The Movie Man: "Carrie" worth seeing
October 22, 2013, By Tim Fak, The month of October usually means one thing as far as film goes: Horror films and supernatural thrillers aplenty. Indeed, my long term plan for the Movie Man column assumed I would be presenting several reviews in this genre in the run up to Halloween. Surprisingly though, this hasn’t worked out as there’s only one major horror film slated for release in October this year. So, in the limited fashion available to me this year, I present my 2013 Halloween themed review: "Carrie", a remake of the 1976 horror classic. Although this film probably doesn’t fill the shoes of its well regarded predecessor, it’s a fun enough little film.
An amalgamation of the plot of the original film, its source novel by Stephen King, with some new modernized elements mixed in for good measure. In case you aren’t familiar with the earlier film or book, basically it’s the story of awkward teenage girl Carrie White who is tormented by her peers in high school yet who also has mysterious telekinetic powers. Of course, eventually those powers will come into play for the cause of revenge. The story is really quite lean, but what’s really going on here is a metaphor for how awful it can be to be an adolescent. In a certain way, the plot feels more relevant than ever in this modern era where concern over things like bullying seems to be at the forefront of our national consciousness. At the very least, everyone remembers how awkward and uncomfortable it can sometimes be to be a teenager, which is enough to give any version of this story a rich thematic vein to build from.
Carrie is played in this go around by Chloë Grace Moretz to very solid effect. Moretz has taken some very demanding and offbeat roles in her career, and is probably one of the most outstanding working actors in her age bracket. Here, she actually gets the chance to run with a sole starring role and does pretty well with it. It’s also worth noting that Moretz is actually a teenager; as opposed to the mid-20 something’s that typically play teenage characters in television and film. It’s in interesting element to have in the mix, and I personally prefer it to the more usual approach of using an older actor.
Julianne Moore gives one of her usual outstanding performances as Carrie’s mother managing to wring some genuine emotion out of a character that has a tendency to be a bit one note in both the novel and the original film. Judy Greer gives a rare dramatic performance as the sympathetic gym teacher, in a role that’s also being greatly humanized compared to previous incarnations. The film also boasts some fine work from several young, relatively unknown performers that form a solid foundation of supporting characters. Overall, there’s a collection of performances on display that range from good to excellent, and they are definitely one of the high points of what this film has to offer.
If you’ve been reading my reviews long enough to have a sense of my tastes, you know that I tend to really enjoy films that are put together well with a strongly developed sense of style. On both of these grounds, "Carrie" more than holds its own. The film has a striking and dynamic visual style that tends to keep things pretty lively. There’s also a lot of nice design work on display to create a suitably moody atmosphere, which can be a make or break deal in a film like this.
The film also has a near perfect sense of pacing, clocking in at a brisk 90 minutes which feels just right with no real lags or slowdowns. It knows what it needs to do and does it.
The other big area where this new version of "Carrie" has a chance to succeed (and indeed outshine it’s predessecor) is in the realm of special effects. This is one area where film has grown by leaps and bounds since the mid 70’s and this new film takes full advantage of that fact to unleash some pretty cool effects in the film’s climax. I’m sure some people will complain that it essentially turns the final act of the film into an effects driven spectacle when that’s not what it should be, and to some extent this is probably a valid criticism. Still, they do look cool.
Really though, the central flaw of "Carrie" is that there’s just no way it can live up to the original film. That film grew beyond the niche usually occupied by horror films to become one of the more artistically well regarded films of the mid 1970’s. It’s considered a classic, and the new one, decent enough as it is, most likely will never be viewed from such a lofty perch. It’s good enough for what it is, but it just feels like it’s bound to exist forever in the original film’s shadow, which in turn makes the whole effort feel a bit superfluous. I will say though that for my personal tastes there are aspects of this film that I enjoyed every bit as much or more than the original but I fear I’m going to be in the minority on that count.
"Carrie" is rated R primarily for some fairly strong gore and also some language.
Overall, I liked "Carrie". Sure it’s not going to go down as a classic of the horror genre, and purists will scoff at it in comparison to the original, and really it probably didn’t even need to be made. In the end though, the mark of a good film is that it’s enjoyable, and anyone looking for a fun supernatural film this Halloween season is likely to find this one to fit the bill quite nicely
Rated 3 out of 4 stars