Blood Money

Carrie **1/2 (out of five)

carrie-2013-4653-hd-wallpapersIn the wake of the spate of revenge attacks upon school bullies that have come to be known, tragically matter-of-factly, as “school shootings”, a revamped, updated Carrie had all the potential in the world to be unbelievably current, edgy, creepy, meaningful, tragic and horrifying. Instead, and completely surprisingly given the pedigrees of the director and leading cast, this adaptation of perhaps Stephen King’s best book is strictly by the numbers, ticking off the book’s scenes one by one, almost absurdly faithfully, without any directorial flair, texture or point of view. And, in a world of cyber-bullying gone wild (the film is set in the present), only a tiny nod of the head is given to this aspect of modern school society. It is all a huge missed opportunity.

Spacek in the first adaptation.
Spacek in the first adaptation.

Technically, the film is proficient, and the A-List cast alone lift it above the remakes of Halloween, Friday the Thirteenth, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre et al that have flooded screens for the last few years. But Carrie was never a straight “horror” story. Rather, it is perhaps the best high-school bully book ever, the grandmama of the genre, and the original film, with the ultimate perfect casting of Sissy Spacek as Carrie and Piper Laurie as her bonkers mum, and directed with great personal style by Brian De Palma, was a classy affair, a psychological thriller that went full-scale bloodiest in its acclaimed final act, giving birth to perhaps the most iconic horror film image of all time: Carrie, in her prom dress, soaked in (pig’s) blood. That film remains a minor masterpiece – to some, a major one.

It also went to the Oscars. Spacek was nominated for Best Actress and Laurie for Best Supporting Actress. Horror films rarely receive acting Oscar nominations – they rarely receive any Oscar nominations, The Silence of the Lambs and a few others being notable and rare exceptions. But, as stated before, the original adaptation of Carrie was classy, and it wasn’t really a horror film. But you know what? It was scary. Laurie was full-on scary. Spacek was scary. De Palma shot it in a creepy, unnerving way, and, as usual for him, used sound in a particularly nerve-rattling way. And the climax – really, the very, very extended climax – was deeply upsetting, one death in particular, the image of which is as fresh in my mind as the day I first saw it (which was probably a day on which I was too young to see a film like Carrie, but such was my youth).

The new Carrie is not scary and it’s not headed to the Oscars, trust me. Director Kimberley Peirce’s debut feature, Boys Don’t Cry, went to the Oscars, scoring the Best Actress statue for Hilary Swank and a nomination for Chloë Sevigny in support, but Carrie doesn’t carry any sort of directorial voice; it essentially feels like it could have been directed by any journeyman director, and Peirce is considered something other than that, more of an “artiste”; there’s no artfulness on display here. The story skips from scene to scene like a stone on a lake, never going beneath the surface, never displaying deep thought. I actually wonder if there was a lot more texture and detail shot, and subsequently chopped out by a studio eager to bus in the kids and bus ‘em out again as quickly as possible to make way for the next session. I rarely if ever say this, but it was too short. There were the bones, but none of the fat and muscle to give the story taste and grit. 

Moretz and Peirce.
Moretz and Peirce.

The story itself, of course, is absolutely fantastic, and, by adhering faithfully to it, the film immediately is watchable and enjoyable – how could it not be? A terrific concept, great characters, a contained setting, a completely relatable dynamic (bullying), and an immensely satisfying payoff. It was King’s first novel to be published but the fourth he wrote. He’d already mastered unity of character, time and place. He may not be the most literary of writers but boy he’s gotta be the world’s number one living storyteller.

The other plus is Chloë Grace Moretz, who continues to be a very promising actress, but who isn’t hitting the ball out of the park and blowing our minds as Saoirse Ronan continues to do. Moretz has been acting since she was a little girl, and made everyone’s jaws drop as Hit Girl in Kick Ass in 2010, but she is definitely showing mannerisms from role to role now, and they are on the verge – I guess past the verge, since I’m noticing them – of being distracting. I hate to say this, but, now that she’s old enough, a couple of years out of Hollywood and at a great drama school would do her a world of good. You can see Saoirse Ronan becoming a future Meryl Streep. No-one’s saying that about Moretz, and certainly won’t about her performance here. But she’s a really good screen presence, there’s no doubt, and she’s good in the role.

carrie86Julianne Moore is very Julianne Moore-ish as the demented mother, but must pale in comparison to Laurie’s definitive performance, which was absolutely, terrifyingly believable – this was a religious nut on screen, and one who needed to be locked up pronto. Frankly, Moretz also suffers in comparison to Spacek. Spacek was otherworldly, a true oddball, and, as such, again totally believable as a very, very damaged teenager and absolutely ripe to be ignored, bullied or both at high school. Moretz is not nearly as naturally weird as Spacek seemed, and, frankly, is a lot more attractive, which she has to fight against to be believable as the kind of girl the “pretty girls” would scorn – she’s actually prettier than most of them (if not all of them). So she slumps shuffles and peeks out from under a bowed head, and it all looks a little “acted”. Spacek, like Laurie, just seemed to be from another planet.

The new Carrie is fine, but it’s terribly disappointing that it’s just fine. I was really hoping for a provocative, or at least original, take on the material. Instead, the film feels like it was made by committee, a cash-grab just like any other horror remake. I noticed that Stephen King’s name isn’t present onscreen at all (maybe a quick “based on the novel by” flashed by when I blinked). Perhaps he’s happy that this adaptation is relentlessly faithful to the story beats of his book, but he must be disappointed at just how lacking in style, character and spark it is. Just another remake, not as good as the original adaptation, and, therefore, and unfortunately, ultimately… pointless.

3 thoughts on “Blood Money

  1. You may be a film critic, mate, but you’re definitely a poor one. All I read was “De Palma this.” and “Sissy Spacek that.” Really, mate? You failed to even acknowledge the ORIGINAL source material… the BOOK!

    I genuinely don’t understand why people, especially critics, keep comparing this film the 1976 film. Why not keep an open mind? Why not judge the film on its own without comparing? It’s quite redundant, don’t you think?

    I think you should read the NOVEL by Stephen King. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie made their characters their own, while Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore made their characters as described in the novel.

    And the original version of the 2013 film was 2 hours and 30 minutes, but it was butchered by the studio for the required runtime. The original screenplay is available online and it’s NOTHING like the theatrical version. It was original, fresh and a much more faithful adaptation of the novel. Something must have happened behind the scenes.

  2. Hi Jordan — If you read the review rather than skim it you’ll see I refer to the book a lot, including acknowledging that this is a new adaptation of the book (not a remake of De Palma’s film) and that, in my opinion, it’s probably his best book. I have read it. I still think De Palma’s is a better adaptation of the book. What’s very interesting, and not at all surprising – again, actually read the review – is that this is a studio-butchery job: it feels like it. No meat left on the bones. Thanks for your comments — perhaps refrain from personal attacks preferably!

    1. I apologize if I offended you, but you have to understand that as someone who has been a devoted fan of the novel for almost a decade, it’s quite frustrating when people (especially film critics) keep comparing this film to the 1976 film without even acknowledging the book’s presence. It’s not a remake, but more of a re-adaptation of the novel. If you read the reviews from other critics, you would know where I’m coming from. However, having read the original screenplay for this film, I do believe that it was a missed opportunity.

      The original version of this film followed the book much closely, but still payed homage to the 1976 film. The film was told through flashback with courtroom scenes in between. The scene of when Carrie ventures into her neighbour’s (Estelle) backyard before the stones pelted the White house was omitted. The town destruction (you can see it briefly for a few seconds) was omitted. There was more character development and at least five different endings for the film.

      Kimberly Peirce is a fantastic director, but the theatrical version wasn’t her vision. She even admitted in an interview that her original cut was longer. If you’re not an A-list director, then you have no final say on the theatrical version. You’re just hired to do the job. If the film was self-funded, then we probably would have received a much better film. However, I do believe that the theatrical version is solid on its own merits. Could it have been longer? HELL YES! But, let’s face it, Screen Gems isn’t exactly well known for their “great” films. However, since 20th Century Fox is distributing the home media release, there MIGHT be an unrated/extended version on DVD/Blu-ray.

      Today, bullying has become a major issue in our society, especially on social media. Take a look at the school shootings and teenage suicides that has occurred over the years. Remember the Columbine massacre that happened in 1999? Two boys were treated as outcasts by their high school peers and in the end they were hellbent on revenge. The same thing applies with Carrie White. Yes, it may be a fictional story of a girl with telekinetic powers, but it does make you stop and think. She was an outcast at school who was regularly tormented by her peers. She suffered emotional and physical abuse from her overly religious mother. And in the end… it was a tragedy. I just hope people take heed of the dangers of bullying and understand that a person can be pushed too far before they break. The 1976 film was more of a horror film, this film is more of a tragedy.

      Carrie was never meant to be a scary movie, it’s more of a psychological thriller. I do blame the studios for marketing this film as a horror film, but that’s Hollywood for you. It’s a shame that people flock to watch ridiculous films, but ignore this one. I personally find it disappointing that a lot of people forget the most important message of this film. Welcome to 2013, I guess.

      Once again, I apologize if I came off as aggressive, I genuinely didn’t mean to. If you’re interested in reading the original screenplay of this film, please let me know. I will send you a copy.

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