“You Will Know Her Name”
Director: Kimberly Pierce
Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabrielle Wilde
Synopsis: A reimagining of the classic horror tale about Carrie White, a shy girl outcast by her peers and sheltered by her deeply religious mother, who unleashes telekinetic terror on her small town after being pushed too far at her senior prom.
Remaking a well-known movie that was successful in its day is a tricky exercise for a moviemaker. They face the wrath of die-hard fans of the original movie who will dismiss their work as inferior, often without having even watched it; if they change the storyline in any way they’re accused of messing with something that oughtn’t to be messed with, and if they make a scene-for-scene remake everyone wants to know what the point was. The thing about the original Carrie movie is that it has aged so badly in the thirty-eight years since it was made that a remake was almost a necessity if Stephen King’s creepy high school turning-worm tale was to continue to find an audience. Although Kimberly Pierce’s 2013 version remains very close to the first movie, it benefits from modern-day sensibilities but, like the original, still suffers from the unlikely detail of a teenage American schoolgirl foregoing her big night at the school prom as an act of atonement towards the class scapegoat.
Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick Ass, Kick Ass 2) plays the titular character, and right there you have a problem. There’s nothing wrong with Moretz — in fact she gives an extremely sympathetic performance — but she’s way too cute to be the school punchbag. Sissy Spacek was ideal casting for the role in 1976 simply because she possessed the kind of plain looks that were capable of approaching beauty when make-up was expertly applied. Moretz never looks anything less than adorable, kick-starting the protective instincts of probably every male member of the audience. Anyway, Carrie is obviously a slow developer, because she’s still to have her first period despite being about seventeen years old. Unfortunately, the momentous event occurs while she’s taking a shower at school after a games lesson, and her panicked belief that something is seriously wrong with her earns nothing but contempt from her peers who, rather than offering help or comfort, throw tampons at her while chanting ‘Plug it up!’
The reason Carrie was so terrified is that her religious zealot mother (Julianne Moore — The Big Lebowski, Children of Men) neglected to instruct her about the facts of life. In fact, Margaret White greets the news of her only daughter’s first period as evidence that she must have sinned in some way, and locks her in a cupboard to pray. Meanwhile, back at school, the gang of young ladies who so gleefully threw tampons at Carrie are faced with extended detention with games teacher Ms Desjardin (Judy Greer — The Descendants). Most of them accept their punishment, even if they don’t feel it’s deserved, but Chris Hargenson (Portia Doubleday) rebels against Desjardin, leading to her being barred from attending the upcoming school prom.
Another student who won’t be attending the prom is Chris’s friend Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde). Not because she agrees with Chris or follows her lead — in fact, her refusal to do so marks the end of their friendship — but because she feels so guilty about the ‘tampongate’ incident that she’s persuaded her boyfriend, Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort) to ask Carrie to the prom as some cockeyed form of apology for her part in Carrie’s humiliation. However, when Chris learns that Carrie will be attending the prom she plots an act of revenge which will prove to have devastating consequences for the entire town of Castle Rock.
It’s difficult to compare the two versions of Carrie simply because Brian DePalma’s 1976 version has aged so badly, but one area in which the new version beats the original hands down is in the character of Carrie’s mother, Margaret. Not only is she given more emotional depth than the 1976 version, Julianne Moore gives a much less hysterical interpretation than that given by Piper Laurie, who genuinely believed she was making a black comedy. DePalma’s version was a caricature of a religious zealot, while the 2013 version is a more believable woman who, although touched by madness is torn by her deeply religious beliefs and her love for her daughter.
The other advantage the 2013 Carrie has over the original is thanks to the development of SFX and CGI over the past thirty-eight years. The final scenes of the 1976 version were badly weakened by the fact that DePalma simply didn’t have the budget to recreate the carnage wrought by Carrie White in King’s novel as she wanders back from the prom to her house. The incidents depicted in Peirce’s version might lack imagination — and the fate of Chris Hargenson is as likely to provoke laughs of derision rather than shock or horror — but it at least doesn’t feel like an anti-climax.
Considered as a film in its own right rather than a remake of another movie, Carrie more than holds its own in a genre that is in real danger of becoming the preserve of second-rate moviemakers out to make a quick buck. That might be largely due to the fact that it’s based on an established horror story to which it remains relatively true and in which attention to characterisation is crucial if the horror aspect is to have any impact.