Saturday, October 19, 2013

Carrie (2013)

Watching Carrie (2013), it hit me that this is a very female story. From the horrors of childbirth, and the mother's mortal fear of sex, to the daughter's first period, and romantic dreams of a perfect prom. It's hard to imagine anyone not at this point being familiar with the story behind Carrie, but I suppose they must be out there. For the rest of us, it's pretty much inevitable that we're going to compare this new Carrie remake to the previous adaptation of this high school revenge fantasy turned supernatural penned by ubiquitous horror author Stephen King that was released all the way back in 1976.

However, comparisons are apt. I believe that the new director, Kimberly Peirce, may have added some unexpected flairs here or there, but altogether, Carrie (2013) doesn't have very many surprises. It's pretty much exactly the story you're expecting (and wanting to see). Therefore, its appeal must rely on how these mostly familiar scenes are shot, and how well the new actors do in their iconic roles. And from that perspective, I must say that it feels like a carefully constructed, expertly performed rendition of the story. If I may be perfectly frank, as great as the story is (it's every unpopular high school kid's ultimate revenge fantasy, with a dark twist), the original 1976 version can drag a bit.

What that version did have was Sissy Spacek in the titular role of Carrie White, the meek victim of her mother Margaret (played then by Piper Laurie)'s ultra-conservative, religiously-based psychological and physical abuse. Both actresses did a fine job in their roles, and I can say the same about this year's remake, which features Julianne Moore as the terminally sex-phobic mother, and rising starlet Chloe Grace Moretz as the eternally put-upon teenager who discovers that she has a unique and frightening power. I'll admit, it was a little hard to see Chloe in a role that demands hunched shoulders and a constantly averted gaze, when she's done so well as a person of confidence, in roles like Hit-Girl from the recent Kick-Ass 2 (and the earlier movie it sequels). But her acting chops are amazing, and she has a captivating presence on the screen.

Plus, she does eventually get her revenge. But this is a very sensitive story (probably more so than Brian De Palma's 1976 adaptation), that provides even the villains with their motivations (even if they are broken and/or unsympathetic people). Of particular note is the guilt-ridden bully-turned-would-be-savior, Sue Snell, played by the enchantingly pretty Gabriella Wilde, who adds another touching element to the story, unknowingly sending Carrie into the jaws of her more bitter rival, in an otherwise noble gesture of self-sacrificing pity. Chloe's handle on Carrie's telekinetic powers are fun to watch, and when the shit finally hits the fan, the movie provides an exciting climax that does not forget the human heart at the center of the piece.

Carrie is a story with a lot of symbolic potential. There is the battle between the religiously devout mother and her daughter with pagan powers. The conflict between the sexual aspect of human nature, and the religious directive to uphold to a rigid standard of modesty. There is the presentation of natural processes - like menstruation and childbirth - as the horrifying experiences they can be if one is not properly mentally prepared. Following on that, there's the issue of responsibility a parent, teacher, or society has for preparing a child for the changes that come with puberty, and the danger of trying prevent a child from growing up (something that far too many parents are guilty of doing). And of course, there's the symbolism made literal in Carrie, of puberty as a transformation through which a girl acquires a certain power and confidence, and how that facilitates her rebellion from (but not necessarily rejection of) her mother.

With all these concepts hanging in the air, I feel like maybe this story could be a little more than it is. To make a stronger statement. But in the end, the interpretations you make are left up to you. What it is, instead, is a pretty typical coming of age story, with plenty of drama, albeit with the fantastic addition of overbearing religious themes and supernatural powers, to provide a more imaginative and exciting movie-going experience. One that hinges on that iconic image of Carrie at the prom, target of a prank that the whole town would soon come to regret. I think that would be an awesome costume to wear on Halloween. I would totally love anybody who either went trick or treating or attended a Halloween costume party dressed as Carrie, in her prom dress, drenched in blood.

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