There’s an inherent problem in the idea of remaking any film, a human fault if you will, that means that a remake of any movie defined by its twist or a big event will, even unknowingly, indicate that twist or event to the audience long before it takes place on screen. So, when the remake of Carrie, the now-classic tale of a bullied teenage girl with burgeoning telekinetic powers, opens with a grotesque religiously-soaked home birthing sequence, it’s hard to feign surprise.
Perhaps the biggest surprise with Carrie though is that it’s not all bad news. As a retelling of the original movie (and not the book, noticeably) it actually does manage to hit the right marks and function as a sufficiently different retelling, albeit only for the first two thirds. Once you’ve come to settle in to the film and even enjoy it, it swiftly takes a turn into borderline comic-book territory – and therein the problem is highlighted; for while that human fault typically nudges the audience far ahead of where it should be, Carrie instead inadvertedly becomes “Chronicle for girls”, a superhero origin story by way of the horror genre. In fairness, the audience it’s aimed at (presumably nineteen year-old girls who didn’t know about the seventies original) will likely lap it up, but I’d suspect even they will find the final third (yes, that final third) simply too much, too excessive, too cartoonish and too much to swallow.
To their credit, the cast are largely rather good. Julianne Moore in particular is terrific as the domineering mother, here rewritten as a psychotic would-be-member of the Westboro Baptist Church. Chloë Moretz, as well, is a delight to watch – her performance lacking the other-worldly quality of Sissy Spacek yet serving infinitely better in a contemporary setting. If there’s a fault to be found in Moretz’s casting, it’s simply that she’s too physically pleasant-looking to convince as the awkward and oppressed lead, looking simply like an actress in a costume and preventing you from being completely drawn into the character at any point. That same problem plagues Gabriella Wilde’s casting as the sympathetic Sue Snell. While Wilde’s performance is thoroughly engrossing at times, her looking like a Victoria’s Secret model doesn’t do the film any favours. Thankfully, the always excellent Judy Greer makes up for it somewhat as the quintessential caring teacher figure.
It’s that third act that stumps the entire movie. For a hardened cynic of horror remakes, it’s hard not to think they did rather well with the first two thirds – an interesting and effective retelling for the next generation – but the third act is simply dreadful and leaves a bad taste behind what was at least two-thirds of a good attempt.
Catch Van Connor’s reviews in our Movies section and live on Slam Dunk Cinema every Saturday at 12PM on Sheffield Live! 93.2FM or on the podcast via iTunes.
Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer