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A Bloody Classic, Updated with a Revenge-Porn Twist

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One of the least interesting criticisms one can make of a film is “the original was better!” It is launched at every remake, regardless of whether it is true or not, and the new movie is rarely judged on its individual merits. All too often films that have an entirely new perspective, aesthetic, and goals are dismissed (I still mourn for David Fincher’s truly superior “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) because they dared remake something beloved. Knowing all this, I have only one reaction to Katherine Pierce’s remake of “Carrie”:

The original was much, much better.

Pierce’s version has a different opening (a disturbing but mostly baffling prologue featuring the titular Carrie’s birth) but is otherwise essentially identical to the original. The screenwriter of the 1976 original is credited alongside “Glee”-scribe Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa since most of the original script is left intact, although cell phones and unnatural references to Tim Tebow have been thrown in to “update” the script for modern teenagers.

In addition to a weak script, a misused cast ensures that “Carrie” lacks any semblance of a spark.  Despite its all star line up, most of the actors seem badly matched or uncomfortable in their roles. Judy Greer (“Arrested Development”’s Kitty Sanchez), is ineffectual and flat as Miss Desjardin, the gym teacher who attempts to stop the students’ abuse of Carrie.  Moore, for possibly the first time, is too subtle for Margaret White.  Moore seemed like the perfect choice for the role, but her Margaret seems half hearted in her extremism rather than joyfully committed.

The biggest problem in “Carrie” is Chloë Grace Moretz. She has made a name for herself playing preternaturally mature and confident young women (Hit Girl in “Kick Ass”, Rachel in “(500) Days of Summer’) and she seems to struggle playing the sheltered and deeply self-conscious Carrie. She tangles her hair and hunches her shoulders like the best of ’em, but she just comes off as a model trying to play ugly before she gets to remove her glasses. Moretz doesn’t seem able to mask her confidence, and when combined with a revamped script that gives Carrie more control over her powers than previous adaptations, her ultimate transformation much less powerful. She is less like a young woman ignorant and terrified of what is happening to her body and more like a teenaged Matilda.

This major change significantly alters the tone of the now fairly well known ending. Whereas in the original the prom queen prank sent Carrie into a blind and senseless dream state where protectors and abusers are punished indiscriminately, Moretz’s Carrie makes every move deliberately, plucking Miss Desjardin out of the carnage and deliberately guiding her main abuser’s head through a windshield. It goes without saying that violence in 2013 would be much more graphic than in 1976, but in Pierce’s film the massacre pays out more like revenge porn than a horrific tragedy. Evil characters are graphically punished and those who tried to help but failed were spared, an ending far too black and white to be affecting or satisfying.

“Carrie” removes all complexity from the original text and film, ultimately failing to portray the themes at the heart of the story. It is hard not to have expected more of Pierce, who did such wonderful work on “Boys Don’t Cry” but failed to bring any of that insight or depth to this adaptation. “Carrie” is a serviceable horror film for the season, but I doubt it will be remembered for long.

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