Monsters aren’t born; they are created by their environments. Our actions, even those motivated by the best of intentions (such as asking a lonely girl to prom, or giving her tormentors a taste of their own medicine), inherently shape what they will become, and when their bottled-up anger and resentment finally erupts forth, the innocent shall be punished along with the guilty.
That’s the central thesis of director Kimberly Peirce’s adaptation of Stephen King’s classic chiller, anyway, and while the overarching message comes through loud and clear, the storytelling itself is somewhat uneven. I’m a big fan of narrative economy, but Carrie is cut so close to the bone that it feels as though a good chunk of meat was lost with the fat—I wouldn’t have minded seeing Carrie take more time to experiment with her supernatural powers before mastering them, for example, and a bit more characterization for her doomed classmates would hardly have hurt the pace.
Fortunately, Chloe Grace Moretz’s brilliant performance was not among the overzealous editor’s victims. Moretz has been talented beyond her years since the beginning of her already-impressive career (she had a Scorsese film on her resume before she was old enough to drive, for God’s sake), and she shows greater and greater potential with each subsequent role. Here, the young actress very consciously avoids turning the protagonist into a caricature of the social outcast; her every gesture organically and authentically communicates the abuse and ridicule she has suffered: a lifetime of being shamed for the “sin” of having a female body has caused her to develop a hunch and cover herself at every opportunity; a constant, crippling fear of being teased (by her peers) or reprimanded (by her tyrannical mother) has taught her to speak as infrequently as possible, and to choose her words carefully when she does; yet behind all of her anxiety and frustration lies the overwhelming desire to please the deranged woman that ridicules her, imprisons her in a tiny closet, treats her like the devil incarnate—because, tragically, that horrific abuse is the closest thing to love she has ever known.
Moretz’s captivating work enriches and elevates the predominantly flat material; if you really want to experience the full trajectory of her career, it’s worth seeing the movie once—but not at full theater price. Otherwise, Carrie is just another hollow horror remake that can be safely skipped; unlike the revered scary story that inspired it, the film fails to leave a lasting scar on the subconscious, and will thus be quickly forgotten.
[Originally written October 20, 2013.]