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Carrie (2013)

D: Kimberly Peirce / 100m

Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Judy Greer, Alex Russell, Zoë Belkin, Ansel Elgort, Barry Shabaka Henley

When seventeen-year-old Carrie White (Moretz), already a social misfit at the school she attends, has her first period and doesn’t realise what’s happening, her fear and confusion leads to her classmates throwing tampons and sanitary napkins at her, and yelling at her to “plug it up”. This humiliating event is filmed by the worst of her tormentors, Chris Hargenson (Doubleday), and is later posted on the Internet. Stopped by their teacher Ms Desjardin (Greer), the girls are punished by having to stay after school and do repetitive exercises. Chris rebels against this and ends up being suspended; this means she will miss the upcoming school prom. Angered by what she feels is a terrible injustice, Chris vows to get even with Carrie (though not with Ms Desjardin).

For Carrie, her problems don’t end at the school gates. Her mother, Margaret (Moore), governs their lives according to her strict religious beliefs. Carrie tries to explain how terrified she’d been when her period started, but Margaret, her beliefs skewed by a pathological fear of sexual intimacy, berates her daughter for “becoming a woman” and locks her in a closet. Carrie’s anger surfaces and with just her mind she causes a jagged tear to appear down the centre of the closet door. With both mother and daughter realising there is going to be a shift in their relationship – and in Carrie’s favour – a tense line is drawn, and Margaret, now wary of the daughter she has controlled so easily until now, fears for both their futures.

While Chris plots her revenge, another of Carrie’s classmates, Sue Snell (Wilde), ashamed of how she behaved, tries to make amends by persuading her boyfriend Tommy (Elgort) to take Carrie to the prom instead of her. Tommy is initially resistant to the idea but eventually agrees, and asks Carrie if she’d like to go with him. Surprised but flattered (even if she doubts his sincerity to begin with), Carrie agrees. At the prom, and as part of Chris’s revenge, Carrie and Tommy are crowned Prom King and Queen. As they bask in the applause and approbation of their peers, Chris and her boyfriend Billy (Russell) drop two buckets of pig’s blood down onto Carrie and Tommy. The shock and the humiliation is too much and Carrie, using her nascent telekinetic powers, proceeds to take her revenge on everyone there.

Carrie (2013) - scene

Updated in minor ways for a new decade, Carrie plods its way uncomfortably from one leaden scene to the next, never fully convincing and never fully engaging the audience. As a remake it fails to justify its existence thanks to two main problems, both of which are insurmountable: Peirce’s direction and Moretz’s performance.

Peirce – still best known for Boys Don’t Cry (1999) – here proves a bad fit for the material, her approach leading to a curiously flat, matter-of-fact retelling that never takes off or impresses that much. It’s as if she’s decided to film events at a remove, keeping a distance between the audience and the characters so that any empathy the viewer may have is kept from flourishing. For a story with such a strong, emotional resonance, and centred around the age old topics of bullying and female empowerment, it’s even more surprising that Peirce has been unable to connect with the themes inherent in the script. This extends to the performances as well, which – Moore and Moretz aside – are perfunctory and/or lethargic.

Moore is a great choice for Margaret White, and expresses the religious paranoia that has blighted her life, and her daughter’s life, with a real sense of conviction. She’s like a coiled snake, biding its time until the right moment to strike. Moore is the best thing in Carrie but it’s effectively a supporting role and so she’s not on screen enough to make a difference.

Someone who is on screen too much, though, is Moretz, a moderately talented young actress whose rise to stardom on the back of the Kick-Ass movies has meant her being given more praise than is deserved, and who is cruelly shown to be lacking the acting skills needed to portray a character such as Carrie White. She may be the right age but the part requires an actress who is both older and more experienced. Moretz does her best but she’s just not up to it. She isn’t at all convincing as a put-upon teenager, and when required to show the pain and discomfort her life at home has engendered, there’s barely anything for the audience to latch on to. Worse still is the wide-eyed, “did-someone-just-goose-me?” stare she adopts for her telekinetic rampage; if it was intended to make her look scary then someone wasn’t checking the dailies.

With Peirce’s feather light touch on proceedings and Moretz’s underwhelming performance putting the movie at a disadvantage from the risible opening to the even more risible denouement, Carrie fails to meet its audience even halfway. The script is serviceable enough but there’s a lack of effort all round: even Carrie’s destruction of the prom is done half-heartedly, leaving a feeling of “was that it?” in the air.  In horror terms, this has to be the biggest disappointment of 2013.

Rating: 4/10 – yet another poor adaptation of a Stephen King novel/short story/laundry list, Carrie lacks the brio and energy needed to carry it off; turgid in the extreme and saved only by Moore’s creepy performance and a sequence that wouldn’t look out of place in a Final Destination movie.