Having rewatched the original Carrie recently, I was honestly curious to see this remake. The story is ripe with potential for an update and a scrubbing of the 70s silliness that, intentionally or not, pervades aspects of the De Palma original. Add to this that Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry) was taking the directing chair and I had strong hope for a new vision without losing the core of the story and characters.
Well, not so much.
There are certainly some interesting additions to the movie that attempt to build the background and capabilities earlier for both Carrie and her mother, tackled by Moretz’s (Kick-Ass 2) and Moore (Don Jon), in this new incarnation. And I’ve nothing against either of their performances within the boundaries of how they were directed. And a modicum of new social and technological updates were slipped in… but not nearly enough. The relationships cleaved to the original far too tightly despite aspects that just don’t feel real today.
In addition, this version retained many of the issues of the first. The story is thin and rushed. The character growth is more by convenience than natural. And while the original has an inevitable slide to disaster from the first scene through to the climax and coda, this version feels less tense and inevitable. We aren’t watching a train-wreck in progress, we are, instead, watching a soap opera turned horror by the end.
It didn’t have to be that way. If the script had been fleshed out more on the character side, a deep sense of dread, sadness, and horror could have been built, leading to the end we all knew was coming (it is one of the seminal images of film, it isn’t like it was going to be a surprise). If it had been updated for new social conventions, leaving behind more of the original, in exchange for a more believable story it would have felt real. Sure, we might have lost some classic lines and moments, but I could have lived with that for a more powerful film. Tackling classics is tough, but Luhrman managed it with Gatsby by letting go of so much of the original to embrace a new vision. Gatsby wasn’t perfect, but it had its own focus and value.
For all its faults, the original Carrie is much more satisfying as a movie and, especially, as a horror film than this watered down remake. And given that there is a more satisfying original, I wasn’t feeling charitable enough to rate this film higher–despite it being serviceable in a vacuum. It really is up to you if you want to compare the two.