Tomorrow, a new film version of Stephen King’s breakthrough book Carrie opens in theaters. Chloe Grace Moretz plays the title role, Julianne Moore plays her mother, and Boys Don’t Cry filmmaker Kimberly Peirce directs — all promising factors. Is it any good? I can’t tell you; MGM and Screen Gems waited until last night to screen it for critics, and we weren’t invited. (As you might imagine, last-minute, quasi-secret press screenings are rarely a good sign about the quality of the film in question.) What can be said, with some certainty, is that Carrie 2013 is an utterly unnecessary return to very familiar material — even by the standards of the Hollywood remake machine, which is pretty much in constant motion.
This is basically the fourth film version of this material. Brian De Palma did it first, and certainly best, back in 1976 (before King had really become a brand name), effortlessly fusing the novelist’s sensibility with his own baroque high style and cooking up one of the best horror films of the 1970s — no mean feat, that. And it was goddamn good enough for over 20 years (aside from that unfortunate Broadway musical adaptation), until some money-grubbing schmuck at MGM decided the time was ripe for a sequel, though the resulting Carrie 2: The Rage was more a beat-for-beat remake than a follow-up. It tanked, but three years later, the story was trotted out again, this time for a TV-movie version penned, surprisingly enough, by future Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, and Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller.
The point is, this is very familiar material by now — so much so, in fact, that when the new Carrie’s trailer was unleashed earlier this year, it elicited barely a peep from the spoilerphobes. And that’s strange, because (as you can see), it pretty much shows the entire film, up to and including the climactic prom sequence, the blood dump, and Carrie’s post-humiliation telekinetic freakout:
But even more importantly, based on the generous helping of the film we’ve been shown, it also appears to be the most slavish remake since Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot 1998 recreation of Psycho. Entire sequences appear to be duplicated, dialogue is repeated, and iconic images are loaded up and trotted out. If this material is so ubiquitous, then why would we bother seeing it again? Why not just go watch the De Palma original that we all know and love? Which prompts the most pressing question of the entire affair: who exactly is this movie for?
Whenever a beloved property is remade, some apologist floats the notion that by remaking this story, they’re bringing it to a new generation that wouldn’t otherwise see an old(er) movie. But if that were the case, if Carrie 2013 were truly intended for an audience more interested in a new Chloe Moretz movie than the umpteenth rehash of an aging Stephen King book, wouldn’t its publicity machine keep the turns and shocks of the third act under wraps, instead of going with a campaign that presumes viewers are already familiar with the entirety of the narrative? What the marketers are making here is a nostalgia play for a product that their target audience is unfamiliar with.
With the novelty factor removed, what’s left here? Peirce seems to be a director capable of putting a fresh spin on even this worked-over material, but judging by how much of the movie has already been revealed, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Moretz and Moore are presumably great, but that’s no news flash. Maybe the film will do well, a horror entry taking advantage of a strangely barren Halloween-season marketplace, or benefiting from a viral video that represents the current rehash’s only fresh contribution to the material. But otherwise, this new Carrie looks like a tired bar band doing a cover of a song that no one ever wants to hear again.