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ReThink Review: Carrie - Fresh Eyes (and Blood) on a Remade Horror Classic

Posted: 10/23/2013 8:57 am

The original movie of Stephen King's horror novel Carrie was released in 1976 and, in a rare turn for a scary movie, earned Oscar nominations for actresses Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie. Now, over 35 years later, Carrie has been remade, prompting many to ask why anyone would bother remaking a film that's still referenced today and is widely considered to be a horror classic. But here's the thing -- I don't really care about that since, despite being a movie critic, I've never seen the original Carrie, primarily since I'm not a big fan of horror movies. So instead of the majority of reviews fixated on comparing the two versions, let's take a look at Carrie with fresh eyes to see if this story resonates with the world young people know today. Watch the trailer for Carrie below.

Chloë Moretz, who burst onto the scene playing Hit-Girl in the first Kick-Ass movie, plays Carrie White, a friendless outcast who's lived a sheltered, warped, isolated life due to her Christian whackjob mom (played by Julianne Moore) who often locks Carrie in a closet to pray as punishment and homeschooled Carrie until being forced to put her in a regular high school. But in a truly heartbreaking scene when a gang of bullying girls (led by Chris, played by Portia Doubleday) assaults Carrie in a locker room, we see how poorly Carrie's mom prepared Carrie for the real world and even her own body, along with the first signs that Carrie possesses telekinetic powers that allow her to manipulate objects with her mind.

When the school's sympathetic gym teacher (played by Judy Greer) bars Chris from the prom for the attack on Carrie, Chris vows entitled revenge. But another popular girl named Sue (played by the impossibly willowy Gabriella Wilde) deeply regrets her involvement in the incident, so she tries to make amends by having her football star boyfriend Tommy (played by Ansel Elgort, who should send Mark Ruffalo running for a paternity test) take Carrie to the prom in her place. Which, of course, sets the stage for perhaps the most infamous prom scene in movie history.

From what I've heard, the new Carrie is quite faithful to the original, but with bullying and school shootings so much on our minds these days, Carrie takes on an added resonance that won't be lost on today's audiences.

When Chris pulls out her smartphone to record Carrie being assaulted in the bathroom, my heart sank, knowing how many girls have had their lives ruined or even committed suicide when embarrassing video of them was passed among classmates or posted online. So many school shooters are outcasts pushed to the fringes of the social scene, sometimes even separated from reality, and are often the victims of bullying and belittlement to the point that they lash out at anyone around them. Carrie becomes one of those kids, to the point that the film feels like an allegory about school shootings. And while very few of us are the survivors of massacres, what makes Carrie so endlessly sympathetic as a character is that all of us probably remember kids like Carrie growing up whose screwed-up or overly conservative parents crippled their social skills. Or, if only for a short time, most of us have probably felt like Carrie in some way or another, who just wants to feel liked and normal -- "a whole person" as she puts it -- while fascinated by those who seem to fit in so effortlessly.

Carrie isn't a particularly scary movie, but is more of a supernatural teen revenge drama or, to be honest, a lot like a dark superhero origin story, since part of me expected the X-Men to show up at the end to whisk poor Carrie to the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters so she can learn to control her powers. Director Kimberly Peirce has a talent for directing young people, and I was pleasantly impressed by most aspects of the new Carrie, from the solid acting to its intelligent treatment of high school social strata. And while I can't tell you if the new version is better than the original, if you're looking for a light scare in movie theaters around Halloween and don't feel like traveling back to the 70s, I think Carrie will give you a lot more than you bargained for.

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