Why would a director take it upon themselves to remake a film which has achieved near mythical status? Take Carrie (1976) for instance. Brian De Palma’s iconic visualisation of Stephen King’s seminal shocker not only set the standard for the teenage / high-school horrors which would saturate the market in the following decade, but also launched the careers of Sissy Spacek and John Travolta. Well director Kimberly Peirce and producer Kevin Misher have done just that with Carrie starring Chloë Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore, which pulls off the unenviable task of being respectful to the original, yet spicing the story with enough fresh twists that it doesn’t appear like a scene by scene retread of the earlier film. Here the classic tale of Carrie White (Moretz), the young girl terrorised by her fanatical mother (Moore) and cruel classmates alike, with devastating results for all, is reimagined for the social media generation.
The beauty of Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s interpretation of King’s novel and magic of Peirce’s screen vision, is the way in which they have modernised the story, updating it whilst managing to loose none of the ingredients that gave the original its universal timelessness – namely the core aspects of the onset of adulthood, peer-pressure and the spectres of religion and guilt which haunts most of us at some point in our lives. Wisely the filmmakers have kept much that fans of the earlier film will recognise – the little boy next door who comes a cropper after taunting ‘creepy Carrie’ as well as the homemade ‘confessional booth’ in which Carrie’s mother incarcerates her daughter periodically in order to consider the folly of her ways. Yet they have freshened it for contemporary audiences – most notably with an interesting twist for the digital age – though fortunately stopping short of repeating one of the most famous shock scenes in horror cinema.
The other area which of course will come under the inevitable scrutiny of fans and critics alike will be in the area of performances, especially with those of Carrie and her mother. Pleasantly surprising though is the fact that both Spacek and Piper Larurie, who played the central daughter and mother protagonists originally, seldom cross your mind. Moretz and Moore more than capably make these roles their own, with Moore particularly arresting as the woman enflamed with religious obsession, whilst Moretz exudes a precocious maturity as the teenage misfit coming to terms with bewildering changes both physically and mentally.
By no means a classic in the mould of De Palma’s film, neither is this new version the spiritless rehash it could so easily have been, and is well worth acknowledging for that achievement alone.