Thursday, October 24, 2013

Jimbo Goes to the Movies: “Carrie” (2013) Review

Bloody terrifying, or just bloody awful? 


The 2013 “Carrie” remake gives us our fourth film adaptation of Stephen King’s big breakthrough novel. While De Palma’s version form the ‘70s is usually considered one of the best horror films of all-time, the other two shots at the material -- the in-name only 1999 misfire “The Rage: Carrie 2” and an early 2000s TV movie starring that chick from “May” -- were both savagely criticized and promptly forgotten about.

The fourth go-around, helmed by “Boys Don’t Cry” director Kimberly Peirce, is a pale imitator of the original film, a movie that, outside of a few contextual changes, is more or less a scene-by-scene remake of De Palma’s movie. Alike Gus Van Sant’s “Psycho,” 2013’s “Carrie” is sub-par work from a director surely capable of doing much better. To be fair, topping the original was a tall order, but I still believe Peirce could’ve put a bit more effort into her direction. This is a movie that seems to have no desire to do anything at all original, to deviate from the 40 year old template before it. Yeah, there’s some stuff in there that comments on the times (now, Carrie is the victim of cyber-bullying), but beyond that? It’s a spiritless retread, and one that feels astonishingly lifeless from start to finish.

If you’re familiar with the first film, there’s not much new to tell you here. Carrie -- played by what’s her name from “Kick Ass” -- is your typical home schooled weirdo, who’s having a hard time adjusting to life in a public school. Her mom -- played by that chick that played Clarice in “Hannibal” and gave her son a hand shandy in “Savage Grace” -- is a bible-quoting maniac that operates a dry cleaning business and constantly refers to her own daughter as a cancer. At school, Carrie is picked on for being so awkward, culminating with her being pelted by tampons when she has her first period in the shower after gym class.

So far, there’s nothing going on here that wasn’t in the first movie -- and done worlds better, too. The biggest problem with the movie, for me, was the acting, which felt especially wooden. This Chloe chick definitely lacks the acting chops of Sissy Spacek, and she does very little to bring any sort of real humanity to the character -- she just stares into the camera the entire time, occasionally sputtering out this weird almost-Southern accent despite the fact the film is supposed to take place in Maine (that’s what all the license plates in the movie say, anyway. Too bad the film itself was actually filmed in Toronto.) Julianne Moore is surprisingly dull in this one, lacking the over-the-top, super melodramatic hellfire and brimstone overacting that Carrie’s mom demonstrated in the first flick. The rest of the cast is about as vanilla as you can get, with the actors and actresses doing incredibly weak impersonations of the supporting characters from the De Palma flick. The supportive gym teacher, the kinda’ sympathetic popular girl, the bitchy-bitch, the bitchy-bitch’s greaser boyfriend, the sympathetic popular girl’s sympathetic popular boyfriend; it’s clear that all of these guys watched the first movie, and boy oh boy, do they all falter in their quests to turn those performances into their own.

Literally the only thing new here is the auger of the Internet. Now, Carrie learns about her telekinetic powers through Wikipedia and the school uber-bitch decides to stick it to her by posting embarrassing videos on YouTube. Oh, and there’s a lot of texting going on, too, because clearly, kids weren’t doing that shit in 1976. The aesthetics are somewhat different, but really, we’re just staring at a copy of a copy here.

Additionally, Peirce went overboard with the telekinetic CGI, with Carrie using her mental moving powers to weld her mama inside her prayer closet and, towards the end of the film, do her in with her own sewing devices. The problem here is that the effects look very unconvincing, and there’s way too much slow-motion stuff going on -- especially when the bitchy bitch and her boyfriend have their respective faces erased in a somewhat climactic car crash finale.

Of course, the whole point of the movie is the prom mega-death finale, and odds are, you’ll be disappointed, After years and years of “Final Destination”-style overkill, when Carrie gets all crazy-eyed and tele-killy, the end results are actually pretty mundane. We get some broken class, some mean girls get trampled to death by stilettos and a dude gets eaten by a bleacher, but other than that? Nothing really all that grisly, or original. Shit, at least “The Rage” gave us a scene where that kid from “Home Improvement” had one of  his testicles shot off by a spear gun.

The ending is by-the-books, but Peirce decided to forego the super-shock conclusion the original film had…I guess that one would be a bit too clichéd, but in a film filled with nothing but clichés, I’m not really sure what one more would have hurt, exactly.

The strength of De Palma’s “Carrie” was that it existed in a time when revenge fantasies were cool, and the idea of making all your school tormentors die horrendously was a true novelty. That, and it was just SO goddamn 70s, with John Travolta killing pigs and that crazy ass dance montage finale at the end. The problem with Peirce’s “Carrie” -- outside the fact that the 1976 movie still exists -- is that it’s released at a time when unpopular cast-offs HAVE gotten revenge on their school house foes, and in the wake of Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook, the prospect of a youngster killing a whole shit load of other youngsters just feels a little…iffy. I mean, yeah, kids are getting picked on and bullied over the Internet, but even the most savage prankery is hardly worth the end dividend of an entire gymnasium of teenagers getting massacred. At heart, that’s the structural problem of the film thematic: you’re supposed to relate to -- and CHEER for -- the person that just murdered 400 people. In the ‘70s, filmgoers could take refuge in such a ludicrous concept; today’s filmgoers, I am afraid, are entitled to no such luxury.

As a total film, I can at least praise the flick for moving through the motions quite briskly. The thing is over and done with in 90 minutes, and Peirce never really lingers too long on any one scene in the picture. The film is watchable, I suppose, but it’s far from rewarding, or at the end of the day, even all that entertaining. Slapdash directing, really lackluster acting, a boring and uninspired script, lame special effects and on top of it all, it tries to address a serious issue (teen bullying) and its serious consequences (youth violence) by subverting them into just another popcorn-munching murder-a-thon.

Carrie ‘13 isn’t the worst horror remake of the year, but it’s certainly a major disappointment nonetheless. And alike the prom goers in the finale? You’re probably better off staying at home, too, folks.

Score:


Two Tofu Dogs out of Four.

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