Carrie

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Directed by: Kimberly Peirce
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Julie Greer, Gabriella Wilde
Review:  2 stars (of five)

The remake of Carrie is sort of a mess, and it’s not a very interesting mess, for the most part.  It doesn’t qualify as a horror film at all:  Except for the climax, when the titular heroine dramatically loses her shit, there’s nothing horrific.  Her psychic powers are kinda cool and never provide a menacing moment (even when she turns them on her creepy, Bible-banging mom, it’s empowering).  Once hell breaks loose at the prom, there’s destruction and death, but delivered flatly, uneffectively.

carrie01The movie squanders a lot of potential.  Carrie’s sudden telekinetic power comes with the onset of menstruation, for which she’s utterly unprepared.  Her classmates shame her, her mother (psychotic religious nut who thinks only “bad girls” get the “blood curse”) shames her.  While other girls are in modern, body-fitting clothes, Carrie mopes around dressed like Laura Ingalls—only to be shamed by her mother for one day having bare arms.  So there’s a lot of body image stuff to work with, too. Most of all, it’s about a girl becoming a woman—she discovers her own power and sense of identity and tears herself free of an oppressive, abusive mother. Any of these could’ve been better developed to round out a thriller with surprisingly few chills.

A challenge director Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry) faces is that the story is pretty well known.  There’s the Brian DePalma version, where Sissy Spacek got the infamous blood bath, and there have been schlocky little sequels and remakes ever since.  So when objects start to move whenever star Chloë Grace Moretz gets angry (you wouldn’t like her when she’s angry), there’s no mystery.  What’s her power?  We know, and she knows too, as soon as she raids her weirdly well-stocked high school library for books on telekinesis.  What will she do with her power?  We know:  She’ll go to prom.  And the movie marches dully from “hey, mind over matter” to “And the homecoming queen is …” as if it’s checking off a list of chores.

carrie02Until the climax (which is not the prom, nor the campus wrath, but Carrie’s final face-off with her mother), the film is mediocre.  The direction and tone are uneven, which wears worst on Moretz.  (Also, Moretz seems to be at her best as the most knowing character in the room.  Playing shy, confused, withdrawn Carrie isn’t her sweet spot.) She’s a very talented young actress whom I really like, but her default position is “not subtle,” and the quality of her performances, her ability to create really nuanced moments, seems entirely dependent on her directors, to the girl’s detriment here.

At times, Moretz’s Carrie is a creepy girl in a barely over-the-top horror movie, and other times she’s a believable young girl struggling to fit in and to relate to her mom.  But the tender, human moments are fleeting and out of place with the rest.  Still, I like the kid, and god knows she commits to the material and to Peirce’s disjointed vision.

With the climax, things go over the top in ways that drew some unintended laughs at my press screening.  It’s just … too much.