Carrie - DVD Review

'Spends far too long on the trivialities of the lives of teenage characters we neither like nor care enough about'

Being familiar with neither Stephen King’s popular novel nor Brian De Palma’s lauded 1976 original adaptation is something that should in many ways work in favour of Kimberly Peirce’s 2013 version of Carrie.  And yet, even taken entirely on its own merits, Peirce’s film feels like a textbook example of everything that is currently wrong with the horror genre. By all accounts, hers seems to be a relatively faithful adaptation of King’s story, which also incorporates several features of De Palma’s movie. The director even gets two big names for the central characters of her film: the rising star of ChloĆ« Grace Moretz in the title role, and veteran actress Julianne Moore as Carrie’s mother Margaret. But even the presence of this pairing cannot save Carrie from being consistently bland and forgettable.

This is essentially a very lazy film, and the laziness which permeates Carrie is becoming more and more evident in mainstream modern horror releases. It’s almost as if Peirce and other directors see the fact that they're making a horror film as a free pass to make glaring errors that wouldn’t be tolerated in any other genre.

From the very start, you’ll never come anywhere close to believing that the characters in Carrie are real people. Moretz ends up as the best of a bad bunch, the actress doing what she can with the flat and often amateurish script and even managing to create some of the social awkwardness and instability the character of Carrie so desperately needs in order to give the film its sympathetic central figure. Moore is less successful, making Margaret a one-note stereotype of a religious wacko who never feels as important to the story as she clearly should be.

The rest of the cast is populated by overused stereotypes of teenagers with a couple of one-dimensional teachers mixed in for good measure. Those who do get a little more depth than this are taken too far along the spectrum of good or evil to ring true. Whilst some of the characters’ traits come from King’s novel, the decision to update the story from its original 1970s setting to the present day only makes the characterisation feel even more awkward. Thankfully the insertion of modern technology into proceedings is handled better, mostly limited to the use of smartphones and YouTube which fit into the story well, even if the telling of the story itself is flawed.

Perhaps Peirce’s biggest failing in Carrie, however, is that it’s just not that scary. De Palma’s film still holds an 18 certificate in the UK nearly thirty years after its release, and Peirce’s film would have benefited from pushing the fright factor to the same level. As it is, this feels far too restrained. Peirce’s focus on Carrie’s supernatural powers is disappointingly limited, feeling like an underdeveloped X-Men takeoff, when it should be the film’s primary concern. Instead, Peirce spends far too long on the trivialities of the lives of teenage characters we neither like nor care enough about. Carrie ends up a shallow, timid and overwhelmingly ordinary reimagining of King’s tale that, instead of feeling like it might be a worthwhile modern alternative to De Palma’s film, only made me want to seek out the earlier film more in the hope of seeing the story handled more successfully than it is here.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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