In a way, the new “Carrie” is almost too easy to enjoy. Everything discordant, all the nagging weirdness and strange feelings surrounding the original have been smoothed down, and what we’re left with is a well-made, highly satisfying and not particularly deep high school revenge movie.
Perhaps the difference between this “Carrie” and the 1976 version can best be summarized as the difference between Chloe Grace Moretz and Sissy Spacek. Moretz is a teenager playing a teenager, a pretty girl who just needs to get away from her crazy mother, and she’ll probably be fine. By contrast, Spacek’s “Carrie” was a social freak, damaged almost beyond the reach of therapy, and she was played by a 26-year-old actress, which made her seem even more weird.
There was a feeling in the original of something unanswered, something that could not be explained or redressed by any human action, and the result is that audiences in 1976 walked out with the creeps. No one will get the creeps from the new “Carrie.” Instead people will walk to their cars saying, “That was fun” and not give it another thought – not that that’s such a bad thing.
The tone is set early, to the sound of a woman’s groaning and a jittery camera’s making its way slowly into a house and, finally, into a room, where a woman writhes on bloody sheets, in pain. She is praying. She is screaming. She thinks she has some awful disease and that she’s about to die, but instead she gives birth – to a daughter: Carrie meet Mom, Mom meet Carrie. Needless to say, Mom is played by Julianne Moore, because if you’re going to have a scary mommy in a movie, why not the best?
The opening, in which complete sexual ignorance causes horror and distress, is paralleled in a scene taking place years later, when Carrie (Moretz), showering in the high school locker room, notices that she is bleeding and panics. She soon finds out that this is her first period, but not before being pelted with tampons by her scornful classmates and having her humiliation caught on a cellphone camera.
Director Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry”) brings nuance to the mother, who is monstrous but no longer a monster. Peirce makes use of Moore’s force, her capacity for irrationality and her eerie ability to scare an audience just by raising one eyebrow.
Almost 40 years later, “Carrie” is still irresistible. It takes something that everyone knows – that high school can be socially difficult – and links that to something wonderfully flashy, a seemingly defenseless girl whose emerging telekinetic power is directly connected to emotional agitation. You could be a saint and still look forward to what’s going to happen when she gets really mad.