Tuesday, October 22, 2013

NEW CARRIE VS. OLD CARRIE: WHICH WAS MORE SCARY?

Chloe Grace Moretz as CARRIE (2013)

Kimberly Peirce’s take on “Carrie”, that opened this past Friday, October 19, is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a respectable adaptation of the Stephen King novel for a new audience. And it made 18 million this past weekend (http://abt.cm/172gXP6). Nonetheless, the worth of any remake lies truly in how it stands up to its predecessor artistically. So, with that in mind, let’s compare this new version to the 1976 classic of “Carrie” and see how close it comes.
Sissy Spacek in her Oscar-nominated version of CARRIE in 1976.
Sissy Spacek vs. Chloe Grace Moretz

Both who’ve essayed the role on the big screen are wonderfully talented actresses. And they each render their Carrie empathetically. Spacek however seemed to be Carrie, where you can see Moretz acting the part. In fact, Peirce fudges right off the bat by giving Moretz a bad red rinse to make her look odder. Spacek looked unusual to begin with. Her abundance of freckles, ghostly white skin and humongous eyes all gave her a true uniqueness. When her Carrie is told she’s pretty by Tommy, it’s more of her inner beauty that he sees. When Moretz is told it here, it’s because frankly, the actress is a knockout. And Moretz is way too over-confident when destroying the town. You’d expect that from Hit Girl, but not Carrie.
Piper Laurie cradles Sissy Spacek in CARRIE (1976)
Piper Laurie vs. Julianne Moore

Moore was scarier as Sarah Palin. Here, she’s incredibly staid, even dull. Didn’t Moore realize that Carrie’s mother is Medea or Cruella de Ville, a villainous an actress should have some fun playing? Yes, there’s a bullying element to this material, and religious wacko’s do a lot of harm, true, but this is a horror movie. It’s supposed to be fun too. Piper Laurie purred even snide lines like, “Your dirty pillows are showing.” And when Moore confesses she liked the sex that led to her pregnancy, there’s none of the carnality that Laurie’s mad mom exalted in through her confession. Less is Moore here.
Sissy Spacek being directed by Brian De Palma 
Brian De Palma’s direction vs. Kimberly Peirce’s

If anything, Peirce is too restrained, especially for a horror movie. She treats Stephen King’s great pulp fiction as if it’s the Matthew Shephard story. Her “Carrie” is too staid and straight. Heck, she even rushes the destruction of the prom, and that’s the set piece! And since Peirce was so willing to re-do her friend’s classic (http://bit.ly/1a3jeff), why not find more ways to differentiate it? She repeats tons of dialogue verbatim, and even vamps the ‘shopping for prom tuxedos’ scene? Adding cell phones and social media isn’t enough.

Look, I don’t think De Palma walks on hallowed ground (http://exm.nr/1bZSgGN), but his “Carrie” is a classic, and his direction was wicked and witty. Peirce can be a great director as “Boys Don’t Cry” proved, but she’s whiffed this one. And why didn’t she pay homage to De Palma’s classic split screen effects? That made his “Carrie” killer.
Amy Irving as Sue Snell in the original CARRIE (1976)
Old school teens vs. new school teens

Not one teen in this new one makes much of an impression. No one comes close to registering the saucy mischief of Nancy Allen as Chris, or the wide-eyed regret of Amy Irving as Sue Snell. The best Peirce can summon is two twins who almost could be an effect, that’s how similar and boring they are. And the new Tommy is so earnest and dull that when he dies it has little impact. When William Katt died in the ’76 version, you felt the utter tragedy of the prank gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Prom apocalypse vs. prom fire

Yes, that’s how these two set pieces could be characterized, as the 1976 version took no prisoners. Everyone in the old school version perished in the flames. In this one, it looks like only the baddies bite the big one.
Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz) stops the villain's car in the 2013 version.
1976 special effects vs. 2013 special effects

Okay, this one the new version wins, only because visuals have come so far. But having Carrie fly during her revenge gilded the lily. After such levitation, bringing her house down with telekinetic powers seemed almost anticlimactic.
The old ending vs. the new ending

This is the problem with remakes. The original ending of Carrie, where she reached out and grabbed Sue from beyond the grave, was a classic and it’s been done dozens of times since then. So Peirce opted for her own ending where Carrie is actually alive under the dirt. The original ending was Sue’s bad dream, suggesting that the teen girl would never get over her guilt. This one lamely sets up Carrie’s return for a sequel. Yawn.
Sissy Spacek and William Katt at the prom in CARRIE (1976)

Some remakes deepen and darken the material for a modern time, like this year’s take on “Maniac” (http://exm.nr/12aFy13). But this “Carrie” is so very…unnecessary. Next time, I’d like to see a director of Peirce’s caliber execute a new version of one that could some refining, like 1981’s “Funhouse.” Imagine what you could do with the world of traveling fair’s and the terrifying grittiness of roadies? I’ll bet that film would even be fun, considering the name and all. And it’s certainly something this new “Carrie” was lacking.

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