Halloween Countdown: Carrie (2013)

Last week, the third film adaptation of Stephen King’s debut novel poured onto the screen. It features genre poster child Chloë Grace Moretz, veteran actress Julianne Moore, and dollops of special f/x. No review can avoid picking at twin scabs, however: does this version compare favorably to its predecessors, and should it exist at all?

Note: Brian reviewed the 2002 remake back in the day. I wrote a consideration of the novel and first two film adaptations here.

Title: Carrie

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Kimberley Pierce

Written by Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre Sacassa from the novel by Stephen King.

Chloë Grace Moretz as Carrietta White
Julianne Moore as Margaret White
Gabriella Wilde as Sue Snell
Portia Doubleday as Chris Hargensen
Ansel Elgort as Tommy Ross
Alex Russell as Billy Nolan
Zoë Belkin as Tina Blake
Judy Greer as Ms. Desjardin
Karissa Strain as Nicki
Katie Strain as Lizzy
Barry Shabaka Henley as Principal Morton
Samantha Weinstein as Heather

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb.


Against “the subterranean sound of showers splashing on tile”(4), Carrietta White, daughter of a disturbed small-town religious fanatic, gets her belated first period and has no idea what is happening to her. Her reaction receives a less-than-sympathetic response from her classmates. In the days that follow, however, popular girl Sue Snell decides to become Carrie’s fairy godmother, while mean girl Chris Hargensen seeks to destroy the girl’s Cinderella moment.

Neither realizes that Carrie possesses terrifying psychic powers.

High Points:

Margaret White remains a challenging role. Piper Laurie took her as over-the-top as King wrote her, and managed to make the part work. Moore plays a more subtly disturbed character, and gives the film its only true element of horror. It’s a terrific performance. The flashback to Carrie’s birth may be the film’s most memorable touch.

Low Points:

The film suffers from uneven pacing and a wealth of special effects. We’re treated to scenes showcasing Carrie’s overpowered telekinetic abilities at about ten-minute intervals, and she grows to accept them very quickly. It’s difficult to keep feeling sorry for our protagonist when we expect Agent Coulson or Magneto to arrive at any moment and recruit her. The director and publicists, meanwhile, seem so aware of the story’s popularity that they don’t really bother building up suspense.

In the end, we have a film that may comment on adolescence and bullying and such, but it’s not particularly suspenseful and almost never scary.

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6 Even with the addition of cellphones, Youtube, and Glee-worthy prom-prep montage, the third adaptation of a popular novel can earn very little for originality. It doesn’t help that this version tries very hard to copy the pacing and modifications of De Palma’s classic 1975 film.

They also cheat the consequences of their few changes. Chris wouldn’t merely be barred from prom: she would be facing criminal charges.

Effects: 5/6 The film features a heavy flow of special effects. They look great, but they alternate between spectacular and squicky—not scary. The graphic depiction of Carrie’s revenge, meanwhile, glorifies what King and De Palma both handled with disturbing ambiguity.

Production: 6/6

Acting: 5/6 The one thing that made me hopeful about this Carrie was the cast, including Chloë Grace Moretz in the title role. She does well, but her character has been written so that she goes from a credible if overly-frightened outsider at the start to a confident girl to a monster very quickly. She’s good in this role, but she’s been better. I’ve addressed Julianne Moore as Carrie’s mother earlier.

The supporting actors are strong. Surrounding teenage Moretz with young adult actors, however, may make Carrie appear more vulnerable around her peers, but the approach also calls awkward attention to the convention of having twenty-somethings play teens.

Story: 4/6 King’s original narration retains its power, but the omissions and additions of this adaptation create problems. Carrie changes too quickly, and becomes too comfortable with her psi-powers too soon.

Chris’s relationship with malignant outsider Billy Nolan remains critical to the plot’s development. King has pages to suggest the reasons for this dalliance in his novel. De Palma’s 1976 adaptation (with a young John Travolta in the role) gives Nolan an animal magnetism. The 2002 version has no idea what to do with Nolan, and this film does nothing. He’s simply there and evil and helping ruin a girl’s life. His friends have even less of a backstory. Chris also receives help from Karissa and Katie Strain, who play, presumably, the teen versions of the Grady Sisters from The Shining.

Emotional Response: 3/6

Overall: 4/6. Why does everyone keep calling this Carrie a “reimagining”? Are they just parroting the publicity for the film? Is adaptation out of favor? Does Hollywood 2013 fear the word, “remake” (as well they should)? This is an adaptation with a contemporary setting. It reimagines very little.

If you must see it, wait until it leaves the theatres.

In total, Carrie (2013) receives 28/42.


Weekend 1: Gravity
Weekend 2: Dead Clowns
Weekend 3: Lifeforce
Weekend 4: Carrie (2013)
Halloween: The Thing and Creature