A town full of crazy people reacts with understandable terror to a twitchy overcooked performance in Carrie, a horror movie?
Or comedy? Or some kind of meta-parody spoof? I have no idea. “Bat-poop insane” isn’t a movie genre, so I’m at a loss as to where Carrie fits in.
The movie opens with severely mentally ill Margaret White (Julianne Moore) in the midst of labor with a child she didn’t realize she was carrying. (Because she was raped? Or not? And the father took off? Or was a stranger? Or who knows, because that is one of many things this movie never really explains.) When the baby emerges, Margaret first considers killing the baby girl with a pair of scissors. But she doesn’t and baby Carrie White gets to live.
Though, when we meet teenage Carrie (Chlöe Grace Moretz), she may not be so thrilled about the getting to live part. Thanks to years of home-schooling by a mother whose psychological abuse expresses itself as an extreme (and sort of made-up) form of conservative Christianity, Carrie is a pale, skittish basket case who dresses in clothes that are a cross between 8-year-old dressed for Prairie Days and failed home-economics project. Now in public high school, she jumps like a frightened lemur at any kind of human interaction, and thus the other girls in gym class tend to scoff at her. Mild scoffing, really, until that moment when Carrie, who has her first visit from Aunt Flo while taking a shower in the girls’ locker room, shrieks that she’s dying and starts ambling toward the other girls with blood all over her hands.
Now, under your modern bullying policies, yes, the girls who chucked feminine products at her while taunting the towel-covered, screaming Carrie, would be punished, probably suspended. But I’m pretty sure the girl who chased the other girls around the locker room with bloody hands would also be subject to some kind of intervention. And the gym teacher — Mrs. Desjardin (Judy Greer) — who slapped Carrie to calm her down — would most definitely have had some kind of action taken against her and would almost certainly not have been back at school the next day to lecture the girls about how jerky they were and punish them with laps. Also, I’m pretty sure there are all sorts of legal problems that come with videoing somebody who is naked in the locker room on school grounds and then posting it online so the whole school can see that girl’s most embarrassing moment. And I’m pretty sure that the school can compel the student — in this case an uberbitchy girl named Chris (Portia Doubleday) — to turn over the phone she shot the video with should she be stupid enough to bring it not just back to school but into a meeting with the principal. And, when Chris is called out and suspended for extreme bitchiness and a fellow popular girl, Sue (Gabriella Wilde), stands up to her and says “hey, man, we were in the wrong,” I’m pretty sure Chris — the girl with a loser, possibly psychopathic boyfriend named Billy Nolan (Alex Russell); the girl who threw not one but at least two public tantrums — would be the one to suffer socially, not Sue. I’m pretty sure Chris would, at the very least, have a hard time convincing fellow students to help her and Billy plan (as Billy himself points out) a prank that isn’t just a wacky practical joke but actually a series of crimes, some of them felonies.
That is to say, nobody in this movie acts like any kind of a normal person. In fact, the girl with telekinesis turns out to be the closest to normal, at least for a while.
Because, as we realize when the locker room lights flicker and break while Carrie is under extreme duress, Carrie is indeed telekinetic. Why she never noticed her powers before (are they puberty-induced? because that would make your first period a real bad news/good news situation) or if she ever noticed them before, we don’t know. What we do see is her figuring out that she has them and how to use them. After a penitent Sue convinces her boyfriend, Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort) to take Carrie to the prom, Carrie decides that she does indeed want to try life as a normal person. After years of being forced to spend time in a locked closet in punishment for perceived wrongs and listening to her mother yammer on about sins, Carrie uses her newly mastered powers to tell her mother to back off and deal with Carrie’s prom plans. She buys fabric and Project Runways herself a nice dress, but meanwhile Chris and her evil friends plan to make prom the worst night of Carrie’s life.
Although I would think when one has spent a lot of one’s childhood locked in a closet, “worst night of your life” has a lot of competition. Is what happens really the worst? I suspect any night with Mama White is almost as bad as the movie’s most iconic scenes (at least until all the death).
I couldn’t tell where this movie was going. High camp? It certainly has moments of laugh-out-loud absurdity as well as dialogue and performances that would seem to be more about recreating some kind of cornball 1970s style than crafting interesting or even remotely relatable characters. Is this supposed to be commentary on Bullying In Today’s Youth? Because Carrie is such a bizarre creation that the students’ reaction to her seems less like picking on the weird kid and more like common-sense self-preservation (in fact, despite the movie’s closing lines about how Carrie was pushed too far, the general population’s instinct to stay away from Carrie would seem to be justifiable based on her behavior in the movie’s climax). Of course maybe Carrie — who in any normal situation would have long ago been removed from her mother’s home by child protective services — is also rather justified in her crazy behavior considering how dramatically her peers overreact to being made to run laps.
Not only are the screenplay and performances moldy retreads of ideas about 1970s horror but so are the special effects. The blood runs thick and syrupy here, the telekinesis feels like it was executed with state-of-the-art Carter presidency-era technology. The movie’s execution of its “horror” moments made me think of the consciously cheesy special effects of the Machete movies — though executed without the playfulness.
So is all this on purpose? Is the movie saying something with its appropriation of a 1970s feel, slightly updated for today? If so, it’s over my head and I suspect over the head of the many movie-goers who don’t have a contemporary memory of the first Carrie. Viewed solely on its own merits, this daffy remake is a nonsensical mess. C-
Rated R for bloody violence, disturbing, language and some sexual content. Directed by Kimberly Pierce with a screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (from the novel by Stephen King), Carrie is an hour and 40 minutes long and is distributed by Screen Gems.