Movie review: Mom steals the show in ‘Carrie’ remake

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWSOctober 18, 2013 

Film-Carrie

Always put the lid on the blender when power mixing a Bloody Mary: Chloe Grace Moretz in “Carrie.”

  • CARRIE

    ••1/2

    Rated: R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content. Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde. Director: Kimberly Peirce. Running time: 99 minutes. Theaters: Edwards 22 and Edwards 9 in Boise, Edwards 14 and Edwards 12 in Nampa, Majestic 18 and Village Cinema in Meridian.

Awash in blood and tears, a woman howls in unspeakable anguish as she gives birth in the harrowing opening moments of “Carrie.” She is ashen and alone, her face gnarled with fear. Believing the child to be the devil’s spawn, she grabs a pair of scissors to stab the infant to death. Only the baby’s soft mewling, the pureness of its gaze, spares it from the knife.

Director Kimberly Peirce summons up the bracing thematic subtext of her stylish remake in that deeply disturbing scene. It’s masterful filmmaking that recalls the visual economy of her debut film “Boys Don’t Cry” and her gift for psychological nuance.

The cringe-inducing opening tableau tells us this is a tale about the cycle of birth and death, the fierce bond between mother and child and the destiny of biology. Far from a mindless monster flick about a kid with supernatural powers, this is a movie that mines the horror of real life, from dysfunctional families to cyber bullies.

That the opening scene is by far the most chilling in the movie is both the strength of this remake and its key weakness.

Peirce shines such a harsh spotlight on the twisted love between the religious zealot mother, Margaret White (played with heart-pounding menace by Julianne Moore), and her misfit daughter Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz) that the rest of Carrie’s connections to the world seem like an afterthought. Home is the real horror here. Moore’s captivating performance steals some of the thunder because very little else in the picture can rival it.

While Peirce pays homage to Brian De Palma’s 1976 original by echoing many of the iconic film’s seminal moments, she diminishes the bite of the bullying that Carrie endures from her peers. That’s a pity because it robs this bloody revenge tragedy of its visceral impact.

The indignity Carrie suffers at school is nothing compared with the daily torment she experiences in her mother’s religious torture closet. The fear that Moore’s mother engenders in her offspring will give you nightmares because it feels so much more raw and real than any of the movie’s supernatural butchery. Certainly nothing that happens at the legendary prom is anywhere near as terrifying.

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