Friday, October 18, 2013
The remakes keep rolling in. This month we get a new version of Brian DePalma’s “Carrie” (opened October 18 throughout San Diego).
I understand the reason why Hollywood remakes successful films; they hope success will breed success. But when you remake something that’s already good you are also inviting comparison. The remake boasts some talented participants. Director Kimberly Peirce made the exquisite “Boys Don’t Cry,” and actresses Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore have proven their talents on numerous occasions. So although I saw no reason to remake a perfectly good horror film, I was at least hopeful that this trio of strong women could find something new to bring to the story.
The opening scene was hopeful. The new “Carrie” starts with her birth. We find Margaret White (Julianne Moore) in a bloody bed, panicked, and asking God why He is doing this to her. She thinks she’s dying and seems unaware that the pain she is going through is merely childbirth and when baby Carrie pops out, her first instinct is to kill her. But she doesn’t. This is a promising way to begin. It sets up Carrie’s mother as religious, reclusive, and yes just a bit crazy. But then it was all downhill from there.
Brian DePalma’s 1976 “Carrie” starred Sissy Spacek as the painfully shy teenager whose fanatical mother (the unforgettable Piper Laurie) tries to keep her locked up -- sometimes literally – and ignorant of the outside world. But Carrie attends public high school and is mercilessly teased by the other kids after a humiliating incident in the girls’ gym (she thinks she’s dying when her period starts in the shower). Spacek was perfect as Carrie. She was awkward, plain, and decidedly an outsider. And when she feels victimized at the end (in the famous pig blood poured on her at the prom), she finally looses control and retaliates with her telekinetic powers, bringing the school down on everyone – whether they had been cruel to Carrie or not.
In the remake, Moretz takes on the role but looks like a Vogue model. Sure she starts out with frizzy hair and hunched over but that quickly changes. Her hair smooths out, her make up improves, she straightens up, and she looks more like a cheerleader than an ostracized misfit. And that’s not the only problem with the new Carrie. She also realizes immediately that she has telekinesis and learns to control. That completely misses the point of the story. Carrie is a teenager confused by all that’s going on and control is the last thing she is able to exert over anything in her life. And Moretz’s Carrie makes conscious choices about whom she hurts rather than indiscriminatingly lashing out. DePalma’s “Carrie” was about being a troubled teenager. Peirce’s “Carrie” is like an offshoot of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.
This new Carrie is also far too confident and self aware, standing up to her mom almost as soon as the film starts. None of these changes improve the story; in fact they simplify and Hollywoodize it. It is no longer the story of a sad troubled teen but rather a perverse badly made tale of female empowerment.
Peirce tapped in so well to young outsiders in “Boys Don’t Cry” but in “Carrie” she fails to develop any emotional appeal or empathy with her character. In fact it’s Peirce who feels like the outsider in her own film. The qualities that made “Boys Don’t Cry” and to a lesser degree “Stop Loss” good seem foreign here. For every nice moment – like Margaret’s self mutilation – there are a dozen crappy scenes like Carrie flying or levitating books or the dumb exposition at the end to explain what we just saw.
Based on a Stephen King story, Peirce’s “Carrie” has no scares and no sense of horror. It’s all ridiculous and over the top silliness. But what is scary is that these lame Hollywood remakes seem to be creating a generation of movie goers who are less demanding of the product being churned out.
“Carrie” (rated R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content) is a predictable remake. It takes all the familiar elements, recycles them without improvement or creativity. What's really infuriating, though, is that this uninspired remakes opens wide across the country but a genuinely good remake, "We Are What We Are" (a remake of the Mexican horror film about modern day cannibals) will not even open in San Diego. Now that's truly lame.
Companion viewing: “Carrie” (1976), “The Fury,” “Boys Don’t Cry”