Monday, October 21, 2013

Movie Review: What's the point of remaking classic 'Carrie'?

This column was originally published in the KPC Media Group newspapers and online at Read the original column here. Republished on The Pop Tarts with permission. 

I understand the desire to remake horror movies. So often, the special effects in movies from decades ago fall flat, and for horror movies, bad special effects can be the kiss of death for modern audiences.

However, the really great horror movies of years past, like other classic films, hold up well, and 1976's "Carrie" is a great horror film. If you don't believe me, go back and watch it again. It really is one of the great ones.

I'm not saying that the new remake isn't good, too, because it is. In fact, if it were the first version of "Carrie" to hit theaters, it would probably feel like a pretty darn good movie, because it is. But because it's so faithful to both the original movie and the book, and it's solid and well-made with no huge changes, it feels like a case of "been-there, done-that."

"Carrie" follows teenager Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz), the daughter of religious zealot Margaret (Julianne Moore). After a particularly cruel incident at school, Carrie discovers that she has telekinetic powers. One of the girls, Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde), feels terrible for what happened to Carrie, so she convinces her boyfriend, Tommy (Ansel Elgort), to take Carrie to the prom. Unfortunately, the leader of the mean girls, Chris (Portia Doubleday) has other ideas - to take her cruelty to a new level.

My issue with "Carrie" is not that it's not a well-acted, well-made movie. In fact, if they had to remake a classic, Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore were brilliant casting choices for Carrie and her mother. Moretz is wonderful as the terrified, downtrodden Carrie. She brings a raw intensity to the role, and I could feel every emotion - fear, pain, exhiliaration and, for a brief few moments, anyway, pure joy.

The real star is the talented Julianne Moore as Margaret White, though. There's a craziness to her that permeates her performance, but there's also a tenderness and love for her daughter that is present, always fighting with her crazy side. Moore is able to keep both sides present, while bringing each to the forefront in turn. She really brings a wonderful quality to the role.

The movie also has excellent, updated special effects, but of course it looks a little better and more realistic than a movie that's 37 years older. Still, the 1976 version of "Carrie" was a pretty good-looking movie itself. Even when you throw in the excellent lead performances, it just didn't seem like there was anything new or different in this new version of "Carrie."

Oh sure, there were a few changes, like the fact that the girls recorded the infamous shower scene at the beginning of the movie on their cellphones and posted it to the Internet. But there is nothing substantially different in the movie, and even during the big climax I felt a little bit bored by the whole affair. Even great performances, a solid script and good direction couldn't make this version of "Carrie" feel like anything but a rehash of the superior original.

"Carrie," then, should serve as a cautionary tale for filmmakers who want to remake the classics. I'm not against the practice, because I really do believe it can work. I'm not so bogged down in nostalgic bliss for movies that I can't watch a new version of an old favorite - I'm a fan of 2005's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and I love the "Star Trek" reboot series - but the movie has to have a new spin on the concept, or the audience might as well stay home and watch the original version. Sadly, "Carrie" just doesn't bring anything new to the table.

Jenny's Take: See it on DVD.

(Rated R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content. Runs 100 minutes.)

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