Chloe Grace Moretz plays the title role in Carrie, the third adaptation of Stephen King's classic novel that may seem timely in the wake of travesties nationwide related to bullying of students by their peers. Whether it is the 1976 Brian DePalma classic starring Sissy Spacek or the 2002 TV version starring Angela Bettis, Carrie has become the iconic image of victimization and revenge. The fantasy of discovering one has special powers, but because of low self esteem, fanatical parenting and the cruelty of the young, which knows no bounds, these powers unleashed are like a force of nature when combined with extreme emotions. Carrie is essentially as much a tragedy as it is a horror tale.
The film is less faithful to the book than the 2002 version, which featured a teleplay co-written by Stephen King. It is more like an homage to the DePalma version, but it lacks the emotional underpinnings and scares of the 1976 original. Yet if you have never seen the 1976 or 2002 versions, the 2013 version is not without it's charms with Julianne Moore phoning in her performance as Carrie's religious fanatic and tyrannical mother who projects all her fears and resentments onto her daughter. Carrie is so beaten down emotionally and psychologically that up until her maturation from a teenage kid to a teenage woman in the shower menstruation scene at the beginning where Carrie freaks out and is mercilessly abused and laughed at by her fellow gym students in the girls' shower, Carrie begins to discover her latent telekinetic abilities. Something else she never expected, but now is manifesting itself. Yet she is no more able to control her powers than she can the extreme hormone shifts of being a teenager.
Julianne Moore is such a great actress that even when it seems like she is simply calling in a performance, she steals the scene from everyone else in the film. Judy Greer also stands out as Carrie's sympathetic Phys Ed Teacher, but the updated performances by Ansel Algort, Alex Russell, Portia Doubleday and Gabriella Wilde do not match the respective performances that William Katt, John Travolta, Nancy Allen, and Amy Irving delivered in the same character roles in the 1976 version. In fact there are scenes with dialogue that is verbatim from the DePalma film, which may be because the film credits Laurence D. Cohen, who co-wrote the 1975 feature film screenplay with Stephen King as a co-writer of the script for the 2013 version. King who co-wrote the previous adaptations did not participate to best of my knowledge in the 2013 version.
However the weakest link is Chloe Grace Moretz not because she is a bad actress, but she seems miscast or simply not able to deliver the character performances that both Sissy Spacek and Angela Bettis delivered in the first two. I also feel her journey from being this maligned ugly duckling that slowly becomes a beautiful swan on prom night seems rushed. Moore's performance as Carrie's mother is not nearly as frightening or believable at Piper Laurie's in the original or Patricia Clarkson's portrayal in the 2002 version. Plus Carrie comes off almost sadistic and evil rather than frightened and enraged on the border of psychosis as Spacek so beautifully portrayed in the 1976 version and DePalma captured with cinematic style and a true mix of visual and auditory nuances that brought King's words to life in a way that only cinema can.
The closing scenes in the film felt cheap rather than delivering that final emotional punch the original famously delivered. I hate to state this, but those who never saw the 1976 film, but do go and see this version should then rent out the DePalma version and the 2002 version and compare how different mediums with different writers, directors, actors and actresses interpret what is at the core still the same material.
Carrie (2013) is not a horrible film at all despite my comments above. It is just not a great one.
(C) Copyright 2013 By Mark Rivera
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