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Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013 12:01 am

Carrie a worthy, emotional update


While it might not be Citizen Kane, Brian De Palma’s 1976 version of Carrie is a film that many fans view as a landmark work where horror films are concerned. Not only was it the first big screen adaptation of a Stephen King novel but that it had such a strong female protagonist was, at the time, a progressive step. Equally unheard of was the fact that the two main performers, Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, were nominated for Oscars for their work, a rarity for a genre exercise of this sort. So the inevitable question is, “Why bother to remake it?”

Of course, the answer is “To make money!” as the brass at MGM Studios has taken to raiding their vaults looking for films they can remake or produce sequels to. And while this new version of Carrie, directed with tact and a sense of violent grace by Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry) won’t make anyone forget De Palma’s film, it’s strong and distinctive enough to stand on its own.

For those unfamiliar with King’s tale, it revolves around Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz), a sheltered young woman who might as well walk around with a bull’s-eye on her forehead. Her odd nature makes her prime fodder for the catty bullies who target her day after day. Things reach a head when she has her first menstrual period at an inopportune time, resulting in an embarrassing video being posted online and many of her callous classmates being suspended for their insensitive behavior. However, now that she’s become a woman, Carrie realizes she has the power to move things with her mind, an ability she learns to control with fantastic and fatal results.

What with the modern bullying epidemic raging, the film has an added resonance and Peirce does a find job of stressing Carrie’s underdog statue without ever making her a martyr. It comes as no surprise that Julianne Moore, as Carrie’s psychotic, damaged mother would make an impression. The actress strips herself bare, wearing the character’s haggard demeanor with a sense of determined righteousness that’s frightening in its focus. Meanwhile, Moretz effortlessly garners our sympathy as Carrie. While she may overplay a moment or two early on when the character is discovering her powers, she breaks our hearts as she conveys her feelings of pain and alienation, her expressive eyes being her most powerful tool.

To be sure, advances in special effects make for a more imaginative climax when Carrie reaps her revenge, but that we feel anything at all (exhilaration, fear, regret) during the Sturm und Drang is due to Moretz’s fine work, as well as Peirce’s focus on her main character’s pain and purpose rather then the mayhem resulting from it.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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