Given this year marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of Stephen King’s iconic novel Carrie it seems only apt that a new imagination of the material should return to screens. And a ‘re-imagining’ is what director Kimberly Peirce is aiming for so as to avoid any parallels with Brian De Palma’s 1976 classic.
The story is now almost engrained in cinematic lexicon. Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz) spends her time with her head down and trying not to upset her God-fearing mother Margaret (Julianne Moore). But one day, while showering after gym class, Carrie experiences her first period. Unaware of why she is bleeding her classmates mock her with Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) soon realising how cruel they are being as queen-bee mean girl Chris (Portia Doubleday) records the whole thing and uploads it to the internet. With puberty hitting so Carrie discovers she has gained telekinetic abilities that will come in handy against her mother and those pesky classmates who point and laugh.
The latest incarnation of Carrie never offers up anything hugely original from either the novel or from what De Palma’s film touched on the first time round. That said, in an age of online bullying and the rapid emergence of the superhero genre a new Carrie seems fitting.
Peirce has form with the outsider looking in syndrome having directed Boys Don’t Cry and manages to isolate Carrie in the world of horror that is seemingly any American filmic high school. The gore may be slightly dialed down from the original’s splatter but, if anything, it often feels grander, perhaps to its detriment given the more intimate nature of the story. It does mean that the set pieces, even down to the small moments of Carrie flexing her telekinetic muscles, feel more staged than organic.
Moretz has repeatedly demonstrated that she’s a talented actress and in her hands Carrie always feels more hopeful that Sissy Spacek’s mousy approach. Moretz balances Carrie with a shyness combined with the hope that she won’t always be the outsider, won’t always be intimidated by her mother but of course, with first blood comes great power. Moore meanwhile is a little too quiet for the maniacal Margaret, disheveled and self-harming she is never the image of terror you feel she could be.
Despite its protestations to the contrary this Carrie is very much a re-tread of De Palma’s film rather than a rise from the grave for King’s source novel. But Carrie just about throws her weight around to make enough of a splash to be a worthy way into the King cannon for a new generation.