter and hatred towards Carrie. “Carrie White eats shit,” Sue proclaims. Indeed.
After the gym class incident, things don’t get much better for Carrie. It seems that her religious
zealot of a mother has forbid her from taking a group shower with the other girls, for fear that her eyes might wander and inappropriate thoughts might rear their ugly head. So, Carrie waits for the other girls to finish their bathing rituals before entering the stalls herself. While Carrie is under the running water, she notices that her bar of soap is covered in her own blood. She immediately panics and runs out of the shower, barely covered, but with her hands covered in a crimson shade, begging the other girls for help. To the other girls, it is fairly obvious what Carrie is experiencing is the natural phenomenon of menstruation. However, the uninformed and ignorant Carrie is certain that she’s dying. Instead of helping her, the girls, led by Chris, decide to gather up all of the feminine products they can find and hurl them at Carrie, as she begs for mercy with her hand outstretched. “Plug it up! Plug it up!,” the girls repeatedly yell at her. However, Sue, that pretty girl that Carrie hit with the volleyball, stops yelling and looks onto the horrible scene with disdain. She feels pity for poor Carrie White.
Carrie, who is now hysterical, is eventually saved by Miss Dejardin (played by Judy Greer – which, in my opinion, is the best performance within “Carrie”), the sympathetic and supportive gym teacher, who has to actually slap Carrie in the face to calm her down. She gives the culprits a few disapproving words and tries to help Carrie to her feet, but Carrie’s anger is so heightened that she manages to move a number of the feminine products that have piled on top of her with her mind. In other words, this is the first time Carrie has used her telekinetic abilities on something. Needless to say, it’s not the last time.
Things go from worse to awful for Carrie White in the next couple of weeks. See, the prom is coming
up and because of the “shitty thing” they did to Carrie during the shower room stunt, all of the girls involved are told by Miss Dejardin to run laps in gym class for an undisclosed amount of time or they’ll be suspended and unable to attend the prom. Everybody complies, except for the bratty and loudmouthed Chris, who tells Miss Dejardin that her lawyer father will sue the school. The tough gym teacher calls her bluff and when nobody else will back her up, including her (now former) best friend Sue, she angrily walks away from the class. “This isn’t over by a long shot,” Chris screams.
Well, that’s the understatement of the year.
For the next hour or so, life is a roller coaster of emotions for the frail Carrie. Sue, who now makes it her life’s mission to make it up to Carrie, convinces her jock boyfriend Tommy (Ansel Elgort, the upcoming “Divegent”) to take Carrie to the prom as a favor to her. Carrie is apprehensive at first, thinking it’s a trick, but she soon becomes excited about the idea. Of course, she doesn’t tell her Mom, in fear she’ll flip out. Gee, I hope she doesn’t find out. At the same time, Chris and her borderline criminal boyfriend Billy (Alex Russell, “Chronicle”) decide to make Carrie the target of a mischievous and mean-spirited prom prank. Now, if you’ve read Stephen King’s 1974 horror classic or seen Brian De Palma’s stunning adaptation from 1976, then you know what that
prank consists of. If you haven’t, well, then you’ve most likely seen the commercials and/or the trailers, which have spoiled the ending anyway. I’ll just say that it involves some pig’s blood, a bucket, a pulley system, an unsuspecting Carrie at the prom, and two jerks holding a rope. Oh yeah, and it ends with a splash.
The prom scene ending is a wonderfully visceral experience to behold. This segment is beautifully
crafted by director Kimberley Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry,” “Stop-Loss”), as is the rest of the film. Peirce understands what it means to be a girl at the crossroads of becoming a woman, while Moretz nails Carrie’s insecurities perfectly. I’ll admit, at first, I thought Moretz might be a little too pretty and put together for the role of the awkward and lanky Carrie. I mean, Sissy Spacek was ideal in the role in De Palma’s version and underneath her skinny frame, she WAS Carrie White. I have to say, Moretz really surprised me in this role. She looked just frumpy and haggard enough to pull it off. And when she got dressed up for the prom at the end, she looked gorgeous. And, after that horrible prank goes awry and Carrie fully realizes the potential of her telekinetic powers, she looks terrifying and behaves in a downright frightening manner.
However, it’s Julianne Moore that really shines here, In her second role in less than a month in which she plays somebody who’s extremely religious (“Don Jon” was the other), she takes the part, of the overbearing nutcase that is Margaret White, head-on. I was positive that nobody could play this role better than Piper Laurie did in De Palma’s original, but Moore proved me wrong. That being said, Laurie still delivers the line, “They’re all going to laugh at you,” with a little more fervor, but nobody’s perfect. From the opening birth scene to the creepy conclusion of the film, where she stalks Carrie and literally tries to kill her with kindness, she completely embodies this role. When she places Carrie in her “praying closet,” I really believed that she thought that God would be watching her while she occupied it and the prayers would save her soul. And when she instinctively grabs a knife after she hears a questionable noise (Carrie is actually
upstairs practicing her telekinesis by moving books and her whole bed of the floor) and saunters up the steps towards Carrie’s room, I believed that she would murder her own daughter to gain favor with the lord. These are hard emotions to convey, but Moore managed to convey them with fierce convictions.
Everybody involved with “Carrie” had the unenviable task of both adapting a beloved novel for the screen AND remaking a classic movie that has legions of hardcore fans, but they were able to pull it off… with flying objects, not colors. Peirce did an admirable job with the material and skillfully recreates the characters in this film, so that they remained faithful to the material, while being new and fresh to a different generation. Although, I thought the setting would have benefited if it were kept within the time period of the 1970’s, instead of the present day, simply for the fact that the inclusion of social media kind of cheapened certain character’s motivations. The actors involved did an commendable job portraying roles that are familiar to avid readers and filmgoers alike – not the most desirable of jobs to partake in. The screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen (both “It” and “The Tommyknockers” TV miniseries)and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (“Glee,” the upcoming thriller “The Town that Dreaded Sundown”) includes all of the cerebral and gruesome goodness that both the book and
the original screenplay (also by Cohen) had. I also loved Marco Beltrami’s score (“World War Z,” “3:10 to Yuma,” “The Hurt Locker“), especially during the prom scene chaos and the violent moments after the action spills out into the streets in front of the sleepy Maine town. His use of electric guitar, in place of prototypical organ stabs, is inspired.
“Carrie” is filled with awkward teenage emotions, the angst of physical changes, and the questions that come with where religion’s place is within the 21st century. It’s also filled with flying objects hurled telekinetically by bloodied and battered pseudo-witches, destruction and death on an apocalyptic level, and revenge in its purest form.
Whichever reason you choose to go see “Carrie,” I’ll say it again, you’re in for a bloody good time