The most unnecessary remake since Gus van Sant’s 1998 shot-for-shot remake of Psycho . . .

STARRING: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Alex Russell

2013, 100 Minutes, Directed by: Kimberly Peirce

Remakes are not inherently evil, but there ought to be a reason for them. Since the original movie still exists and can be seen, why do we need another version of it?  That was the question before the makers of Carrie, an adaptation of the Stephen King novel about the repressed teenage girl who discovers she has telekinetic powers which was memorably filmed by Brian DePalma in 1976.

For those new to the story – presumably the viewers this was made for – Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz, Kick-Ass) is a high school senior being raised by a mother (Julianne Moore) who is a religious fanatic. Mom believes sex is evil, thought she was dying of cancer when she was pregnant, and almost murdered Carrie at birth. In the scene that sets the stage for the film’s conflicts, Carrie experiences her first menstruation in the girl’s shower and freaks out, thinking she’s dying. She has no idea what’s happening to her, and the other girls taunt and humiliate her.

This is one of the two sequences that are different from the earlier film. First, in the DePalma movie the scene was very much about what feminist film critics call “the male gaze.” We’re invited to ogle the nubile beauties in the flesh as if the camera is a boy who snuck into the girl’s locker room. In this version, directed by Kimberly Pierce, we quickly get to Carrie’s hysteria and – new thing! – one of the girls filming it on her cell phone.

The story then proceeds pretty much as before, with bad girl Chris (Portia Doubleday) being suspended by kind gym teacher (Judy Greer), while kind girl Sue (Gabriella Wilde) feels guilty and gets her boyfriend (Alex Russell) to ask Carrie to the prom. We know that Chris is planning revenge which will involve copious amounts of blood and that, as a result, all hell will break loose.  We’ll leave the story there for those who haven’t seen it.

There are a number of differences in the last half hour of the film, most notably not using a split screen during the prom climax, a technique used often by DePalma but not part of Pierce’s style, best known for Boys Don’t Cry. Then there’s the ending. The ending of the 1976 film left audiences screaming and was considered one of the big shock moments in the movies at the time, although it has been often copied since then. Rather than try to duplicate it or improve upon it, Pierce and her screenwriters don’t even try. There is a “surprise” twist, but it’s one that proves largely irrelevant unless they’re planning Carrie II. (It’s not like anyone remembers the 1999 sequel, The Rage: Carrie 2.)

The bottom line on this is that while the performances are okay, there’s nothing here that’s a standout. Moretz and Moore have done better work elsewhere, while Doubleday and Wilde do what they can with their bad girl/good girl roles. What we end up with is the most unnecessary remake since Gus van Sant’s peculiar shot-for-shot remake of Psycho in 1998 which, oddly, also featured Julianne Moore.

 

Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His recently released his first novel, Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

 

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Category: Movies, Reviews

About the Author

Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… and other observations about science fiction movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

  • Solidus

    Most of this just reads as if the movie sucks because it’s a remake.
    Apart from remarking on the performances (Alex Russell is playing Billy, not Tommy by the way), this is basically one giant comparison to the original, rather than reviewing the movie as a telling of a story in its own right.

  • Solidus

    Most of this just reads as if the movie sucks because it’s a remake.
    Apart from remarking on the performances (Alex Russell is playing Billy, not Tommy by the way), this is basically one giant comparison to the original, rather than reviewing the movie as a telling of a story in its own right.

  • Justin

    And what’s wrong with that? When you remake a film (especially one as well regarded as the original Carrie), you INVITE comparisons to the original. In fact, they are counting on being familiar with the original in order to boost their box office via the curiosity factor and being able to ride the coattails of the original in terms of publicity/marketing.

    If a film doesn’t justify its existence in its own right, then you can’t expect one to review it in its own right.

    Ooooh! The girls now post embarrassing pics of Carrie online! Yes – that surely does justify a remake now, doesn’t it? Why is there so little effort to try and get new generations to discover great films of the past which still hold up?

  • Solidus

    >And what’s wrong with that?

    Because I want to know more about how this movie is on its own merits.

    >When you remake a film (especially one as well regarded as the original Carrie), you INVITE comparisons to the original.

    As someone’s personal opinion on which they like better, sure. Not as an evaluation of its own worth as a movie in its own right.

    >In fact, they are counting on being familiar with the original in order
    to boost their box office via the curiosity factor and being able to
    ride the coattails of the original in terms of publicity/marketing.

    There’s a difference between marketing and reviewing something’s artistic merit.

    >If a film doesn’t justify its existence in its own right, then you can’t expect one to review it in its own right.

    The only justification any movie needs is that it is made for entertainment. It was made, its a movie in its own right, and it should be evaluated that way.

    >Why is there so little effort to try and get new generations to discover great films of the past which still hold up?

    You DO realize that one thing remakes usually do is bring attention to the originals?

    If people like a remake, they’re often inclined to check out the original (if they haven’t seen it) to see a different take on a story they like.
    If they hate it, they’re often inclined to check out the original to see if it was any better.

  • Justin

    “The only justification any movie needs is that it is made for entertainment. It was made, its a movie in its own right, and it should be evaluated that way.”

    Not if a previous work (that was also made for entertainment) already fulfills the role of the new work. Do you feel that the criticism of Van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of Psycho was unjustified? Do you feel it is as much of a masterpiece as the Hitchcock’s?? If not, why not? They are the same film and one would have to conclude that Van Sant’s is also “masterpiece” since (according to you) it needs to be evaluated on its own terms and there are few discernible differences between it and the original that came before it.

    If you want an film to be evaluated “as a movie in its own right” – then it first needs to be an ORIGINAL movie in its own right. That’s a self-evident proposition which seems to be lost on you for some reason.

    “If people like a remake, they’re often inclined to check out the original (if they haven’t seen it) to see a different take on a story they like. If they hate it, they’re often inclined to check out the original to see if it was any better.”

    Not true. I have run into many people who have no interest in seeing the original Wicker Man because the Nic Cage remake was such a train wreck that they can’t imagine it being any good. And even if they do, having seen the remake first robs the original of some of its power since they know the main plot points already.

    Unjustified remakes cheapen the cultural impact of the original.

  • Solidus

    >Not if a previous work (that was also made for entertainment) already fulfills the role of the new work.

    By that logic, all you ever need is the first good movie ever made.

    >Do you feel that the criticism of Van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of Psycho was unjustified?

    If that criticism is made on the basis that the movie even exists, yeah. I have no problem with someone making a shot-for-shot Psycho. I didn’t like Van Sant’s Psycho too much for other reasons.

    >They are the same film and one would have to conclude that Van Sant’s is
    also “masterpiece” since (according to you) it needs to be evaluated on
    its own terms and there are few discernible differences between it and
    the original that came before it.

    Actually, they’re not the same film. They may use most of the same scenes and dialog, but you have different actors doing their own version of the roles.

    Some I remember liking (Viggo Mortensen as Sam) and others not so much (Vince Vaughn as Norman). But you know what? That comes as a result of evaluating the movie and its performances on its own terms.

    >If you want an film to be evaluated “as a movie in its own right” – then
    it first needs to be an ORIGINAL movie in its own right.

    This isn’t lost on me, because it’s nonsense. Any movie that is made is a movie in its own right, and should be judged that way. One may not like it as much as an original work, but that’s not the same as it being bad or poorly made.

    >Not true.

    Finding specific counter-examples do not invalidate more general trends.
    Not having seen The Wicker Man, I can only say that I’ve heard it was terrible, but you see, I didn’t even know there was an original until the remake came out. Even if it’s as terrible as has been said, I know have an awareness in the original that did not exist before.

    >Unjustified remakes cheapen the cultural impact of the original.

    More nonsense.
    This new Carrie isn’t going to erase the old one out of existence and wipe out its legacy.

  • Justin

    So in other words, you felt that the reason the original Psycho was a masterpiece was entirely due to the particular actors who were cast in it? No because of its original plot or construction?

  • Solidus

    Not THE reason, no.

  • c.conley90

    I’m more disturbed by the fact that really Moretz wasn’t even 17, she’s suppose to be but they filmed this when she was 15. Thanks a lot guys, I guess if De Palma has her being too old, Pierce has her being too young. That and the guy playing Tommy her date to the prom was 18. Yeah thank you pierce for that creepy jail bait shit in your carrie remake.

  • Solidus

    She’s 16 in the book.

  • c.conley90

    Yes but still she’s going out with an 18 year old in the movie. I just really think she was kind of way too young for the part.

  • Justin

    Several reviews from critics are now in (many of them, full-time professional critics) – with many of them holding the exact same criticism as the reviewer above. I am sure the following critics can all expect to be scolded by Solidus for not judging the film “on its own merits”:

    Alonso Duralde (The Wrap): “It doesn’t do anything strikingly wrong; it’s just unnecessary.”

    Bill Goodykoontz (Arizona Republic): “What’s the point?”

    Eric Henderson (Slant Magazine): “…the film is relentlessly lifeless when it’s not literally ripping off De Palma shot-for-shot.”

    Chris Hewitt (St. Paul Pioneer Press) – ” The original “Carrie” still holds up. Rent it instead.”

    Nell Minow (Beliefnet): “There is nothing especially timely, revealing, or surprising in this remake.”

    Michael Sragow (Orange County Register): “Kimberly Peirce’s remake of Brian De Palma’s Carrie isn’t a total fiasco like Gus Van Sant’s remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, but it’s equally gratuitous.”

    Rafer Guzman (Newsday): “With nothing new to offer, “Carrie” is reduced to attempting the impossible: repeating De Palma’s long, tense buildup to Carrie’s prom, one of the most stylishly executed horror-film sequences in history.”

    Bruce Demara (Toronto Star): “Literally a pallid imitation of the original.”

    Screen International: “There doesn’t seem to be a pronounced rationale, beyond commercial reward, for this relatively undistinguished remake.”

    Brian Orndorf (Blu-ray.com): “Playing it safe to appeal to a generation that hasn’t been exposed to this tale of telekinetic woe, the new Carrie is much like the old Carrie, only now the mayhem is more hard drive-based than wonderfully, inventively practical.”

    Claudia Puig (USA Today): “Rather than offering new blood, Carrie is a purely cosmetic revamp.”

    Katey Rich (CinemaBlend.com) “Peirce might have made a fantastic horror movie about horrible teenage girls, but she and the actors alike are trapped within a framework that nobody seems brave enough to break out of.”

    I could go on and on…ALL of these critics feel the same way as the reviewer of the original post. A remake always invites comparisons to the works that came before it. It thus needs to show something substantively new to bring to the table. All of these critics feel that there is nothing new in this latest version that justifies its existence. But I’m sure that you will be on hand to scold them as well – trying to argue that a regurgitation of previous material demands respect simply and purely because its newly regurgitated. Remember, all of these people have actually seen the film. You haven’t. A little more humility on your part might be in order.

    I will repeat my critical observation that you have yet to address:

    “If you want an film to be evaluated “as a movie in its own right” – then it first needs to be an ORIGINAL movie in its own right. That’s a self-evident proposition which seems to be lost on you for some reason.”

    Let’s also revisit the this reviewer’s opening lines:

    “Remakes are not inherently evil, but there ought to be a reason for them. Since the original movie still exists and can be seen, why do we need another version of it?”

    Do you feel that those are somehow unfair observations and questions? How would you answer it?

    You admit that you wouldn’t have a problem with someone making (another) shot-for-shot remake of Psycho. Would you honestly expect such a project to be shielded from criticism when someone asks you to pay $10+ dollars and spend 2 hours of your life watching it when the original is readily available?

    Your position seems to be that originality isn’t necessary as long as something is new. That is a notion that is both radical and ridiculous. This era of bad and endless remakes coming from Hollywood can be attributed to viewers such as yourself.

    I will be happy to give you the last word here, since any rational ready can arleady discern just how unreasonable your observations are.

  • Solidus

    Yes, I would give them the same criticism.

    >I will repeat my critical observation that you have yet to address:

    I did address it- I called it nonsense, because it is.

    >Do you feel that those are somehow unfair observations and questions? How would you answer it?

    The same way I’ve *been* answering- movies exist for entertainment, and so *no* movie *needs* to be made.

    >Would you honestly expect such a project to be shielded from criticism
    when someone asks you to pay $10+ dollars and spend 2 hours of your life
    watching it when the original is readily available?

    If someone is *that* happy with the original, why would they even have the thought of going to see the new one?
    There would still be people that have either
    1. Never seen the original
    2. Hardcore fans that want to experience every telling of the story given.

    >That is a notion that is both radical and ridiculous.

    No, it isn’t.
    You don’t *have* to go see these movies.

    What you’re not realizing is that, in essence, you wish to rain on everyone else’s parade that may have a different taste than you. I guarantee you that at least *someone* will enjoy the newer movies better than the originals. Even if it’s only *one* person, should they be denied that experience?

    >This era of bad and endless remakes coming from Hollywood can be attributed to viewers such as yourself.

    And yet, we have been getting good ones.
    Look at Chloe Moretz’s other remake Let Me In.
    Even with the incessant whining about how unnecessary it was, it still was one of the more highly reviewed films of the year.

    Even so, even with a “bad” remake, you’re still insisting that its fans not be allowed to have an experience that they enjoy.

    E.g. I have a friend who absolutely LOVES Rob Zombie’s Halloween. I thought it was absolute trash. Just because I think it was a bad movie doesn’t mean I’m going to be arrogant enough to insist that my friend should have been denied his experience with the movie.

    Even with the Psycho remake, I know at least one person that enjoyed it more than the original (though his opinion may have changed in the years since). Should I be selfish enough to whine about it?

    They keep getting made because they make money. Where does that money come from? People.
    Why do people pay it? Because they’re going to see it.

    That right there means that there’s still an audience out there for them, whether or not *I* think a particular remake is bad or not.

    >I will be happy to give you the last word here, since any rational
    ready can arleady discern just how unreasonable your observations are.

    I don’t think a “rational ready” would see anything unreasonable at all. I hate to say it man, but in the end, you’re basically being an elitist snob towards any viewers that have different tastes or are a little more open-minded than you are.

  • Chris Lindsay

    I like your comment about the “male gaze” in the 1976 shower scene. That is definitely true. However, I like the 2013 version better than the original. Julianne Moore stole the show as Margaret. I think the remake is a powerful moral tale on the damaging effects of bullying. If you are interested, I wrote a short essay on Carrie (2013). Here is the link: http://21stcenturyfilms.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/carrie/

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