Whenever remakes come out, nine times out off ten, my reaction is, why? I can kind of understand it with something special effects heavy like King Kong. Traditionalists will tell you the 30s original is amazing, while the rest of the world just wants slick CGI that makes the monkey look real. I totally get it when there’s a remake because the first version wasn’t very good and wasted a good story, like the terrible half animated Lord of the Rings. And there are times when it seems totally unnecessary and the new version barely strays from the old, yet it’s still great, like the Coen Brothers remake of True Grit. Then there’s Carrie, a movie I couldn’t see a single reason for remaking, until I watched the 2013 remake on the same weekend as seeing the 1974 original for the first time.
At first, the faithfulness to the original made me wonder why the remake needs to exist. The beauty of a protagonist with telekinesis means your special effects budget only needs to be big enough to afford a few rolls of fishing line. Make some furniture move around the room and bingo, powers displayed. It’s not as if 2013 CGi technology really ads a lot to this movie. But then I realised why it’s not such a lazy idea remaking Carrie.
It’s a movie about high school kids, so the target audience is probably also high school kids looking for some cheap thrills and scares. With that in mind, I don’t think a 2013 teenager would even recognise the world in the original movie. No computers, no mobile phones, teachers smoking in their office, John Travolta before being ravaged by decades of hiding in that closet. The world of 1974 just doesn’t exist anymore.
And even though the screenplays are almost identical, Kimberly Pierce’s direction makes it look and feel like a totally different world to De Palma’s. Here, the teenagers are actually played by teenagers, instead of adults in their mid to late 20s. It’s also way less pervey, no opening titles set in slow motion with full frontal nudity of the ‘high school girls’ locker room. No long, creepy exploitation of Carrie in the shower when embarrassment hits. Pierce’s version gets to the point a little quicker without so much fodder for Mr Skin to mine later.
There are a couple of moments though when the updated version slows down to spell out the odd plot point and character motivation in explicit detail, when the original was happy to just put it out there, move on and assume the audience was on the right track.
As someone with no feelings of nostalgia for the original, this remake of Carrie is totally fine. The main place it falls apart is in the casting for the main role. I think Chloe Moretz is generally great. She was perfect in the first Kick-Ass, she was great in Hugo and she managed to make the English language remake of Let the Right One In almost as good as the original. But she’s just too pretty for the role of Carrie. Sissy Spacek had such a perfect, kind of strange look in the original. Even with frumpy clothes and bushy ginger hair, Moretz still looks like she should be hanging out with the glamorous mean girls, not the victim of their cliquey abuse.